Lygna Opp. A race past our house. All climbing. How could I say no?
The race course was 15km long with 620m of climb, starting down by the fourth largest lake in Norway, Randsfjorden, and climbing straight up the hill through the new mountain cabin area at Lygna, to the car park on top of the hill. The height profile of the race did not do the route justice! It’s appearance on paper looked to be a steady gradient, but in reality I knew it contained two steep unrelenting sections.
Although I knew much of the route before hand, I did a reccy of the 2nd half on Wednesday, and the 1st half on Friday. Both at a moderate intensity because they were my first training sessions in September. I did a couple of races in England after WMTBOC, but no training! But I did come to realise I wasn’t as unfit as expected and that it would just be my lungs that would need to adapt to some seriously heavy breathing!
Lining up on the start in glorious sunny autumn weather, next to two really strong MTB’ers: Elisabeth Sveum, XCO World Cups, NM silver, and Jeanette Persson, 3hr 20 Birkebeiner athlete. I had raced Sveum in Einarittet, a 44km XCM race in May, and knew roughly how my strengths compared to hers. I was much stronger on the steep climbs, while she was much faster when the riding got muddy and technical.
This formed the base of my race plan; go for it on the steep climbs, get a gap and hold it through the 2 technical sections (in the end, only 1 technical section because the gravel road was completed on Lygna and was no longer a boulder strewn area!).
We hit the first climb and I was in fourth. I lost touch with the back wheels of two women, but Sveum powered on ahead and got a reasonable gap of up to 20 seconds I imagine. Just within sight on the straights. I didn’t panic, but overtook one lady just before the off road started. Then I was almost on the wheel of 2nd place. I waited, got into my rhythm and prepared for my effort on the first steep climb to Jølsen. I soon found myself in 2nd place. This hill in unrelenting. Around every corner the gradient continues, and even the flatter sections provide little respite. Suddenly I was on the wheel of Sveum, and overtaking. I didn’t look back but kept going, winning the sprint prize in the process.
Then the course flattened, with a steady gradient up to the 2/3’s mark at Pålsætra. Here I knew there was a technical section, so I kept pushing to not let anyone come back to me on the climb. I knew I would need the gap. The course detoured from where I thought it would go, with us spending longer in the tech and enjoying some mud baths in the process.
Sveum pulled back to me on a short flat descent to the 2nd split time. I knew that was ok, I expected it. I didn’t panic but waited until the next steep section at Badstua. I accelerated at the bottom, and soon felt I was alone. But I had to maintain my effort all the way through the new cabin area in order to not be overtaken in the boulder field area. I pushed so hard on the pedals, and worked so hard to try not to allow the two behind to catch me again. All I wanted was to stop, lie in the road and die! The boulder area never appeared and suddenly I had a downhill section to the finish. Some checks over my shoulder and I was sure I was safe to take the win! Ah, what a great feeling!!!
My bike was perfect for this race. I rode a fully rigid set up, which I love, and a 36t chainring on 650b wheels. I love how responsive this bike feels set up like this. Every small acceleration from me is translated in to a lovely speed increase.
Can’t wait for next year’s edition!!