Monday, July 1, 2013


TahkoMTB is the biggest mountain biking event in Finland. It is held the weekend after Midsummer, which usually makes for hot weather. This year it saw almost 2000 participants, most of them taking part in the shorter classes, but the longer ones have grown in populatity with 190 participants in the 120 km class and 44 in the 180 km class. I had participated three time before, in 2008 and 2010 riding 120 km (two laps) and in 2011 180 km (three laps). This year I intended to do three laps again. Despite not really having done any training, I still was confident that I could finish it. How wrong I was...

MTB-Turku started driving from Turku to Nilsiä, around 540 km), with a number of cars in Friday morning. I drove the Tahko 180 km car.

Matti H was in good spirits as always.

Greenman and Toni.

We arrived a little before five in the afternoon and went into a local store to buy some important food and beverage items. After that the evening went preparing the bikes, eating and speculating about the coming ordeal.

Me and my weapon of choice.

The night was short and rather hot, but I did get a few hours of sleep until we got up at 3:30 in the morning. After a coffee and a light breakfast it was time to ride to the start at 5:00.

A few minutes before the start.

And off we went. The weather was nice and the temperature still pleasant. The first part went without problems, but I made an effort to pace myself and save strength for a 14 hour ride. The fatbike worked well, though a suspension fork would have allowed both more speed and less fatique in the arms. Some small problems in the stomach did cause me to perform an emergency dump in the woods, but the going felt ok.

Stairway to heaven. The picture doesn't tell the whole story and it became steep enough that it is hard to push the bike up. Matti H and Greenman are barely visible in the picture.

After around three hours I started to calculate my speed and it wasn't good. I continued in the same way, though. During the final climb, El Grande, I became very aware that my speed wasn't good enough and started to think about quitting.

The final descent used to be nice, but this wasn't promising.

My bike isn't really made for this. Once in the previous different final descent my brakes lost their power and that made me cautious. 185/160 mm discs are generally good enough, but I'm quite heavy and going straight down without brakes wouldn't wasn't very tempting. A fellow rider from Turku experienced that this year, but was lucky and got away with only a few stitches...

I had already made my decision and quit after the first lap. My speed wasn't good enough. I took a little over 4 h 20 min to complete it, when I had planned it to take around 4 h. Two years ago, the first lap took around 3 h 50 min and three years ago when I rode only two laps, the first lap took 3 h 35 min, just to put my speed into perspective.

I could have continued into the second lap, but the time limit for entering the third lap could have been rather tight. Still, I wasn't in any way tired, I just didn't feel like continuing. My insufficient fitness caused me to be slow, but the real reason for quitting was the lack of motivation. When I struggled before the third lap two years ago I found no reason to quit, but this time couldn't find any reason to continue. The bike worked well, and while it probably is a little slower that the Gary Fisher Hifi 29 full suspension bike I had two years ago, it doesn't matter much for me. I did get one flat, but that is just part of the game.

Instead, I decided to enjoy the day and for once actually follow the race instead of being in it and not knowing anything about anything else. The start below was the 9:40 one, 60 km with a target time of under two minutes.

After a while I took a nap, and got back to event center in time to see how would win the 60 km Men class. Henri Ojala from Turku was one of the strongest candidates.

Henri going riding down the final descent at a breakneck speed (a little dot just above the middle of the picture).

And the winner is Henri Ojala from Turku with the record time of 2 h 31 min 52 s.

Soon I got company by other fellow MTB-Turku riders, first by Teemu who had to quit because he flatted a tire on his Mukluk. You should always be prepared to handle a flat, but he had lost his spare tube when the saddle bag opened. A quick patch had held only for a few kilometers, so he had to quit. Teemu was to ride three laps, and the first lap was very fast, so he wasn't entirely happy.

Tan line or dirt line?

Some time around three o'clock in the afternoon those of us who had arrived went to eat at the pasta buffet, which provided lots of energy with a minimal amount of taste. A cold beer remedied that, but I felt a little sorry for those still out riding. The conditions were almost as bad as two years ago, with a temperature of 29°C.

Back at the cabin, we still waited for several participants. Aki arrived after having successfully completed 120 km and had obviously given it all.

The rest of the evening went socialising, grilling sausage and drinking a few beers and discussing relevant stuff, like the fact that the 180 km class was won with a fatbike (a Salsa Beargrease with Rolling Darryl rims and 4" tires).

This night was not as hot and at least I slept very well until I got up a little before seven in the morning. A slow breakfast with several cups of coffee followed, before we packed out stuff and cleaned the cabin. A long car drive back to Turku followed.

A very nice weekend, and I think the social part was as important as the riding itself. Thanks to everyone for that!

Toni's blog report in English.
Greenman, who rode three laps without problems, wrote his blog report in Finnish.
Matti H sums it up in eloquent Finnish.
Teemu's report in Finnish.

I guess it is start to train now, after this lesson in humility.

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