Race Debrief: The Danish Ultra Double – part 1
I know that it’s been a long time since I won the 24-hour race of Midt24 in June. It’s not like I didn’t want to write a race debrief about the race. I have tried sticking to the plan I made this Spring. I wanted to be the first rider to win both Danish 24-hour races in the same season. Now after Helnæs24 I’m finally ready. The Danish Ultra Double is complete. In this race debrief about the Danish ultra double I’ve split it up into part 1 and part 2. If you haven’t read part 2 there’s a link in the bottom of the page. I hope you will enjoy reading just as much as I enjoyed racing.
Planning to Win
Wanting to win races is part of what drives me. Without the racing element I would find it difficult to keep going in training as well as in races. In ultra cycling winning doesn’t happen overnight. There are so many preparations which goes into it and as in most sports also a bit of luck. In this race debrief I want to take you into my racing brain. Not only during the race but more importantly into the mindset of planning to win the Danish ultra double.
After the devastating experience of not getting the result I was racing for at the 24h World Championships, I took some time off from the bike. Did some running and more importantly some thinking. I evaluated the build-up to the race and the actual race over and over again, inside my head. Luckily the great result for Caroline played a huge part in making our trip to the US (and all the difficulties with travelling during Covid-19) worth it. After a few weeks I started feeling the motivation coming back. Stronger than I felt it before the 24h Worlds. I wanted to prove that the performance I showed in the past wasn’t a one-time thing. Having a year full of great work at Frank Institute of Sports ahead of me, racing had to be a few thoroughly selected events. An idea was forming…I wanted to do the Danish ultra double.
Preparation for Midt24
Spring needed to be quite easy. I did not want to be at 100% for the first race of the year – Midt24. I have raced there in the past. I know how to plan for a consistent race on the route in the middle of Jutland. I planned to be around 85-90% fitness for the race. Preparations went really well even with the symptoms and setback of testing positive for Covid-19 in February. The break from structured training set back my preparations a couple of months. I felt happy that I hadn’t planned a full calendar of racing in early Spring. That would have been ruined with Covid-19.
With my new Pinarello Bolide I had some new equipment to test too. Caroline and I have been blessed with a new great partnership with BikersBest. They distribute not only the extremely fast bikes from Pinarello but also clothing from Alé Cycling and shades from Rudy Project. With the continued support from many great partners (Shimano, Scope Cycling, Schwalbe, Lazer, CeramicSpeed, PRO and Science in Sports) it wasn’t a question about having fast equipment for the Danish ultra double. It was all about spending time testing and finetuning the positions.
Midt24 – starting slow
Come race day everything seemed in place for a great 24-hour race at Midt24. Equipment, nutrition and everything else was packed and ready in the big Transporter from Volkswagen Odense. The weather for Midt24 was typical Danish Summer with everything from 10 to 25 degrees, sun, showers and wind. Even the chance of cloudbursts during the night. With this in mind, I knew that setting records on the fairly flat but semi-technical course would be close to impossible in these conditions.
The plan for the race was conservative. We wanted to test if I could keep calm and collected during the first 12 hours. The target was to go slow in the start. Then after 12 hours increase my power numbers on the short night loop. If I stayed within 30-45 minutes of the leading rider during the first 12 hours I would still be within striking distance.
As expected, some riders started very fast and after a couple of hours of racing, I was sitting comfortably within top 10 in the men category. Power numbers were a little higher than planned but with lower heart rate which indicated that I was holding back. One guy seemed to be riding faster than everybody else but somehow, I felt very much in control of the race. After a little more than 11 hours I passed through the pit-area and entered the small night loop of around 14 km. I was 40 minutes behind the leading rider and told the crew that now was the time to start chasing for the win.
During the following three hours I brought the gap down to 25 minutes before a quick stop in the pit for a visit at the toilet and a clothes change as the temperature was starting to drop. The news about the cloudbursts moving away from the area lifted my spirit. It’s not that I don’t like tough conditions, I really do. It just puts so much more up in the air as luck with punctures and other malfunctions of the equipment is so much more likely in bad weather.
After around 15-16 hours of racing I passed the leading rider and I was still feeling in control. To my surprise I still felt that I could increase the power if I needed it. As expected, the speed was not to break any records but I didn’t care. I was there to follow the pacing plan, test the new equipment and win the race. A few laps later I lapped the guy in second place.
After a little less than 20 hours I got the news that the guy in second place was more than two laps behind me and going into the pit for a longer break. I did a few extra laps allowing myself to increase the power and felt the legs responding well and the lap times going down below what I had been riding all night. Great! The plan had worked.
After a couple of easy laps to loosen up the legs and bringing the distance above 700 km I stopped at the pit, had a talk with the crew, a cup of tea and cheered for Caroline who was still racing to catch second place in the men category. I had gotten everything out of the race that I could have asked for. Satisfied and tired I jumped on the bike and rolled off to the showers. First part of the plan was complete.
You can read the second part of the Danish Ultra Double here.
If you liked this race debrief from the Danish Ultra Duble - part 1 you might like the race report from Caroline and her Midt24. All pictures by Simon Roesskov Photo and Midt24.