Race report: The Blue Lagoon Challenge 2013

Saturday it was finally time for the main event of my visit here in Iceland. I woke up early as usual, enjoying a good brekfast at the hotel and checking the weather forecast for the day. The wind had thankfully decreased significantly since the test ride of the track on thursday, but came from the same direction. This was very promising, cause then I knew where to save energy and where to use it.

I started off with a morning ride since the race was not until 1500 in the afternoon. The massage therapy I got the last two days just loosened up my legs very well and today they felt better than in a long time. The bike was also working like it always is – flawlessly brilliant – so I felt well prepared for the upcoming race 😉 After the morning ride I packed my bag and went together with Willy to the Sushi Train to top off the energy stores.

Helmet and riding gear packed and ready

Helmet and riding gear packed and ready

Clean jersey - thanks, Andri :)

Clean jersey – thanks, Andri 🙂

The Merida Big.Nine Team ready to race

The Merida Big.Nine Team ready to race

The race started from a swimmingpool in Hafnarfjörður and was led by a master until the official start line, where the riders were stopped and we made our final adjustments of the clothing. I got someone to point out the guy that had won the last eight!! years in a row so that I knew who to keep an extra eye on. The race started with a slight uphill on asphalt before it got onto a fast gravel section.

At the start line

At the start line

The pace was set up in front to separate the field and I stayed in front to avoid accidents and keep an eye out for any breakaway-attempts. Noone managed to get away, and when the gravel road ended and we turned straight into the headwind it was quite comfortable to sit in the front group and let the others fight it out.

After several kilometers on the asphalt we came to the start of the main gravel road of the race (Djúpavatnsleið). Yesterday they put on some new gravel on this road and there had been a rally race on the road this morning. And what made the conditions a bit harder was yesterdays rain, still fresh in the ground.

When we came to this point in the race, the lead group was down to about ten people. The main profile of this road was flat and with a slight headwind it was just to save the energy for the decisive climbs. These points were our opportunity to thin out the group and there were a few of them along the road. I went up front in advance of each of them and increased the pace. Kept on pushing hard over the top and for each one we became fewer up front.

Socializing before the start

Socializing before the start

Finally we were only three guys left. I cept on with the same tactics – to control my pacing on the flats and go hard in the climbs. We managed to gain a gap of 15-20 meters over the top of a hill and I was alone with the favorite. This was the time to put in some extra to drop the third man from the group. We had to push hard for some time and it took a while before we dropped him – he REALLY tried to fight his way back, but never closed the gap completely.

We passed over the ridge and over to the south side and worked together to gain some distance to the rest. There were some climbs here as well where I tried to shake him off, but they were too short for me. The short climbs are really not my speciality, but I noticed that he was suffering more than I did so I tried all I could to shake him off at those points.

The long gravel road ended with a steep, short climb on loose, big rocks. I jumped off and ran up while Hafsteinn found the granny gears 🙂 When I jumped back onto the bike we faced the asphalt climb leading to Grindavik. This was the longest climb of the race and my chance to get away. I got a gap of 20 meters, he fought back, and I accelerated again and got a bigger gap the second time.

Ellingsen / Merida Iceland with their bike display / service area in the starting paddick

Ellingsen / Merida Iceland with their bike display / service area in the starting paddock

Time for some solo time trailing in the headwind. The legs were starting to feel all the attacking but I did as Jens Vogt, told them to shut up and pushed all I could. When I looked back on the top of the climb, I guess the gap was about 15-20 seconds. Still some suffering kilometers in the headwind before we came to Grindavik.

After 9 kilometers alone ahead I never managed to loose him completely. He was very strong on the flats and never gave up. We smiled when he caught up with me, and I knew at that point that this was going to be tough to win. The tactical race started and I never gave 100% in front to save some energy for an attempt to get away. I tried several times, but he always closed the gap.

In the final kilometers the mist was quite dense, so it was not easy to know the exact distance to the finish line. I had two possibilities. Try to attack from his rear wheel and get the gap I needed to tempo alone or sprint from the front and wait so long that he would not overtake me before the line. I tried both strategies, but sprinting is not my genetic benefit to put it nicely 🙂 So I finished second, a fun race and I really tried. Congratulations to the 9 time winner: Hafsteinn Ægir Geirsson!

My final attempt on a sprint for the finish line

My final attempt on a sprint for the finish line

After the race, we went for a healthy swim / Spa-like experience in the Blue Lagoon. As the name indicates, very blue water which is rich in minerals and naturally heated from the groud. After a good hour in the water we went back to Reykjavik and was invited to a barbecue party. They Icelanders really know how to make us feel welcome, and this was no exception. Grilled lamb, baked potato, fresh salad and home made french chocolate cake for dessert. Thanks for yet another great food experience!!

Race Data on Strava

 

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