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Vätternrundan 2023, the revenge

The Goals

I had several objectives for the 2023 Vätternrundan training:

  • Firstly, I aimed to solve my heart rushes, as the frequent pulse rushes I experienced last year destroyed my enjoyment. These rushes occurred during training, races, and at the Vätternrundan starting line, thwarting my chances of achieving my goal.

  • While having my bike fitted, I discovered that the back of my body was quite stiff. As a result, one of my objectives was to increase flexibility, which would also help prevent occasional knee pain.

  • I needed to become stronger, particularly in my hips and legs, to attain a higher FTP. • Enjoy the camaraderie with the group I am riding with.

  • Approach training seriously, while acknowledging that life's circumstances may interfere and necessitate plan adjustments.

Regarding my heart condition - I underwent two operations and believed my heart had been fixed...

Indoor training i the winter

The indoor training was a fantastic experience. We had group sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays using Zwift. Everyone connected via Discord for a variety of workouts, ranging from VO2 Max exercises to races and climbing the Alpe. In addition to these sessions, I completed my own workouts both in the gym and on my bike.

By exercising 5-6 days a week and consistently focusing on my flexibility, I became stronger and more limber. My FTP increased from approximately 200 to 245, making me far more competitive among my training partners.

One of my proudest accomplishments was completing the Alpe du Zwift challenge in under an hour (54:17), which marked a roughly 10-minute improvement.

Following the winter season, I had another bike fitting and discovered that my flexibility had significantly improved. I had progressed from being stiffer than most to falling within the average range.

In retrospect, I might have benefited from adding longer workouts on Zwift, covering about 150-200 km. However, that can be incredibly tedious! 😅

Outdoor training

The outdoor training began as soon as the snow melted at the start of April. Initially, only about 10 people signed up for the Sub 9:45 group, and we hoped for more participants. As expected when integrating new riders into a group, varying skill levels led to jerkiness, wide lines, lots of air interjecting the lines, and an accordion effect. However, from our experience the previous year, we realized that communication is crucial. We encouraged riders to give feedback on the slightest issue to the person in front of them, and to address any problems promptly or pause the session to discuss them. After just two or three training sessions, our group improved significantly in terms of riding smoothly, and we only needed to fine-tune our performance thereafter.

As the training continued every Tuesday, more people joined the group. Fortunately, adding one or two people to an already cohesive group was not a problem, as the newcomers quickly adapted to the flow.

Towards the end, more people joined, but unfortunately, we also lost one or two participants along the way. By the time we had our final session, we had 15 people in the group. As for myself, I took on the role of the primary coach. It was enjoyable and rewarding when everything went well, but it also meant that I was responsible for providing feedback, shouting instructions, and judging performance. Occasionally, I felt like an irritated grandfather, compelled to use my angry voice to maintain order. For now, I am relieved that the training sessions have concluded, and I hope someone else will take on the coaching role in the future.

Test race

To evaluate our group's progress, we planned to participate in a shorter race called Trosa-

Trampen. This 85km race took place on smaller roads and featured a considerable number of uphill and downhill sections. Our goal was to maintain an average speed of 35km/h during the race, which was 2km/h faster than what we needed for the Vätternrundan event.

Throughout the race, everyone exerted themselves, and our cycling was seamless. We swiftly traversed the course, but unfortunately, we lost one participant due to bike issues. However, apart from that, all riders crossed the finish line simultaneously. To our satisfaction, we managed to achieve an average speed of 36km/h - an impressive feat for our group!

The revenge

On Thursday, two days before the Vätternrundan, we headed to Motala, where we had rented a house for the ten of us. We did some shopping and settled down on the sofa to watch the Jumbo Visma series on Netflix.

On Friday, we went to the event area to pick up some last-minute gadgets and starting numbers. We made sure to drink plenty since the race day was expected to be hot. That afternoon, the whole group joined us, and we met at the house for a group dinner and last-minute coaching session. We were ready!

At 4:30 am, we prepared for the race start, with everyone bustling around the house eating, using the bathroom, and getting drinks and bikes ready. We met up at the starting line at 5:45 am, where we took a nice group photo.

Our race began at 6:08 am, and we were fortunate enough to stay behind a faster group for most of the way to Jönköping, with the wind at our backs.

When we reached the west coast of Vättern, we faced headwinds. As we were overtaking some people, one of my teammates lost control of their bike and fell right in front of me, sliding on the tarmac. Fortunately, I managed to ride over their bike, and the riders behind me were able to stop. We made sure our friend was okay and continued the race as he waited for medical assistance.

Most of the group had already gone ahead to the next water and rest stop. On our way there, we rode too hard, and I ended up straining my legs on that 6 km stretch. We continued, but I could not recover, and after about 200 km, I had to slow down and let the group ride ahead due to my aching legs.

Thankfully, I regrouped with a few teammates who had also slowed down. As we continued, I experienced a heart rush (13BPM over my max pulse), forcing us to stop for 30 minutes until my pulse returned to normal. Despite this setback, we continued the race and rejoined another teammate who had experienced a double puncture earlier.

The last 30-40 km went quickly as we pushed ourselves, maintaining a speed over 35 km/h all the way to the finish line. We completed the race in 11 hours and 14 minutes, a good time considering our unplanned break and coffee stop.

I am satisfied with my performance and feel that I don't need to race again to prove I can finish it in under 10 hours. If I were to participate again, I would likely ride hard between stops and enjoy longer breaks in between.



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