A close marathon
MTB Marathon again. This year's calendar placed one edition located in the Sudetes during September when I am still free on Saturdays. What's more nearby. Wałbrzych, formerly large industrial city nowadays felt into disgrace with the ruthless laws of the market economy, and whose network of streets in dreadful state is named "Mordor" by its inhabitants themselves. Fortunately, it is surrounded by mountains that makes a proved and renowed terrain, which raises a bit the interest of the destination. Weather was brilliant and the soil as dry as can be. It had to be !
Six of us were going. As usual, me and my best fellow Wojtek. Cesar the spanish also joined, with Krzysztof, another recent member of the team who live nearby. Michał was going with Dorota in another car.
Unlike most of the other editions, the Giga distance of Wałbrzych consisted in doing twice a piece of loop at the other end of the marked route. This did not entice us very much in doing the Giga, furthermore the Mega (medium distance) was still quite significant with almost 60km and 1800m of cumulated elevation, and the terrain was said to be technical.
However, at the registration office, it turned out that Michał, despite his accident of couple of weeks ago, picked the Giga. Cesar, mapybe in a rush of optimism, also unexpectedly picked the longest distance, with a large smile. "Cesar, hurry up now, because Gigas will start in less than 30mn !"
After preparing, the four of us remaining with Mega starting numbers watched the start of the Giga, that gathered surprisingly only 70 people today.
Wojtek, not willing to ride at maximum, swore: "Eric, let's ride this race together". I was not too sure how to interpret this: proof of friendship on one side, but also the prospect of riding all race with a fresh man behind me smiling at my lack of shape or technique...
Wojtek had the 3rd starting sector resulting from calculations based on his result in Złoty Stok in May, and for me the 4th. Which placed us almost near each other. Dorota also had a good 3rd sector due to calculations being based on results in the female category, but Krzysztof unfortunately had to start in the queue.
The start was given and after overtaking promptly few traffic jams, I came to the level of Wojtek. We rode all the beginning together till the first laces of the ascent to Chełmiec. Suddenly, while changing the gears, my derailleur blocked. I had to step down, and I fought some 5mn to unblock it: the chain was blocked between the smallest plateau, and the ending of the derailleur curiously blocked in the sprockets. And when I rode up using the large sprocket, the end of the derailleur was touching each single spoke, like playing the harp. Never seen that before...
Lots of people passed me, in which I recognized few acquaintances like Janusz who proposed me help, or Dorota when I finally managed to fix it. Krzysztof curiously did not appear during all this time. When I sat again, I heard the ring of an SMS, which eventually turned out to be from Wojtek asking for news.
Chełmiec, tallest top of the race, was a rude ascent for a start, and I was felling kind of unwilling to tire myself today. But the anger of this technical breakdown made me go stronger, and I came back till Janusz when we reached the top. The downhill was sharp and lots of people took me back. At the point where the descent was steepest, Grzegorz Golonko was sitting crouched aside the trail, telling each single rider to slow down, looking concerned, like a professor with his students.
A long flat portion separated us from the moment when we reached the second important massif of the day, Trójgarb, in which the route was describing many variants to make the most of this little mountain rich in trails. Many sharp ascents and descents were following each other. I was not feeling very much in shape that day, and this kind of violent effort all in intervals killed me. When the derailleur did not annoy me with the same issue repeating again and again each time I used the small plateau - maybe 10 times during the entiere race - I did not anticipate perfectly all obstacles and badly piloted the bike. I walked down during most descents where most people rode down. I was feeling far from my shape of the half-ironman three weeks before. Or is it just too different to be compared ?
When I reached the second buffet, thinking that it was only the half of the route, I really started to question myself about in which state I would end this race, being already significantly exhausted. But surprisingly, the second half of the circuit was much more gentle technically speaking. Lots of straight lines with gentle gradient, but often this kind of rocky tracks with loose stones is tiring to ride. I overtook many people on which the typical symptoms of fatigue after the 4h limit was visible. Surprisingly, this type of steady effort felt suddenly much more comfortable to ride for me, and I kept the same pace for a long moment. This was probably the moment during which I gained the most positions in the rankings. At the third buffet, I blocked the derailleur again... Only a long downhill followed for the remaining 9 kilometers to the finish line, which I did not notice, ending surprisingly on the car park (indeed the finish gate was just before but I did not notice it).
Wojtek was eating spagettis with Cesar, to my big surprise. Cesar, didn't you ride the Giga ? As I already guessed, my fellow spanish mate changed his mind during the race itself and did only one loop, feeling the same exhaustion as I did. "I caught him back !" said Wojtek, which meant he managed to regain the 30mn gap between the start of the Giga at 10:30 and 11:00, before adding that Cesar, due to having registered for the Giga, will be disqualified. "I don't care, he said, the route was nice and I had fun". Wojtek not only caught back Cesar, but also Michał, who visibly was not in his best shape after his injury.
Krzysztof arrived some time later as we were on the car park, almost just a bit before Dorota. His face was also kind of disapointed. Knowing he has a similar shape than me, something obviously had happened. Krzysztof's derailleur had also played him some bad jokes. But, worse than me, he lost a piece of it during the race, which made him loose a considerable amount of time: a part of the outside border of the lower little wheel had gone, allowing the chain to go aside of it in any moment. As for me, after an eventual inspection at home, it turned out that my derailleur hanger had got a shock during the previous excursion, probably in the Tatras, which I did not notice. It was pitching slightly onwards, making the chain too loose, hence all my worries. I did not check cautiously enough the bike before the race, and paid cash my mistake.
I finished 119th, some 20mn after Wojtek, 5mn after Janusz, 30mn before Krzystof, Dorota, and also approximately Cesar, whose final time was not displayed. I really need to improve my downhill technique: I lost all skills I had gained during the Beskidy Trophy. The physical shape was not optimal, but it sometimes happen. I am in the middle of the rankings, which is not too bad either. Without the derailleur issues, this would have been perhaps some 10mn faster... Who knows, the mountains of Góry Wałbrzychskie are perhaps haunted by some some mischievous spirits who attacked the derailleurs that day !