From Tapio Kymäläinen – Last Saturday was the first ever Nordic Championships in MTB Enduro with 247 riders participating in the race. Thanks to the holidays I was able to travel to Åre already for Monday evening. Åre is something completely different to what I get to ride at home, altitude drop in the bike park is four times bigger, it’s faster, more rough and more fun. It takes almost 20 hours of traveling for me to get there from Helsinki, Finland. When race course was published on Tuesday I decided not to be too serious in learning the special stages and saved my energy for the race on Saturday, so instead I had tons of fun riding all the amazing tracks of Åre bike park for the the four days before the race.

Of course I really felt that decision on my body before the race. I was tired after 25 hours of bike park laps in 5 days leading to the race day, and decided that all that fun had been worth it, and just need to give what I have left on the stages. The race began with 400m climb to the start of the first stage. Stage one was the most technical in the race, a rough natural trail that is very worn out and quite steep at times. My favourite in the race, but not the one that I would have wanted to warm up with. I took the start carefully, and did not push technical sections to the limits as much as in the practice, but did hit all my lines and didn’t do any mistakes. Very happy how the race started. After the race I could see from Strava, that I was one second slower than in my fastest run during practice days. In that race there is no live timing, so we don’t see the results of stages before the whole thing is over, my stage time was 4:15 and 7th position after stage one.

Stage two was the longest and had the most pedalling in it. In the transfer to the stage two we were allowed to take the lift up to about two thirds of the climb, which helped me, since I knew my legs were quite empty. I decided to “pedal smart” so put all my efforts into where it counted the most and otherwise just tried to be as smooth as possible and pump speed as much as possible. What did not help me was that course got held down for 20min just when I was starting. That is enough for body to cool down, and pedalling in the beginning of the stage felt horrible. I overtook two riders in the first half of the stage and was really lucky that both of them gave away really well, so it did not slow me down at all. Even more fortunate I felt that for the last 3min of the stage I could see the guy in front of me very often and that pushed me to try really hard to catch him up too and I did catch him up right at the finish of the stage. Was super happy with stage 2, and after catching my breath went to thank those guys whom let me pass so well. Stage time 12:14 and 5th position after stage 2.
To the third stage we took the lift up again, and this time there wasn’t much climbing at all. Third stage was also fast technical and super fun. This stage had my favorite section of the whole race called “Solstigen” almost straight line going inside the forest across the mountain and when hitting right lines it’s possible to ride it without touching the brakes with speeds going over 50km/h. Again I had good run with no mistakes and smashed Solstigen without touching my brakes. Stage time 4:53 and 5th after stage 3.
After stage 3 there was lunch and tech break at the pits for about an 45min. I ate some food and refilled just enough water to last for the last two stages before starting the long climb to the start of stage 4. Stage 4 was not quite ready when riders got up there, and I had to wait about 20min at the start and again had the problem of body cooling down just before the start of the stage. Stage 4 was the easiest stage in the race, and I somehow just could not get the flow going on that stage. I was not looking far ahead enough and was sliding many corners little too far. Wasn’t very happy with how I rode it. To my surprise I learned after the race that the clock did not seem to mind that. I was 5th fastest on stage with time of 3:59 and still 5th in the overall after stage 4.
Again big climb to the start of the last stage, and I was quite tired at the start. Again quite technical stage, and I did not feel safe pushing it hard. After the climb my heart rate did not drop under 130 before I started. Few close call situations and couple of small mistakes, but mostly good riding for the last stage. Got my worst stage result being 8th, but still managed to hold to the 5th position in the race. I was well surprised when I saw the results after the race. I had thought that If I do really well I might be in top 10. I was faster than other guys that normally beat me in Finnish national races. Super stoked to be on the podium in the first ever Nordic Championships in MTB Enduro!