I met Craig at the airport in Stockholm a few days after Fjällturen and we travelled together to Italy for an altitude training camp and to see the course for World Champs. My leg had started hurting a bit after the race (my second race) riding the long steep climbs did not help my leg, my leg was simply not ready for this just yet. Only a few days after we arrived at Misurina Craig got a bad cold and had to stay in bed, and a few days later it was my turn. The combination of a light head cold and a sore leg made me decide not to do the Alta Valtellina race in Bormio which I had entered for. I had the Swedish XCM champ in mind which was only a week later and I had to save everything my leg could manage for that race, I really wanted to keep my Swedish jersey.
Back home in Falun I had high hopes that my hamstring would recover fully from riding on flat terrain again, but it did not get much better. After the rest day on Thursday and endless of hours of massage from Craig it felt a little bit better! I was incredibly nervous on Friday and was sure that I would lose the jersey this year. I would still do everything I could to try and defend it! Many of the other girls had shown good form this season and I had planned the sprint in details and knew exactly what my tactics would be, I did not think anyone would be stronger than anyone else and this race was definitely coming down to a sprint.
Normally my nervousness disappears as we start but this time it took a bit longer. A little boy standing next to my mom watching the start said “The girl with number one is last up the start hill”. I was still far back as we entered the first single track and thought I had lost it already, maybe that triggered me to start focusing! I moved up and when we came to the climb with the hill prize, after only 10km, I was in a perfect position when Sandra moved to the front and picked up the pace! I was the only one who could go with her and we had a big gap at the top. I just just managed to take the prize but I had given my all and was a bit scared that I had burnt a few too many matches there, my legs did not recover. Sandra and I worked well together but Emmy did a good job and caught us. We got mixed up with the vets and masters who started 4 minutes behind us and were riding with some of them on and off, not too long though since they were much stronger than us. Emmy dropped again and came back again but after about 30 kilometre we lost her and did not see her any more. I was starting to get really tired and my leg was sore and Sandra looked really strong, I was asking for a higher power if this was going to work. We came to a longer section in the forest with a single track which was on a slight downhill, I loved this section and knew it well from last year and from earlier while training on the course. I went in there first with Sandra on my wheel but when I turned around at the end of it she was not there! I got a bit surprised since I did not plan to go solo with more than 30 kilometres to go, I took a few seconds to think about what to do. I decided to push for as long as I could stay away since she would have to work as hard to catch, but still save something for the sprint. I had to dig very deep to stay away and could not believe it when I crossed the line as the Swedish XCM champion for the 6th consecutive time!!! It was such a relief and I had such a mix of emotions of being happy, sore, tired, relieved, surprised etc etc!
The adrenaline had helped me cope with the pain during the race and straight after the finish I was contemplating doing the race in Ludvika the following day but as the adrenaline left my body and I started to feel how sore the leg was, the decision not to race was easy! With the next important race, CykelVasan, only a week away one has to think forward and my leg can not do 2 races on consecutive days just yet.
This was definitely my sweetest win of all my Swedish Champ gold medals! When I went in for my operation 5 months ago I was told to forget the thought of starting the Swedish Champs, it would be too soon! The healing process for this injury and all the scar tissue is 1,5-2 years, it is a long process which is continuously going on inside the body, so the fact that I have a bit of pain now is nothing strange and unusual but quite normal, I just have to look after it! Now I am looking forward to the next important race, CykelVasan – the biggest MTB event in Sweden for the entire year!! We will have tough competition this year from our neighbours in Norway;)
With Åsa before the start - GripGrab "Never lose your grip"
16 girls started
On a single track with Sandra behind. Photo: cykelkanalen.se
Interview just after the finish - so relieved! Photo: Nellie Larsson
The podium with Sandra and Emmy
Thank you Hanna for the lovely medal ;)