Wet forest gravel, yellow and red falling leaves, 200 riders having fun. Reunion with old pals and building new friendships. Nordic Gravel Series was this weekend visiting Lahti in Finland, and what a weekend it was.
What: Nordic Gravel Series Lahti Where: Lahti, Finland Start/finish: Lahti Olympic Venue Distance: 91 miles - 146 km Elevationgain: 1,700 meters Date: September 25th 2021 Starting time: 10 AM local time Finishing time: 4 hours. 28 min Racing speed: 32.3 kph. Weather report: 6-9℃, overcast and light rain, southern breeze
Bike: Cannondale Topstone Carbon Lefty 1 Tires: WTB Beway 47/Venture 47 650b Nutrition: Squeezy Sport Nutrition (Discount: 20% off (if buying more than kr 500) – Orset20 ) Race kit: CCN Sports Helmet: Met Manta Shoes: Fizik Terra Powerstrap X4 Computer: Wahoo ELMNT Roam Chain lube: Muc Off Service man/photographer : Kent Erik Harridsleff Bike service: Oslo Sykkelverksted
NGS Lahti route
The gravel weekend started with a Friday group ride around Lahti led by the Komoot ambassadors Henna Pelosaari and Annika Langvald. Annika has an impressive resumé, like winning the MTB World Championship six times. Henna is more of an adventurer, and we became friends last year. Now she is the chair of Green Cycling Finland.
The 40k loop was a perfect warm-up to the Saturday’s main event.
Falling Leaves and 146k with gravel
Saturday at 10 am 200 rides lined up to join the Nordic Gravel Series Lahti. The event is also known as Falling Leaves Lahti, and the name suits well here when the fall is at its best. The yellow and red coloured forest celebrates the end of the season, and even though the temperature had dropped, and we had partly light rain, it was still a day made for gravel racing.
Three distances was possible, 50k, 87k or 146 kilometers. Not surprisingly I went for the longest one. It had quite a solid line up, with pro riders like James Whelan from EF Education First, ex-pros, elite riders, but also the other side of the scale, enthusiasts who wanted to challenge themself and enjoy the ride.
High speed from the gun
The start arena was located at the Lahti Sportcenter. From the grid we went into the first of many steep, but short climbs, popularly called kickers. The peloton was immediately split into pieces, and we were down to 10 riders after just 5-6 km.
Our leading group kept a good pace and we really never let go off the gas.
Farmland, soft gravel, feed stops
The leading group was quite competitive and we wanted to make it through fast. I wasn’t feeling great at the first part of the race, but knew I probably would get stronger later in the ride.
The route led us through great scenery. Farmlands, forest roads, some single tracks. The last days of rain had made the surface quite soft, which made it slower and harder to keep the momentum.
With all those kickers, it was no doubt a suffer ride. We stopped at the feed station after 90 km, and a few riders wanted to go easier from here on. The rest of us was planning to keep going hard until the end.
Survival of the fittest
I realised I was one of the strongest riders, and started to do more of the work in the group. Getting closer to the final stage we kept dropping riders, and 7 became 6, then 5, soon 4.
With 20 km to go the game began.
We were four riders. Two from the team Cyclo Vision, ex-pro Kimmo Kainanen and myself. I pushed hard on a technical sector, but the three riders stayed on the wheel. A little later Kimmo did a good effort in a faster part, but again, all riders together.
The most serious attacks came soon later from the Cyclo Vision guys. One of them was a big 2 meter guy, named Mikko, with and unbelievable strength. He attacked and I knew immediately I needed to get on his wheel or he would be gone. I managed to get back on, then his team mate, Stefani, went.
He was a bit more tired, and did not either get away.
A little later I pushed hard and we were down to three. Mikko, Kimmo, and I.
Kimmo did not wanted to pull, and me an Mikko was the driving forces. I tried to use the kickers to my advantage, but they both stayed on the wheel.
Last push to the finish
Closing in to Lahti it was a few really steep and tough kickers, and I went full gas. Finally the big man had to give a gap, and I tried to keep the speed up.
Just 3 km to go, and I was me and Kimmo. Kimmo said he was done, so I did the work, then tried to get away in the next climbs. However, Kimmo was explosive, and I could not drop him.
We came together to the last climb, both going all-out, but still together at the top.
The last entrance to the finish was quite technical and tricky. Kimmo knew the route, I did not.
I was leading into the last few hundred meters, but the last corner came to quick. I misjudged it, and Kimmo took the inside. Too late - he got a few seconds, and it was just 100 meters to go.
There were no podium, so I did basically end the race together with Kimmo as the fastest rider, but nothing taste as good as crossing the line first. I was pleased with my performance and the amazing ride, just a bit annoyed about the last corner.
After bike - makes the event a dream
After a shower I got to taste the provided after ride meal, which was making me happy again. After all, it is hard to stay sad when finishing such a cool event. We had a blast on the ride, and seing all the arriving smiling finishers set the mood.
In the night all riders were invited to a local brewery, which fulfilled an epic day.
Sunday rest day?
The Sunday was set to rest and travels, but I got in a nice ride with Allen which makes his own wood bikes. Eco friendly, smooth to ride, responsive, fast, and beautiful. Creating bikes his own way – I love this kind of passion.
A gravel ride to Messilë was a great way to finish the weekend.
I’m coming back next year too!
Thanks to Nordic Gravel Series and Lahden Cycling Team for a great event!