The Traka 200




Traka has become the European version of Unbound Gravel, and it is safe to say that Traka is the premier gravel race in Europe. More than 2000 riders have visited Girona, the self-proclaimed gravel paradise, within the five-day gravel festival. Most of the world’s best-known gravel riders are racing the 360k or the 200k route, while many recreational riders sign up for the 100k or 50k. The bravest riders sign up for an incredible 560k route. As an elite gravel rider, I decided to take on the 200k route, but I also signed up for the 100k. Let’s dive into my 200k experience!

– Swoosh. 

The mud is splashing as I try to keep up with Laurens ten Dam’s wheels. The rainfall of the last few weeks has turned the gravel into a dirt road, making it wet and slippery. I have to trust my Challenge Gravel Grinder tires to keep me on the right path. We’ve been going fast all day. The gun went off when the sun rose and we began the trail, starting with a neutral start that quickly became chaotic.

I’m following the fast pace. Photo: The Traka

Not really a neutral start

As the car took off, everyone wanted to be at the front into the 4k steep graveled climb that was about to begin. The separation happened instantaneously, and I was around 50th at the start of the climb. I had to work my way up the climb overtaking riders who were getting dropped, but it didn’t work out well. Midway up the climb, the first riders were already gone, and I found myself in group three. The group kept growing, and now we are about 20 riders in total.

It’s a beautiful morning with a temperature of 15ºC and the sun shining. There’s no wind, just the wind resistance. The course is twisty, and it feels like I have to sprint out of every single corner just to keep up with the group. This is a different kind of course than what you’ll find in Kansas; this is Girona.

– Man, if I stay back where tail gunning, I will for sure get dropped as elactic band will eventually snap. I got to get to the front of our group. 

It’s harder to stay in the back of a fast group. Photo: The Traka (from the 100k race)

Into the biggest climb of the day

– Gogogo, Jonas. 1 min to the next group. Andreas texts me, and it pops up on the screen of my head unit. 

Andreas participated in the 360-kilometer race yesterday and performed exceptionally well, finishing in the top 30. Today, he is following my race from his hotel room. He had hoped to support me by providing food during the race, however, he discovered that the rental car his wife used on the gravel roads yesterday had a puncture. It’s even challenging for cars to drive on these roads, not to mention 40 or 42-mm tires. I’ve seen many riders with punctured tires. Fortunately, my tires are holding up well.

There! I spot a group ahead while on the open field. It appears that my group has caught up with them. Unfortunately, I am not with them anymore because I took a wrong turn five kilometers back. The course is not marked, and one has to follow the GPS track. Sometimes, it’s hard to see the details on the little head unit. I mistakenly thought we were headed straight, but we were supposed to make an S-curve and continue on the other side of the creek. I had to turn back but lost about 20 seconds, and I couldn’t catch up with the group. Not yet, anyway.

I’m in time trail mode and catch a few riders while chasing the group ahead.

Chasing down riders. Photo: The Traka.

Start of the last climb. 7 km. 

I don’t know if the sign is motivating or depressing, but I get into a rhythm and try to ride the whole thing as fast as I can. But it’s steep, and the surface is loose or rugged. I see a rider ahead. I am motivated to press on. Let’s catch him!

I caught a rider and we are working well together. Photo: The Traka.

Hitting the bar

– Where did my energy go? 

I feel completely exhausted. I can’t even sustain 150 watts. I caught up with a fellow rider at the top of the climb and we cooperated for a while. However, I had to stop at the feed zone to refill my bottles. When I resumed chasing, I managed to catch up to him again, but it seemed to take more effort than I anticipated. I think I’m hitting the wall.

I stop to urinate and eat a snack, but I still feel empty. A group of cyclists passes me, and I cannot keep up with them.

– I need a Coke. 

There is a small town. I make a quick call to ride off the course to find a place I can buy a drink. I find an open bar and ask the bartender for a Coke.

sitting on a bar stool in the bar
Like the good old days, when the riders had to refuel in bars and shops along the way. Photo: Jonas Orset.

– Quieres algo mas? 

The bartender asks me if I want something more. I get an urge to get some salt. On the shelves, there are small bags of chips. I choose one, pay by phone for Coke and chips. This is a surreal moment. I was in a competitive race; now I am hitting the bar.

But after just a few sips of the Coke, I can feel my energy coming back. I chug the whole can. The chips taste so good. I put my phone back in the hydration bag, grab the bag of chips, and get back on the bike. I return the 250 meters back to the course and keep riding. 

A group of riders pass me, and I follow them. The bag of chips in my left hand, the legs pushing the pedals. I am back. 

A tough final of the race

200k on gravel roads is always tough, but this course makes the riders have to fight for every meter. The climbs are steep, the gravel rocky and loose, the course twisty, and the sun is also heating up. Several riders are cramping. I am feeling better again. Not great, but I am definitely back to where I was before I boinked. The group I’m in now has been growing. We are catching dropped riders. 

I know the last 20k as I did them in Santa Vall X. It’s wet, muddy, and rocky. I consent to stay on the best line. Please, no punctures or crashes today. 

It’s a beautiful course, but partly rocky. Photo: The Traka.

It’s satisfying to know the last km, as I know we are getting close to the finish. The last 5 km are on single track, which can be interesting on the slippy trails.

There is the finish line, I try to sprint, but my legs are not moving any faster. I have to let two riders pass me. Finally, I make it. 63rd.

I finally made it and having another Coke is definitely in place. Photo: Andreas Ohldieck.

It’s a bittersweet feeling. On one hand, I am so glad to be back I have been suffering badly. On the other, I would have hoped to be in a little better shape and maybe a little better result. But what an adventure it was. The Traka is something special. 

I will do it all again tomorrow with the 100k! I can’t say that I’m looking forward to it right now, but after some finishers’ food and a good night’s sleep, I know I’ll be ready for another adventure. Because if there’s one thing that Traka truly is, it’s an adventure.

Gracias, Klassmark, for a weekend of gravel adventures I’ll never forget! I’ll be back!

Next up, Gravel Locos.

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