Stage 2: Vuelta a Stronie Slaskie:
After what felt like a brutal stage yesterday on Stage 1, today was a little friendlier, earning a ‘3’ for difficulty rather than the ‘4’ of yesterday (from a scale of 1-6). What this meant was that the climbs were a little less steep, the descents a little more open, and most singletrack descents were a lot more rideable for most. A long climb out of town took the race above Nowa Morawa, and a few more climbs and descents before reaching a highpoint just below Mt Stroma. The descent was forest road – old cobbles, and very fast – it would have been pretty hairy in the wet. There were enough rough edges that we saw many people stopped with flats on the way down. About 40km in we hit a trail along the border of the Czech Republic and Poland. It was rooty, rocky and a lot of fun if not very slow going in the wetter spots. The final climbing was mostly walked, but the singletrack from the top was the best we have ridden yet. Another fast chute down, a climb, and a very fast descent and we were back in Stronie Slaskie.
The riding was very picturesque again today, with one benched forest road offering vast views across the valleys, and the sheer lushness of the countryside being so evident while riding on the border trails. I guess at some point a jeep could get along these for patrols. Now, it’s mostly hikers and MTBers. The border markers are squat concrete bollards, painted white with a red top. You can see them, but they are often right on the best line!
Bartosz Janowksi defended his lead, and won in 3:07:32, ‘just’ 5:32 in front of 2nd place Wegner Soenke. The women’s solo race is actually a lot closer and more varied, with now a third winner – Magdalena Halajczak. She was ripping on the climbs, but must have been ripping a descent a little too hard as she tore the lower part of her rear mech off and was coasting into town for the stage win. Laura Turpijn still holds the lead.
Full results for all categories, stages and distances are online.
Imogen was riding superbly today, and we were right in the Mixed Category race all day, often within about 100m of the two teams ahead of us. It was great to just be ‘on’ for the whole race. Even better, a rider from Belgium gave us kudos for our reporting. It’s nice to know people are reading.
Racing mixed is a little bit of an art form. Like any partnership one will not be like another. When I raced mixed with team mate Naomi Hansen she preferred to follow, Imogen MUST lead, almost always. And that’s fine, she goes faster when she’s in the front. But today, while I will happily take the back seat on the descents so Imogen can see the clearest line, as I known I can catch back on more easily than she can, I found myself getting dropped, time and time again!
The internet says
“Before 1945, Stronie Slaskie was part of Germany”. While now it’s the Czech border that is to the south, east and west of town, signs of a Germanic past are evident around the town.
On a personal note
After both Imogen and I felt so rubbish yesterday, and last night, and this morning, we were really happy to feel competitive today. Imogen was happy with her capabilities and able to make tactical decisions about the race, knowing what she was capable of, which let us sneak past the 3rd ranked Romet team on the last climb and out descend them to take 3rd for the day. That team is tremendously strong, so getting over a climb ahead of them, even if it was only 1 of 8 major climbs, was a great personal achievement today. You can see our race on Strava.
Tomorrow we leave Stronie Slaskie, and race 68.7km with 2172m of climbing to Bardo. The map shows more border trails, and it looks like we go through some great rock formations like those at Teplice Rocks. All that before the steep descent to Bardo, that is littered with shrines, adding to the technicality.