Racing the gravel

Racing road is all about teamwork, even though this is a sport of individuals. I really enjoy the dynamics of road racing that teamwork creates and I have been lucky enough to have had the experience of working with my brother, Ingvar.

In road races I have been acting as Ingvars lieutenant ever since I was good enough, I’ve always enjoyed being in the position to help my brother take small and big wins for our team.

This time it was different, we decided to turn things around and see what would happen. We talked on the phone, on facebook, in person and finally we had a proper team meeting. Yeah we have team meetings, you see the team, Kría Racing, has grown from being us two at most races into a proper team, both men and women. We are small but each and everyone of us is really awesome and we have what matters the most, real teamwork!

After all this we had some strategy for the most likely situations in the race and we were confident in our abilities to execute any of these strategies.

Of course I had to get sick the week before the race, I felt really awful about this, but it turned out to be nothing serious, I knew I had to bring my A game to this race.

After taking it easy for few days I showed up for a club ride. My club, Tindur, is full of great cyclists and awesome people, we sometimes have these club rides where everyone is really excited to go fast, we ride hard but then we regroup, no one is left behind. This ride was one of these really fast once, and that was seriously fun and exactly what I needed to test the legs. I could feel it, I was ready.

Race day was upon us, everything was ready, bike was clean and ready like always, legs were still feeling good, usual oatmeal and toast with bananas were all in the system and even the wind was calm! I was really excited, maybe a bit too excited as I even forgot to go the rounds and give my team the usual high fives and wish for good race before finding my position in the start box.

We took off with a controlled start, soon in one of few short climbs in the first section we started to make short attacks, Ingvar took most of them, but to our surprise the group we had with us was really strong that day and really stuck well together.

It wasn’t until we hit the gravel section in first lap things really heated up. Guys started to drop out the back fairly soon, it’s really tough chasing in the gravel, way harder then on the tarmac. You can’t really stand in the climbs, you need to watch out for puncture hazards and the lines are narrow so it gets really tricky to get in proper draft.

We managed to slim the group down to five guys, Me, Ingvar, Hafsteinn Ægir Geirsson, Hákon Hrafn Sigurðsson and surprisingly Sæmundur Guðmundsson there with us, young and aspiring rider. We should have combativity rewards to give out for this kind of performance.

The group worked well together, we managed to keep the speed up and had a pretty nice lead fairly quickly.

Just before the gravel I told Ingvar that I wanted to take this to a sprint for the finish, he warned me that Hafsteinn was likely going to try something in the gravel.

It headed for a brutal speed through the gravel section on the second lap, 115km into the race I was pretty tired, my legs were quite sore but I knew that I wasn’t the only one feeling like that.

Hafsteinn threw out a strong attack in one of the hills, I could feel it in the legs that this was one of the last pulls that I could do like this. From this point I did everything I could to control the race and save my legs.

I managed quite well for the latter part, Ingvar helped me a lot controlling the speed fully aware of what I needed to beat the sprint.

The group came in from the gravel and I had Ingvar leading me out, keeping the speed up to protect my position and then it came, I had to go, I saw the line and Hafsteinn was getting ready to go, but it felt to soon, it felt impossibly long for what was left of my legs.

I threw my head down, stood up, trying to remember everything that I had practiced so many times, keep my body low, don’t go too far over the front wheel and stick that rear tire into the ground to keep traction.

It felt like eternity, I was in the lead, and in the wind, Hafsteinn had what looked like a great position on my side with some shelter from the wind and so he advanced on me, I thought for a second that he might steal this from me, from US! I couldn’t let that happen, no way! Then I dug deeper then I have ever done before, it hurt, it hurt really badly, but did it feel good, it feels amazing being able to go way past what feels like the limit and then just a little bit further, just because you so badly want it.

There it was I made it, 1st place, WE made it!

Björk Kristjánsdóttir