Sunday, 13 October 2013

La Trinxacadenes X

La Trinxacadenes X   6th Oct 2013

The background of the club and race
Trinxacadenes BTT is a Mountain bike club from a small Catalan town called Vallromanes.  The town is 45mins north east of Barcelona.  Every year they hold the annual La Trinxa mountain bike race.  This is a XC race over 36km with around 5700ft elevation gain, some brutal climbing even for the locals with category 3 and 4 climbs on a MTB.  It welcomes riders from all over Catalunya and further.  It also boasts a list of Pro and semi pro Riders due to the nature of the course.  This year would be the 10th anniversary year and the course was going to be even more difficult than seen in previous years. 
My fiancĂ©e comes from the village and through visiting our relatives I first started to meet members of the club.  Through the years I have been on many of their club rides and rode most of the surrounding area.   I hosted the Trinxacadenes club in Ireland earlier in the summer showing them some of our Trail Centres and coast lines.   I have been meaning to do the famous Trinxa race since I first visited but one thing or another always seemed to get in the way.  After the club made the effort to come to Ireland I decided to book the flights and race in La Trinxa X.  It later turned out to be the same weekend as the foxhunt but as the tickets were booked I couldn’t change my mind gutted and all as I was to miss Irelands biggest MTB race.

My original plan was to train as hard as I could to make the trip worthwhile but sickness meant I wasn’t on the bike for months.  It was a frustrating few months when all I wanted to do was ride.   The week before I had a few rides around my local trail centre Davagh.  The legs, lungs or head were not in a good place.  I was close to not competing but as we were going out anyway I decided to bring the bike.  Saturday I went for a warm up spin and on the first climb it really hit home how unfit I was.  The guys assured me that there will always be someone slower on the day.   Even though I am not a local I know the area very well and have covered the full route on different occasions.  Normally descending the single tracks in DH mode rather than climbing them in XC mode.

La Trinxa  The Race
Sunday morning the town was buzzing I collected my race number and got it fitted to the bike.  001 no pressure on me at all then!  As soon as I got mingled with the 525 riders it didn’t really matter what number I was.  I was never going to win this race so I just had to be thankful I was riding again and enjoy the course. 
We lined up behind the start line and after a fireworks start the race was on. We had a police escort out of the town and towards the mountains.  We started on the main road and followed a jeep.  The idea of the road section was to stretch out the field but I think everyone’s excitement took over and the bunch looked more like a peloton from La Volta a Catalunya.  We left the main road and got onto the first dirt roads.  These were single lane tracks but as there were so many riders the first climb became a bit of a bottle neck and with a chain reaction the riders at the back lost momentum and some had to get off and walk.  I managed to pick my line through walkers and with the odd shoulder to keep me upright I managed to get up the first climb of the day.   I passed Trinxa friends along the route.  Manel waved me through the town with his crutches and later Joan ‘Rambo’ Ramon shouting words of encouragement to me to keep me going on the first climb.  The race had only begun and I could already feel the pain in my legs and lungs.   I knew the route I was on and had a fair idea of what was to come.  When I am mentally and physically fit I can normally block out the pain but this was different.  Not being fit and not being mentally ready made it much more difficult.  “What would be the quickest way home if I was to pull out?” The thought crossed my mind on a few occasions.  I would then counter that with if I get up this next climb I am that little bit closer to the finish. 

We traversed tracks through the mountains all of which I have been on before and knew I could climb.  I looked at the Garmin and despite still climbing we hadn’t gone very far at all.  As we topped a climb at a cross roads we could see the front riders coming up the hill in front.  We would turn right and drop down before doing this climb.  It was like a kick in the teeth even at this early stage watching riders already with such a lead on us.  The sun was starting to break through the cloud and temperatures and humidity was getting worse than our summers. We were on a climb I have done many times. This was an open section of stoned track cutting through the hillside. The tree tops dropped down the steep valley to our right. Below us the costa towns filtered from the flora and the beaches spread like an unbroken yellow line all the way to the industrial port of Barcelona.  With the sun shining bright and a clear sky Barcelona streets and famous districts could be seen clearly.  Mount Tibidabo and La Sagrada Familia stood out in this impressive urban landscape.  The climb was made that little bit easier with such and impressive view.  I started passing a few riders and I must admit this did boost me.  Topping another climb we had a fast descent to the first food stop.  I took on some water and kept moving. 
The next section was an old favourite of mine and a really fast bit of single track.  I started to pass more and more riders and it was clear most of them are only made for climbing. I thought this is the only time I could make up ground so threw caution to the wind and let rip down the singletrack.  As fast as I went the next bit of climb had some of them fly past me like I was stopped.  I was beginning to enjoy it and taking it as a ride rather than a race.  We dropped further down the valleys and re-joined the first climb of the day except we would be descending it this time. At the bottom we would join a special bit of single track again one I have ridden many times.  It started with a climb to begin with and then a very fast technical descent.  There was a huge rain storm on the Friday night we arrived and as this trail is sand based the most of it was washed out forming huge ruts.  The fast start soon ended in a bottle neck at a rock section.  Tempo from trinxa warned the riders of the rocks below but what he shouted to me was rock garden so I kept er lit and rattled through the first bit.  My pedals gouged through the rut and I almost lost it but thankfully momentum carried me through.  The next sections were much the same with rocky, ruts and roots and quite technical.  I knew the fun was about to end as we popped out beside the golf course.  Without seeing the climb I was already shifting to the best climbing gear.  I knew what was round the next corner and as I turned it was clear others didn’t.  Riders with broken chains, punctures from the rocks in the previous section littered the side of the trail.  I got the head down and started to push hard on the climb.  Most where walking this section but on the big wheels I seemed to get over and up it ok.  As the gradient increased and the trail got worse due to the rain I was soon off and walking for the first time.  I looked around and no one was managing to climb this section.  I jumped back on the bike and headed towards Vallromanes.  This was the closest I would get to the town and the turning point for the short route.   Keep going or call it a day?  The legs were tired but I was enjoying being on the bike.  I was slow but I would hopefully get there onwards and upwards.

The trails I was now riding were all trails I would usually descend.  It was a strange feeling riding up these trails rather than down them.  We started a long slow climb again in the direction of the check point.  When it was almost in sight we of course turned left and dropped down a steep track.  This only meant one thing and another big climb back up the valley from almost sea level.  At the cross roads where I was expecting the checkpoint we then joined another bit of single track.  Locally named as Vietnam again this was another I always rode the opposite direction.  I knew it would be a tough climb so go the head down and kept the pedals turning.  At the top thankfully we had the feed station with some nuts, raisins, oranges, bananas and water.  I loaded up as much as I could and spoke to Niko from Nikos Bar in Vallromanes who was dishing out the food and drink.  The guys told me I had three more big climbs to go but I knew the way home if I wanted a short cut.  I had come this far and I wasn’t going to cut it short now.

The last section was tough on tired legs.  Long climbs with no shade from the sun steep descents that were too cut up to push on.  On the last big climb of the day I started to feel the cramps coming on.  I tried everything to stop them but in the end I had to jump off and stretch.  I found an old energy gel in the bag from god knows when but got it down me as anything was better than nothing at this stage.  I stretched out and hopped back on the bike.  The last push to the top and what I thought was all descent back to the finish line.  Unfortunately there were a few more deviations to my usual descent into Vallromanes and this was painful in the legs short sharp climbs but enough to almost get the cramps back in the legs.  We turned onto another favourite bit of single track and with slower riders in front I took my chance to pass and pushed hard.  A few other riders done the same and it turned into a real bit of craic as we all seemed to be around the same pace.  Hitting berms and drops the pace really picked up and at the bottom a few high 5’s as we all appreciated the final bit of the course.  As we dropped through the trees we could hear the music from the finish line. Again on a cruel twist we down a complete lap of the town before getting there but at this stage the hard work was done.
My first Trinxa in the bag and although I didn’t place too highly I wasn’t disappointed.  My only aim was to finish it and I did.  A tough event and one I look forward to trying again with a better pair of legs and head ready for it.   Big thanks to Trinxacadenes club, all the marshals and helpers and to my family for being at the finish line to welcome me back.
The race is very accessible to anyone looking for a challenge. Easyjet fly to Barcelona and with a good rail, bus and taxi service you could be in Vallromanes in an hour.   More information can be found at