Words by Ryan Sherlock.
After a four year excursion into road racing 2015 saw me return to the mountain bike, specifically MTB marathon racing. I had heard about the Beskidy MTB Trophy Stage race through British Champ Ben Thomas - four stages, lots of climbing and technical tough single track in the south of Poland - I was in.
Traveling to the race was straight forward, a direct flight from Dublin to Krakow, pick up the rental car and a two hour drive to a village close to the race. No more difficult then the many trips my wife (Melanie Spath) and I made to the UK for XC racing over the years - just a slightly longer flight.
Talking to riders who have raced this in the past two major things usually crop up - technical rocky descents and mud - the technical descents are very much here but summer recently hit the south of Poland and temperatures in the high 20s means little mud - wohoo.
After a leg opener session yesterday in glorious weather, some great local food (cheap too by Irish standards) and a good nights sleep I was ready for the 10am start (thank you to the organisers so much for not starting us at some ungodly hour!).
Todays course started out perfectly for a long stage race - a long steady climb that gets steeper as you climb - a nice way to break the legs in. After this, what followed where steep rocky descents, swooping trails skirting through summer flowers and usually fire roads to get you back tothe top of the next rollercoaster. They were however some evilly steep climbs - sometimes cursing them carrying my 76kg up them (before when I mountain biked, I was 2-3kg lighter - spending a season racing on the flats in Belgium eating waffles makes you heavy!).
Fifteen minutes into the race, Ben stamped his authority on the front and opened a gap on our group - that was the last I would see of him until I was washing my bike afterwards (he would finish six minutes up on me).
During the race I had several little battles with the riders around me but finally dropped my German companion Torsten Mutzlitz on a descent towards the end (I was on my hardtail bike - not my choice for this course as my full suspension Epic is being serviced - so I was happy with that - the Schwalbe 2.25 width tires and 29er Valor wheels helped me along though). I finished second.
It is now a few hours after the stage and I’m still buzzing about it - the trails really were incredible - I would even go as far to as I’m “stoked” ;)
Now to put the legs up and get ready for tomorrows 85km stage with almost 3,000m of climb - we spend a large chunk of it in Slovakia - another country for me to add to my “being in” list.
Full results and race info here