Jason Sager’s Sudety MTB Challenge: Stages 1 & 2

With the Prologue over, Jason Sager of Team Jamis checks in again from Poland’s Sudety mountains and shares an update of Stages 1 & 2 at the Sudety MTB Challenge. In case you missed it, you can check out Jason’s first post [HERE].

Stage 1 and 2 Reflections at Stage 3 Breakfast

Sitting here the morning of stage 3, I’m having my second cup of Nescafé. It is a telling moment.

A single cup of Nescafé is a less than suitable replacement for what would ordinarily be a welcomed first cup of proper coffee. Some concessions must be made when on the road, and while coffee compromise is a lamentable one, these things happen, and are relatively acceptable. For a single cup.To return for a second cup of the water soluble coffee indicates a dire situation where caffeine stimulation overrides the desire for pleasant flavor. We’re getting tired here at the Sudety MTB Challenge.

With stage 1 and 2 in the books, I can reflect on about 8 hours and 20,000′ of climbing. Most of which was done alone, either in front or behind the pack. Stage 1 began with the usual intensity of a Euro neutral roll out – meaning full gas and any piece of open real estate is fair game for riding and passing. The winner of the uphill TT prologue, Tomas Vokrouhlik, whom we now call Czech Ivan Drago, pushed the pace pretty early, and soon there were two…he and I. Drago feels no pain, Sager does.

We climbed old XC and nordic trails for the first hour out of town, taking us through old growth forests and into logging areas as we rode ridge tops south east towards the Czech Republic border. Once across the border, the terrain opened up under the evergreen forest and you could see old WWII bunkers scattered throughout the forest. It would have been a good day to bring the camera, but my intent was to perform. Intentions met reality about 3 hours in when I had my traditional 1st day of the stage race meltdown and had to limp the last hour to the finish.

Stage 2 was to be the “Alpine” day of the tour – close to 10,000′ of climbing, and while we expected it to be on fire lanes, the course brought more surprises: a completely remote stage. We did a climb more traditional to somewhere like Breckenridge, CO, than Poland. One-thousand meters of climb in one pitch loomed as the 2nd climb, with an opener through pastures to get us there. German rider Sönke Wegner, of BC Bike Race fame, escaped with me on an early and muddy downhill.

One of my favorite parts about racing in South America and Europe are the transitional segments of the race – the early and late kilometers where you’re racing through town, through farms, back yards, and properties of locals. Paths, driveways, tiny ribbons of tarmac that barely qualify as a golf cart path…Sönke and I rallied every downhill meter of cart path and driveway to establish a gap on the field, and most importantly, Drago, who descends inversely as well as he climbs. While Drago can lose 5 minutes on a 5 minute downhill, he’ll also close a 5 minute gap in the first 5 minutes of a climb…and this algorithm proved to true again.

Climbing through dense fog, light mist, and limited visibility, I crested the hour long climb several minutes behind Drago. One of the rockiest and slickest descents surprised and treated us after the slog up the mountain, and I reconnected with Drago only to be dropped again on the next long climb. Drago smash.

Huge mountain and alpine views comforted me in my climbing mortality as we climbed and descended on medieval handmade cobble cart paths in the forest, long since abandoned and now covered with moss and grass. A more terrible climbing surface could hardly be imagined. Too rough to stand, too rough to sit, a consistent pace is impossible to find, so settle into the yoke of the plow you must. And. Do. Your. Work.

Passing showers and pockets of sun came and went, and the route took us to another proper TRAIL descent back to town, where speeds hit mach 1 through fields and farm back into Stronie Sląskie’s town center. Of the almost four hours of riding, I think 3:30 were spent alone, 15 minutes of descending with Sönke, 15 minutes of climbing with Drago Smash. The rest of the time was to be spent reflecting on the why and how of where I was and what I was doing.

Wrapping my now 3rd cup of Nescafé we prepare for stage 3, the mountain bike stage of the race, as they say. 40km of the best single track of the area is the main feature of today’s compact but effort dense stage.

I wonder how much coffee stage 4 will require?

On to the photos…

In the German tour bus.

In the German tour bus.

Staging with the Germans, our adopted support and travel crew.

Staging with the Germans, our adopted support and travel crew.

On the podium with Drago and Sönke.

On the podium with Drago and Sönke.

Glamorous recovery food after the stage while sitting in the parking lot.

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In the que for massage. More glamour.

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FANCY!

Super fan visits are non stop, everyone has a cycling story to share and questions abound about who we are, where we’re from, and where we went. I don’t think there was a common language once between any of the locals, but German, Czech, Polish, and English eventually turn into some sort of arm waving and gesticulation.

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Arm waving and gesticulation.

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