360KM gravel, The Traka was an incredible experience. Can you tell about it?
Absolutely! The Traka 360 route is amazing to discover this part of Girona. Actually, one of the things I enjoy the most of cycling is the views and enjoying the landscapes, and this is the perfect route for that. The views definitely keep you entertained.
So, the first 200km were great! I felt good and fast (obviously not as fast as the pros who did the race in under 15h!). At the 210k mark I started feeling pain in my knee which was making it hard to pedal or keep up a good pace. I arrived at Grava Pals at 250km, where the organisation had put out mattresses and blankets for people to rest or sleep overnight. I slept an hour and a half, washed my face, ate a little and was back on the bike at 2:30am with my knee feeling a bit better.
On the last hard climb at 280km, one of the friends I was riding with had an accident on the descent as he was hit by a wild boar and broke his collarbone and two ribs. So we had to stop for around 2 hours for the organisation to come and pick him up and take him to the hospital. At that point we all felt really down because we only had 80km left to finish and being as tired as I was it was very easy to jump on the van and go home and sleep.
However we did not give up. Before starting, my initial goal was to finish the race in under 30 hours, and seeing that we could more or less do it (considering the hours we had lost), we picked up the pace and kept pedalling. The highlights of the route would be the Cap de Creus area, a technical single track section in the top of the mountains right by the sea. However the last 30km felt the worst, especially because it was the area near Girona that I know really well and knew how close I was to the finish line. Instead of taking the easier way back, the route goes through muddy, steep and technical sections which really slowed down our pace, and that was mentally really hard!
But once I crossed the finish line, I could only think about what I had just achieved and that of course felt amazingly rewarding after 30 hours of cycling.
You are a Cycling Coach and you have certainly left nothing to chance to get to this event in excellent condition. How did you prepare yourself?
The Traka 360 is in fact my first event of the year, so I didn’t expect to be in my best shape, I took it more as a test to gain experience in ultradistance racing. My main goal of the year is Badlands. Last year I had to scratch due to a health issue so I’m really motivated to go back and finish it. It’s also the hardest event I’m attending, so I have a lot of preparation and training to do, including other events and races before it.
Although I could train myself, this year I’ve started working with another coach. My day to day revolves around training other people and having to worry and prepare my own training as well felt very draining. It’s not easy to prepare for these types of events, especially if you don’t come from a pro racing background or if you have a regular daily job.
It requires a lot of hours of training and resting, so it’s definitely a bit of a sacrifice, not only training for fitness but also the whole logistics of ultradistance, fuelling, pacing, etc. However, cycling and sports are my favourite things in life so I definitely can’t complain!
Over a day riding on your Rave SLR, how did you feel with the bike?
It’s interesting because I’ve never owned a bike with a more aero geometry, so I was very intrigued to experience it, and the reality is that I felt really comfortable, even after 30 hours riding! I would say Rave SLR is the most comfortable bike I’ve ever had. The bike is very absorbent on the gravel, and very light, so I was flying on the climbs!
The wheels and frame also feel really comfortable and safe on technical descents which I was really surprised by!
I rode 38mm tires and considering the race organiser recommended 40-45 for the route, I still felt very confident and could manage really well the loose rocks and the more difficult terrain.
The SRAM Force Xplore was also a big highlight for me. Being on the bike for so many hours it’s definitely a big win if the shifting is super smooth and fast!
Is it an event / experience that you recommend to other cyclists? Call you say some tips for beginners?
Of course, I’d recommend it! If you are interested in ultracycling events this is a good one to start with. Is not unsupported and no super long like say Badlands for example. However, it’s not a chilled event, having only up to 36 hours to complete it. This means it’s non-stop with no time to rest.
My biggest tip would be to fully prepare all the equipment and test it multiple times before the race. Being confident that everything you bring is exactly what you need is key (enough fuel, water, any personal hygiene items, repair kit…). The way you handle the bike when it’s heavy it’s also something that it’s important to test out beforehand.
What are your next gravel appointments now?
My next gravel event is Andean Raid on May 24th in Peru. I’m really looking forward to seeing how my body reacts at 4500m of elevation!
Then I’ll be attending The Capitals in July, a gravel race around Catalunya of 800km and +16.000m of climbing and finally I’ll head to Granada for Badlands in September.
THE BIKE OF THIS ARTICLE
RAVE SLR – SAND / GREEN; MATT
Traveling new roads is not just an attitude. It can also become the target for someone who has been making bicycles for over 116 years.
With Rave SLR we have set our sights on new horizons, creating a product with two separate souls, perfect for all-road, perfect for gravel, but the same incredible racing inclination. Rave SLR will be a new cycling experience, unexpected for many.