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Alpinbike Blog

Mitas 4islands stage race: it was great and it only is getting better…

2017.05.19.
2 weeks ago, from 19-22 april, it was already the third edition of this iconic race on the islands in the north of Croatia. From the first editions, I remember a very high level of organization, great trails, incredible views, good atmosphere and some millions of rocks. While last year I participated as a racer with podium ambitions, this year would be something new for me: ride the event as a trainingcamp as I am suffering from overtraining after having too much fun in the cold winter months. And what a holiday it was! If I loved it as a race, I even enjoyed it more as the perfect trainingcamp-bikeholiday! Imagine: you arrive in heaven, special rough environment with views on the beautiful Adriatic sea, smooth organization with all info to be relaxed, top hotels and food and, on top, an amazing track every day to make it the dreamweek for every biker! But, be careful, it is not easy! It is an extreme rocky area and that makes it THE place to challenge yourself, to push your personal limits to a new level, the perfect trainingcamp!

Mitas 4islands stage race: it was great and it only is getting better…

Stage 1: Island Krk, Rab-Rab, 66km, 1750hm, warming up the legs...

Day 1 has a relaxed start as the startingline is next to the hotel and the start is only at 10, but still I stress as I have no idea if I will be able to reach the finish in my current shape. After 12weeks of suffering, of trying to get out of overtraining, of trying to start again, I had decided last week to quit riding completely.  But here I am, at the start of a race, it will be a big adventure for me! But Zsolt is happy, the weather is nice and what is the worst that can happen? Just to have to quit? It wouldn’t be perfect, but there are worse things in life I am sure and so I can finally turn my switch in my brain and relax. At exactly 10, we get going and it is harder to keep my eyes on my teammate now, being in the middle of the first starting group. After only 1.5kms, we hit the climb and I see a smart teammate! Zsolt promised to ride his pace and so he does! As for me, I forgot everything when I heard the start-shot as expected, can’t feel pain anymore, the usual (stupid me)… But, I get behind Zsolt and its perfect! We go to the top where we enter the moon-like landscape. Here, fully time starts and with my new giant anthem, I am enjoying every cm! We get on the fast rocky tracks and I still feel ok, I can even take time to talk to the other teams. Next challenge will be the technical first long descent after a nice rich buffet or waterpoint J. As I usually race, I don’t get the chance to see a lot of these and I am positively surprised, nice food and drinks, jihaa.  Full of fresh energy, we head to the first big trail-test, but, this time not from the leading position, but in a group. And sure, this is more interesting ;). You can’t just take the perfect lines, you can’t even see the lines with all the people! But, at least I can play a little without wasting energy and so I test the limits of the anthem, jumping passed a lot of riders. Most of the people are nice when you tell them you are going to pass, but for sure, I had some small negative comments as well… and I understand but I would never create risks for the others when passing. So, I just pass when possible and finally I manage to get in between groups with a free peace of heaven in front of me, hohoooooo! Fun!!! Sure, after every descent comes more climbing, but riding at Zsolt’s pace feels great and I have plenty of energy left to look around. I had always thought I was the kind of racer that already enjoyed the environment and that took time to watch the details, but, going slower there is just more time for this and it is great! Somehow, I realize I like it, maybe even more than the usual speeding… Hm, getting old? We’ll see, maybe a mix of racing and touring could be the perfect future for me, but time to stop dreaming and to continue counting stones J. We now cross the island and soon dive down from the second waterpoint towards the sea. Again, magnificent views, blue sea, snow covered mountains behind it with even the heavy clouds on top of them and sun on our trails, incredible contrasts of nature, loving it! Zsolt is also enjoying it, we can talk a lot but as he promised, he is also speeding up since we passed the last waterpoint. We hit the last big climb of the day and when the trails start again, I manage to jump ahead of our group again to have free lines, pft, these trails are great!! I love this race! About 10km before the finish, the hard work is over and after some kms on the main road, we can relax the legs in the last 5kms on jeeptracks just sitting down on our fullies and enjoy the ride. When we arrive at the finish, everything is perfect, some food, drinks, bikewash (but bikes are clean), hotelroom at 2min, some pasta downstairs, man, it is a holiday, the best kind of a holiday!!

Day 2: Island Krk, Rab-Rab, 64km, 1430hm,  day to test plan B

For the first 2 editions, we have always been lucky with the weather, but, things can get ugly here in the area with the wind. When the Bora Bora (huge winds due to contrast ocean temperatures and the cold mountains) hits the area, it is impossible to get the boats on the sea and so, with a risk on this interesting phenomena, the organizers go for plan B, another (new)loop on the same island, so, more adventure for me J. In general it would be yesterdays loop in the opposite direction, but, from the riding perspective, it was great!! Lots of trails, great views, nice long descents, all of the keys of success are in it and so I have to admit, plan B is a success!

Where normally day 2 starts in a rush getting in time to the boats etc, my holiday continues: nice long breakfast in the perfect hotel with super nice staff, more relaxing in our room and walking down just in time to get in the back of the first group (not so smart…) . We start following the last kms of yesterdays track and we have huge traffic. Hm, lesson learned, even when you go for fun, a good starting position is important! But ok, to be in a group is also fun as you always meet with friends and have some time to chat! By the time we hit the mainroad, we are in a big group and unfortunately we catch the group in front when we hit the first trails = trafficjams… I am a little sad as this was a new part and walking is fine for me, but not if I have a bike… So, I decide to make it a balance training, going as slow as the people walking, but staying on the bike, fun too.. The good thing with the trail is that it cuts the groups in pieces and for the rest of the day, we are relaxed, just going from team to team, catching up all the time and that is fun too! The loop is good, but sometimes I get a little stressed, hoping that we don’t make orienting mistakes by accidentely following stage 1- signs or so, but, all is perfect! As will happen every day, Zsolt starts to push harder after the last magnificent waterpoint and, as this is also the moment where you have free lines, we speed to the last beautiful part, first across the moon, then finally down yesterdays starting climb, super!! Day 2 felt great and knowing that we will have the perfect recovery from the moment we cross the line, I start to be confident about surviving this adventure! Thank you Zsolt!!


Day 3: Island Cres: Merag-osor: 73km, 1770hm, trailday!

 

Since the first edition, I remember day 3 as the queens-stage. It is the most beautiful, but also the most demanding and in the past I suffered here smiling. What is special in this stage? Well, the combination of the trails, beautiful views and an incredible charming finish area in a authentic small town center with great food. So, although the day starts a little more stress with the packing and an earlier start with busses, I was looking forward to this one!

After a bus and a ferry trip, we arrived in the harbour Merag where we would find back our bikes that we had to bring in last night. Some scratches unfortunately (first time I have this here) but the bike runs well and we try to ride a little around as the start is a steep climb from the first meters... Then we have to get back on the boat for the real start and as expected, traffic issues from the first corner with people shifting wrong or too late but we get passed it and Zsolt finds his pace. I have a good talk with Belgian friends and I don't have to wait at the top as there he is, time to attack the trails! Big smiles and oleeeee, the day has started for real now.  We dive down to the town Cres and I have a hard time keeping my full bottles in place. Already here, I notice small changes, no more through the center, but around, a safer option for sure. After the town, more changes, more trails, more work... Zsolt decides we are too fast and being the smartest of the team, he makes me slow down, the perfect thing! Just before the first waterpoint, more new rocky trails, freshly cut into the bush, hmmm, super. We make a good stop at the waterpoint as I know that number 2 is far away and a long climb is coming. When I attack the hill, I notice my derailler is acting weird and where I lost the smallest gear from the first climb, things are getting worse now and I need to stop to repair the problem. I guess my cable got tangled up somehow in the transport and to unscrew it and find the right position, I will be working on it 5 times in the stage and... never find the perfect setting, but it becomes more of an interval training. Not exactly what I was looking for, but then again, with this stage, even this cant make me stop smiling! And yep, the long tough climb has changed as well! We jump of road earlier and even get trails uphill, the best!!! The downhill to Vidovici is still one of the best in this race and I get a free line to enjoy most of it to the maximum. When I stop in the middle to do the cable again, Zsolt is flying by with the biggest smile and I have to be fast to see him again. After this long descent, the track is more flat, but not easier, lots and lots of single tracks are coming with rocks and roots, small ups and down, real mtb! So good, you forget that you have to work 3.5hrs to get to the finish. As expected, at the finish you are welcomed with great food in a dream environment, the dreamday continues... We make a recovery ride along the beach, sit in the cold sea for good recovery and then jump on the bus to drive the last 30minutes to the new hotel.

 

Day 4: island Losinj: mali losinj-mali losinj: 40km, 950hm, loose rocks day

Again the full holiday feeling with a long night of relaxing in the superb hotel and a late start. Enough time to check the bikes in the morning and to do the 3kms warming up to the start. Starting from the center of another beautiful historical town, special again! But, also better keep our concentration as now, its a stress start with many obstacles. I know today it is important to get to the front to have a clear line on the rocks, but Zsolt cant find his good legs and so we have some minor delays in the first descents, but it cant really get our mood down. The trails are different today, short climbs, short interesting descents, panoramic trails along the coast, special trails in the forest between the stone walls, super! After the first 15km, we get free of traffic and so we get 20kms of fun! Orienting is hard, I get dizzy with all the turns and corners, but the signs are flawless and at not a single moment we doubt directions, good job! 5km before the finish, we reach the sea again and this time to stay on the coasttrail all the way, we know the race is over, we survived and in the best mood we work together with a Belgian team to the beach.

Conclusion:

The unique places, the views, the every day changing conditions on the different islands, the hotels, the atmosphere, well, I think this race is the closest way of combining a real exotic holiday feeling with a mountainbike race and it works perfect! I raced, I felt on a holiday, I enjoyed it again to the maximum. I can only hope new islands will pop out of the sea to make it a 5 or 6 island race, or, after seeing plan B for day 2, to make more loops and get a longer race to have even more fun!

The organisers are growing with the race, experience is paying of already and great things became even better!!  I am already curious for the 2018 edition!

See you,

Wouter

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