Based in Girona, Klassmark, a unique events promoter has hosted TRAKA since 2019. Long a road destination, the cultural turn toward gravel has found footing in the Catalan hills. Endless trails and unique events has grown the scene and the ambitions, culminating in a 360 km event this year, won by our own Olivia Dillon. She recounts the event.
360KM??? How does one prepare for a race like that? You've tackled big endurance events before. Can you speak to how it has evolved for you?
As a family run operation, Klassmark with its ‘leave no trace’ philosophy supports and is supported by the local community, so there is an incredible sense of camaraderie at all their events. Girona is really well set up to welcome riders from all over with easy accommodations, wonderful restaurants, coffee shops, and bike shops. For me, there is nothing like being able to roll out your front door to a race without having to travel.
This was a new record in terms of distance and time in the saddle for me. (360km | 5,000m | 16hrs ride time) A large part of the joy I experienced in preparing for this event was planning long weekend adventures with friends. We compiled or "stole" new routes on Komoot every weekend, averaging 7-9 hour rides on Saturdays in the couple of months prior, backed up with a 4-6 hour ride on Sundays. There is a story behind every ride, including when we lost our friend Xavi and thought he had ridden off a cliff, when we were chased by dogs and bees, and when we were unwilling to believe the weather forecast and subsequently had to bail mid-ride in a near hypothermic state. Each ride ended with big smiles and many tales over food and drinks, though.
I love setting my sights on a new challenge over new terrain, so the evolution has been just that. From the shorter and super challenging Grasshoppers and Lost & Found events to longer or multiple day events like Breck Epic, High Cascades, Belgian Waffle Ride, and Unbound, each has been an evolution for me, and each has been incredibly satisfying and fun. While I do like to repeat some events, I enjoy having something completely new to look forward to. The 360km was just that, given the distance and the actual route, which went through the spectacular Cap de Creus area. The really smart people chose to spend the night in Cap de Creus and make it a two day adventure. I have something longer and more adventurous on the cards for September with Badlands, which will involve some overnights as it is 725km and 15,000 metres and is located on what is described as ‘the edge of Europe' in Spain.
How did the race / day unfold? Talk through your win...
The race start was 6am, so an early wake up call with very little sleep because I was so excited to get started. The key to that kind of distance is riding within yourself and managing nutrition. I was able to comfortably ride with the front group for the first 3.5 hours or so over rolling terrain. Once we hit the climbs, I knew I had to just ride my own pace and then was quite content to ride solo. There were plenty of strong women in the field and I was driven to stay in front once I was in the lead. At the same time it was necessary to stop at all 3 of the aid stations and refill my camelbak and take on more food.
I felt incredibly strong on the day and never struggled with energy levels as I kept eating and drinking. While I knew some of the course, I was excited to ride all the sections I had not seen before. It is with a sense of awe and wonder that also drove me through the new terrain. My limiting factor in any of these long endurance events is foot pain, (Olivia bears a bit of nerve damage in her feet.) so there was plenty of suffering throughout and I had to stop a few times to just take my shoes off and let the pain subside.
While I was lucky to not suffer any mishaps I did have some lighting issues when it got dark but thankfully had packed spares. Tayler Wiles (Olivia's wife and a professional cyclist) was staying up watching my dot on the live tracker and sending me support messages. I was keen to finish sooner rather than later so she could go to sleep ahead of a race the next day, so there was an added push to finish. I was thrilled to cross the line in first place and was blown away by the reception from Klassmark and friends that had stayed up to see me finish. As it turns out I was 11th overall too, which was pretty satisfying.
How long do you anticipate needing to recover from that one and what's on tap for your next event?
The day after the race I was powered by adrenaline and had a blast staying at the race site all day supporting everyone doing the 200km, 100km and 60km. While it was not the best for physical recovery it certainly was a wonderful experience seeing the community come together and hearing everyone's race stories. Riding a titanium Moots is super helpful in terms of negating the beating your body takes on rough and long terrain. A transatlantic flight back to Fairfax, CA is likely also not the best way to recover but I think overall I'll be good to go in a week or so. It remains to be seen if I line up at Unbound.