Pole’s racing team has four members in Finland. Leo Kokkonen (founder), Jussi Rajala, Kaisa Härkönen and Juhani Kettunen.
Last weekend the was the second race from the Finnish national enduro series (Santa Cruz Enduro Series Finland 2016). The conditions were more than demanding since the weekends rain count was literally too much. The tracks were muddy and the puddles were everywhere. The race did not have any lift assistance and the total vertical travel was 1452m and the distance was ~40km. The practice were held in rain but a warm weather. The tactics of Pole team was to find secure racing lines to try to make as less effort as possible. Finnish enduro has usually five or six stages which are ridden twice and the total stage time is around 20 to 30 minutes.
Technical difficulties and burning thighs
My race begun with a broken chain after thirty meters from the gate. This incident dropped my stage time for a one minute since the first stage was very flat with a lot to pedal. Juhani took the bull by the horns from the beginning and took the stage win with a local race mate Ville Tuppurainen. Kaisa started leading the women’s by one second
The second stage was named DH because it’s race history from years back. The track had severe damage from the rain but the steep section was not the most difficult one. The racers were battling with the ditch-like transfer between the forest strips crossing the downhill skiing route with rocks, twigs, long grass and puddles. I myself felt that my thighs were in fire after I got myself out from the ditch. Juhani took the victory of the second stage as well by six seconds.
Third stage was a new track from a fresh forest path. This track would have been a fast and a fun track to ride if it would have been dry. This track was not that muddy but the rain filled the big gaps with water and it made the puddles very unpredictable. I myself had a hard time trusting the puddles and I tried to ride outside lines. Our race mate Tapio Kymäläinen found a clear path outside the main line and enjoyed his fox like trick on the washing stand but yet still Juhani had more flow on the track and took the victory on the stage by one second.
The fourth stage begun with a pedally forest section. The top riders were joking how the weather was slowing the riders down. After 20 second gap the previous rider’s back could still be seen between the trees, struggling to get forward. With every pedal stroke you lost some of the traction and the forest has it’s tricks of it’s own to make the riding even harder. The third stage was cut by 200 meters by the organizer because the lower part of the track was only a flat field with a chain deep muddy trail. Juhani took the victory on this stage by three seconds. Kaisa was loosing time to her competition but she was only slightly behind. The last stage on the first round started by riding in the forest. The trail was in very sad condition and there was only one tire track to follow. People were struggling to get out the forest and the ski slope transfer was not a joyride either. My brain told the feet to pedal but my legs didn’t want to listen. The lower part was audiences another favorite part to watch since it was very sketchy forest strip with broken roots and sharp rocks. We saw riders struggling with punctures after this stage. Juhani lost four seconds on the last stage of the first round but was still leading the competition by seven seconds.
Drama on the last round
Juhani kept his leading position throughout the whole competition but he lost nearly twenty seconds on the lasts stage by crashing three times. I myself crashed on the last stage once and decided to run for a while. The stage was so muddy that I saw no reason to get back on the bike. Luckily Ville snapped his chain to half on the previous stage so Juhani could keep his leading position. Ville and Aki shared the second place and Juhani took the victory by massive 26 second gap. Kaisa was at second place after the second stage but the last two stages showed that the determination and the experience pays out in the long run. She won the women’s elite by thirteen seconds. Second place was Suvi Vacker who rides Pole Rinne.
Designers point of view
Juhani was a non believer to the long, low and slack geometry. He kept wondering our bikes many years and he often asked me why we produce such bikes. After many discussions I told him that the only way to find out is to ride one. The first ride was funny because he just laughed behind me and the first impression was that he can go over anything on the bike. He’s previous bike was almost 20cm shorter so the change to Pole bike was huge. The long bike gives advantages and doesn’t take anything away. I’ve grown with the bike so for me the geometry (or Leometry like the people are calling it) is the norm but people who start to ride the bike are finding themselves more confident. The bike is safer and if you feel safe, you can go faster. Juhani’s impression after the race was that the long bike probably saves energy because you don’t need to be that accurate on the bike. He also said that the long wheelbase didn’t give any problems on the tight stuff.
On technical perspective I’m very satisfied. There was many EVOLINK’s on the competition and I didn’t get any complaints about any technical issues. The over sized mud clearance on the bike is definitely one of the best features. My choice to leave the bearings open on the inside and leave the water protection on their own seals seems to be a good solution. The bearings run time seems to be very long because I’m still running the same bearing set on my prototype. I’ve used the bike from last October through the fall rains and snowy winter. I’ve raced the bike in rain and dry and still there is no creaking or anything.
I want to congratulate everyone who was able to ride the whole race to the finish. I myself find my legs and hands sore from the race. Here’s my Strava data from the competition.