Saturday, 22 June 2013

Thornton RC -Vätternrundan

Vätternrundan 14th June 2013

Mention Sweden, what comes to mind Abba, IKEA, Meatballs, Vikings or maybe blondes? Well possibly not the largest participation Sportif held in Europe?
On Friday 14th June I set off with 28,000 others to cycle the Vätternrundan (pronounced vet-turn-rund-an) the largest recreational bicycle ride in the world. The 300 km course follows the shoreline of the beautiful Lake Vättern and early starters can see the sun set and rise over the lake during the ride. The rides take you round an enormous lake the size of an English county over undulating terrain, add the effects of no sleep this then become a challenging task.

So I set off at 8:00pm with around 1400 other ahead, always good to have something to aim at. The lunch time rain had cleared and blue sky’s prevailed, however there was the prospect of a 25km head wind for the first 4 hours! I set off with an old cycling friend (who I managed to talk in to doing the event) with the plan to ride through the night and split up thereafter. With feed stops available at intervals of 45 km, there was in theory plenty to replenish supplies with. However, not used to Scandinavian fare it was a little surprise to find that the majority of feed stations only provided bread rolls, pickled gherkins and milk!

So in to the 25km head wind I elected to stop at the first two feed stations, to get some fuel inside for the ride thought the night (albeit it never got that dark!). For the first 45 miles I took it easy and was happy to sit in with  a pack which was moving at a steady pace. However, with the light fading I could see the red lights flashing up the road, so I pushed on alone chasing lone riders and small groups. At around 60 miles there was around 2km of pave with the most significant rise of the event, which resulted in large crowds cheering us all on. At around 70 miles I stopped at the main feed station for Swedish meat balls and mash with a bowel of porridge (a pleasant change from gherkins and milk. I then headed off in to the twilight and picked up a large pack from a club based near Oslo, doing stints on the front on the longer but steady climbs. The sky was now at its darkest but can best be described as dusk. At around 90 miles I stopped at a feed station at it was 2:00am and the sun was well and truly on the rise, it was morning already and the birds were singing and the legs not yet stinging!

I then headed off on my own for around 10 miles, chasing down lone riders, when suddenly out of a lay-by appeared a fast moving group which I managed to get on the back off. I sat in amongst the pack as we rode through large pine  forests and caught sight of the lake with the sun reflecting off it which gave breath taking views. I then took a final stop with 30km to go at around 5:30am,then pushed for the finish. Teaming up with a Finnish guy and  working together we pushed the pace up, every time we chased someone down (I hoped for a rest) he muttered some words as we passed them, with 10km to go I asked what he was saying. His response was too slow for us to slow down”! I competed the ride at 7:00am and the ride in 10 hours and 10 minutes with an average of 18mph.
Being in Scandinavia, as we crossed he line we were handed a glass of beer. Laying on the grass in a state of exhaustion, I look to the start lane  I could see that riders were still at the start about to commence and yes the head wind was still there.

This was an amazing event and one that I would recommend, it was extremely well organised and with the best marshalling I have experienced in  sportive. So if you fancy a challenge this may be for you?

Danny Frost