An epic Swedish adventure

Sadly WiFi was lacking after my last post, so I’ve had to wait until getting home to post. Though, I was able to update Facebook from my phone, so I am sure all of my Facebook friends are sick of hearing about it!

After finishing a massive Swedish breakfast in our lovely B and B in Hästveda, Ollie and I lazed around and got our kit in order until absolute last minute check-out time (11am), and then got back on the road to Motala.

We arrived in Motala around 1500, to a party atmosphere, and found a place to park the car at a sport centre on the outskirts. We then caught the free bus into the centre to go and register. Just as the bus was coming up to the bus stop we had to wait in a queue and two cyclists (a father and his little girl) came up the side of the bus as we were stationary. When the queue moved forward the father rode off on his bike and the little girl (who was directly under the wing mirror of the bus) tried to get her footing on the pedals – just as the bus pulled away and clipped the side of her head! Luckily, she was wearing a helmet and it seemed that she suffered only from shock. Ollie and I were right at the front so heard the clip and realised what was happening, but after that there was much shouting in Swedish and little we could do. The bus driver briefly got off, had an argument with the father and then got back on and drove us to the bus stop. A dramatic start, and a bit of a worry as our introduction to the event! Embarrassing for the driver though I suspect, since he hit a cyclist whilst carting a bus load of us around!

With the knowledge that we weren’t having any sleep, we wanted to save energy so we took a fairly direct route to the registration tent, registered and then returned to the car. We drove the car to our Saturday night accommodation and found a place to park nearby (in the outer carpark of a school, which was by then closed for the weekend). Once parked up we moved everything from the back of the car into the front and locked the bikes to the front alloy of the car and then set up camp in the boot to try and have a little afternoon nap!

 

 

It wasn’t all that successful; though I reckon I could sleep pretty well in a boot if required in future.

We gave up after an hour or so and started to get our kit on and pack our pockets and saddle bags. The locals must have wondered what was going on; us getting dressed in the school carpark!

Eventually we left the car and set off on a 6 mile ride into town to get some food before our designated start times of 2156 and 2206. We finally found some pasta in a local kebab type shop (everyone was doing pasta!) and took it away to eat on a bench in the centre. We applied our reflectors to our frames (a Swedish requirement) and our numbers to our bikes and jerseys and then headed down to the lake side to relax. We managed to bag ourselves a bench which we could have a lie down on, and we found a group of Brits who we had a chat with.

And then, all of a sudden, it was time! – They nearly went without me!

The first mistake I made was to get on the wheel of someone who pulled in less than 5 minutes into the ride to wait for his friends! So I trundled along and waited for a big group to come along; they were going too fast – so I waited for another, and finally I found a group of my speed and I followed them for a bit. Then I dropped off and had a chat with a Swedish chap who’d done Vatternrundan many times before.

After a very short period of time Ollie caught me up, we’d made a plan to meet a Ödeshög – the first stop (47km in) but, he’d been in a big fast group and had managed to make very good time.

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My tactic to get through was to stop at every single organised feed station, of which there were nine. Seven of them provided the basics (cinnamon bun (we’ll come to that later), blueberry soup (and that), coffee, banana, Gherkins (?) gels, toilets etc… and two of which also provided a hot meal. This worked well, and the only other stops we took were two loo stops because we just couldn’t wait (TMI?) and two photo stops (see photo above).

The first stop we got to had an Elvis tribute band across the road from it, so I had a bit of a dance across to the loo. There was a real party atmosphere all the way around, and people were at the side of the road cheering us on all the way through the night (I think they were saying nice things?! I couldn’t understand a word they were saying sadly). Jönköping, the first of the hot meal stations, was at the 104km (65 Mile) point; Meat balls (or veggie alternative) with mashed potato.

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This station was in an ice rink (which had been covered, heated etc…) and people were actually fast asleep on the floor. An odd decision we thought; they’d cool down and feel groggy once waking up. But then again, there were people at this stage and earlier that were walking up tiny bumps of hills and I wondered how they would get to the end too.

It was whilst we were at this food stop, that my Garmin decided to reset itself for the first time; an on-going problem throughout the ride which ended up with one section missing and me having to use a tool to stitch the ride together (borrowing some of Ollie’s ride to make up the missing part). And then to add insult to injury it ran out of battery just before the end and missed about 6 miles (as did Ollie’s – so we can confirm that a fully charged Garmin lasts approx. 15 hours).

It was 30 km later at Fagerhult at about 0430, that the rain which had been expected at 2200hrs arrived, and made up for lost time. It chucked it down. The ride between Fagerhult at 133km and Hjo at 171km was reminiscent of London 2014. There was so much water I couldn’t see, I’d clear one eye and then the other was full of water. I squelched in my bib shorts and I was miserable!

Hjo (106 miles into the ride), was another hot food stop – this time in a large humid tent full of warm bodies. As I walked, soaking wet, freezing cold and with my Carpal Tunnel affected fingers buzzing, out of the weather and into the tent, the warm air hit me. As I sat down with my veggie lasagne I wondered how I could possibly leave this nice warm tent and get back on my bike in my uncomfortable wet kit. Ollie said it was time to go and I burst into tears. He knew it was a possibility that I would give up here – I’d been struggling the last few miles. I didn’t want to. It was such a hard decision, but eventually I said I didn’t want to damage my body by pushing it too hard and we found the tent which dealt with quitters. They took my number and then said I had to go to the top of the road and wait there for half an hour for a bus to take me back to Motala. One of the main reasons I wanted to give up was my inability to warm up – so there was absolutely no way that I was going to stand in the cold and the wet waiting for a bus. I told Ollie that I would have to continue.

Just as we were about to set off, a Service car came around the corner; these cars have bike racks on the back and pick people up along the course and, as far as we knew, take them back to Motala. Ollie flagged it down and the lady got out – when we told her that I wanted to go back to Motala she said she could help and she almost dragged me away. I wished Ollie goodluck on the rest of the ride and we went our seperate ways.

The car woman took me back to the tent and the bus woman. The bus woman told me to wait for the bus.

So I was on my own, miserable, cold and wasn’t getting taken back.

Carrying on seemed easier than giving up at that point, at least if I was pedalling I would be warm.

I stuffed everything into my jersey pockets haphazardly, barely finished talking to the woman and got on my bike to sprint after Ollie. I used every wheel I could keep up with but then realised – he was probably doing the same, only 5-10 minutes ahead of me. So, I stopped and called him, leaving a message and hoping that he would feel his phone vibrate or stop for a break. I was convinced he would not stop at the next station as he didn’t have me holding him back and he wasn’t as in need of breaks as I was. Having left a message, I trudged on, thinking I would have to do the rest of the ride on my own.

7km outside of Karlsborg (the next stop) my phone vibrated; I pulled over and called Ol back; he had stopped at the next station. I got a bit emotional again and got a move on in order to meet up with him.

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Found him!

Despite writing much of this post in km rather than miles I have not been converted, I still don’t know what km are, but the maps were all in km so at each stop I started Googling the convertion of km to miles so that I would know just how many miles there were until the next stop;

Okay so this is just like from work to home, 18 miles. Easy peasy…

 

I only considered how many miles there were until the next stop, taking the ride in tiny chunks.

The rest of the ride went without drama; we saw people sleeping, sleeping everywhere – at the side of the road for instance – helmet off and used as a pillow, fast asleep. Then the sub-9-ers started to come through at a crazy pace and I watched in awe as I realised there were women in the groups!

We finally crossed the finish line at about 1430 on Saturday afternoon, about 16.5 hours after we had started.

We went straight back to the kebab/pizza house from the previous evening and ordered a pizza each and some fries – a massive amount of food, which it turned out we couldn’t finish. We then had a 6 mile cycle back to our accommodation, where we showered and then fell asleep until midnight. We got up for triple chocolate cookies and then fell back to sleep until 0700, which was the time we were meant to be leaving!

A 14 hour journey in the car followed, and back over the bridge, which 1. charges both ways and 2. actually costs around £48 each way rather than the £30 which we thought was extortiate before. Here’s a picture of it, please appreciate it because it cost us a fortune!

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Thanks so much to Ollie for putting up with me, encouraging me, believing in me and for stopping at that food stop!

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Reunited

It must be summer – the Ribble has emerged from hibernation and we went on a post work, post dinner bike ride. It was wonderful!

 

I’d forgotten how great the bike is. I nearly went over the handlebars when I first used the brakes – not expecting the instantaneous stop, but I soon got used to it again and we whizzed down some hills, raced along some flats and it was fantastic fun.

 

Bit weird having to dust it before I used it though!!

 

 

An unbelievably small world

‘My’ team – Swindon Town Football Club’ (STFC), are going through a rough patch: bottom of the table, no manager and a lot of losses to their name.

So, while watching a rather boring game this evening (and another loss), my brother and I were chatting. I was telling him about a chap that Ollie and I came across in Central Park whilst we were riding our city bikes… A road cyclist who whilst cycling past us had said “When you want to get into road biking check out my bike shop – Echelon Cycles”.

I explained to Chris that after the guy had cycled by, Ollie and I had decided to race him; we got up to top speed on our basket-ed, heavy city bikes and whizzed by him – giggling and teasing him a little. Then we had a little chat.

And that was the extent of our encounter.

Chris responded, that he had met a NYC bike shop owner once, in Lake Garda. Of course, there is no chance it could be the same guy. Could it?

It turns out though, that it absolutely could, and was, the same chap that my brother and his friend met and cycled with for three days in Lake Garda in 2012.

How strange is that?

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Ollie in Central Park

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Me in Central Park

A day of two halves; Part One

New Union Jack Kask ready to go

New Union Jack Kask ready to go

After writing my last post, I left the hotel and found the start with absolutely no problems along the way. The weather was much warmer than I expected it would be at 0700 hours and I ended up taking my arm warmers off to stand in the waiting area. Within a few minutes I got chatting to two ladies, one of which was called Lauren – and I ended up cycling a bit of the first part of the course with her and then again a little later.

Mandatory start-line photo

Mandatory start-line photo

We set off on time, or possibly one minute early – and we flew past all of my 2014 puncture locations. The weather was perfect and the participants were friendly and fun.

After leaving Lauren behind I started to draft a few people, and then found someone going the right speed for me so I sat behind him for a while before feeling bad and introducing myself! His name was Rhys and he lives about 20 miles from us; his friends had left him behind. We cycled together through London, Richmond Park and through to the bottom of Newlands Corner, where I accidently dropped him. Feeling bad I did wait for him at the hub but didn’t see him come through, until I was too far away to get his attention.

Newlands Corner was the 47 mile point and it had taken me around three hours to get there – my Garmin stated that I had averaged 16.3 mph up to that point and I was super pleased with myself – I was feeling good and beginning to hope for a sub 7/6.5 hour time.

And that is where the second half of the day started…

Tour de COL round-up

On Friday we returned from a great holiday, just in time to get some sleep and then go to the wedding of the year on Saturday. Congrats to Nicky and Gary!

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Nicky and Gary 

So, before the dreaded return to work in the morning, here’s a wash-up post summing up the past two weeks.

The planned itinerary was a gruelling combination of hills and miles; some were achieved but in the main we did less than planned! In the first week we had planned to cycle 304.60 miles, with 19,099 ft of climbing. The rides would have taken in Lacets de Montvernier, Col de L’Iseran, Alpe D’Huez and two flattish rides. In reality, we all had differing mileage counts at the end of the week; I did 220.10 miles and 13,389 ft of climbing. Everything took much longer than we had planned for, and therefore we arrived in Albertville later than planned and so cut down our 70 mile Montvernier ride by driving a short part of the way (good job really, as we still had to do some riding in the dark with lights on).

  • I posted about my Col de L’Iseran experience, where I had to give up – part way up.
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Broken!

Shade!

Shade!

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  • We all made it up Alpe D’Huez, but only one of us cycled back down.
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Chris, Ollie and I

Steve, Andy and their gang

Steve, Andy and their gang

After D’Huez and the accident, the second week began in the same way; we were supposed to be having a day off anyway and then the following day we were scheduled to make the climb up Colle del Ghisallo to the Madonna del Ghisallo.

Madonna del Ghisallo

Madonna del Ghisallo

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Chris’ bike was being repaired, so we changed our plans and decided to do the ride in the evening. However, in the end we saw the museum on our day off (we drove up there) and when it came to the evening of the ride, Chris wasn’t feeling up to it, and Ollie and I went for a shorter ride.

The next day, in the Bolzano area, we rode up an unexpected Dolomite, but I think we had probably provisionally planned to do something longer and possibly hillier. The Tour de France rides were as planned, and then we ended on a high with my third century and my longest ever ride of 127 miles.

So, the holiday stats were as follows:

  • 2430 car miles at an average speed of 44 mph.
  • 54 hours and 57 minutes spent in the car travelling.
  • 441.60 miles ridden.
  • 21,298 feet climbed.
  • One 650g tub of Nutella, with two bags of biscuits devoured within a week.

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Over all, a fantastic holiday, with its ups and downs! 😉

Essays, Easter and Elevation

One essay handed in last weekend, and now on to the second – and last one, for this term! It’s a difficult one; a description of the technologies which are likely to come together to create the 5G mobile standard. It’ll be a stressful few weeks, especially as I am itching to get out on my bike as much as possible.

Last weekend, despite a looming deadline, was great fun! 232.50 miles and 12,597 ft cycled. It began with a solo ride on the Thursday, followed by a wet, muddy ride on the Friday when Ollie and I cycled to Castle Coombe to see my brother in his first race (he did well!) A rest day on the Saturday (and some essay writing) was followed by a longer than expected ride, with Sarah, on the Sunday due to my complete lack of ability to judge distances. Apologies to everyone worrying about where we were 6 hours after we had left for a three hour ride! Not great preparation for the long sibling ride we had planned for the Monday – one might think! But I managed it, the legs felt good. Ollie and I cycled with our brothers – both called Chris. It was a lovely day, we had a fantastic lunch and as we cycled through Bourton-on-the-Water (normally idyllic) we really appreciated our bicycles and that fact that they could get us far far away from there!

At the start of April, without really looking in to what I was doing, I signed up to the Strava Hill Climb challenge, which challenges users to climb 9,000 metres in April. This is almost exactly the same elevation which I have climbed in Jan through to Mar; so I initially thought I had no chance – but having given it some thought I realised it was probably do-able and have been giving it a go. As of about 10th April I was at 51% complete. Given that we have a trip to Yorkshire before the end of April, I am confident that I will complete it – all good practice for the Alps!

Ollie and his brother - Chris

Ollie and his brother – Chris

My brother - Chris

My brother – Chris

Ollie and I

Ollie and I

Reflection on a year to treasure

Wow, it’s almost a month since I last posted.

Today is my birthday! 🙂

So I thought that I would briefly reflect on an interesting year. In fact one of the best years.

Since my last birthday I have:

  • been accepted to ride in a sportive I didn’t even enter
  • started this blog, to discuss the sportive which I didn’t even enter
  • projectile vomited, thanks to a bike ride
  • met the perfect man
  • inducted this same man into the cycling world
  • met some amazing cycling ladies (Dame Cycling)
  • competed in a time trial thanks to those ladies
  • joined a cycling club
  • ridden on an airfield, during the night
  • …and experienced being engulfed by a peloton
  • ridden in the sportive which I didn’t even enter (with the support of a couple of Dames!)
  • …in a hurricane, I will have you know
  • completed a century (but not the sportive that I didn’t even enter!)
  • raised £1,100 for Dressability
  • passed multiple Masters modules
  • competed in a team triathlon (something I would never previously of considered doing)
  • bought a tandem
  • started a new job
  • ridden 3,361.90 solo miles
  • ridden 67.7 tandem miles
  • completed 242 hours on my solo bike
  • completed 4 hours in the Rear Admiral’s saddle

All topped off with a cycling birthday treasure hunt of 31 miles, which resulted in me finding my presents right back at the start!

Finding the second clue at the top of the White Horse hill.

Finding the second clue at the top of the White Horse hill.

Treasure! Right back where I started!

Treasure! Right back where I started!

I think Ollie wants more cakes... amazing present :)

I think Ollie wants more cakes… amazing present 🙂

A fairly quick post, but thank you for your support and to everyone who has made this year so special.Thanks for the boost to the Carbon Bike Fund, the winter gear to keep me warm on these cold days and the games to play when I just can’t be bothered to get out on the road. Here’s to the next one, to all of us getting into the sportive that I did sign myself up for, and to some party planning for the big 3-0.

Laura x