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2013 Vatternrundan


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For those who have not heard of this event before, its a really well organised 294km ride around the second biggest lake in Sweden, 26000 people take part starting in groups from 7pm on Friday night through to 10am on Saturday. Our start time was at 5am and we had 35 QlikTech employees in matching kit all roll over the start line together.

We had talked the previous night about tactics for a fast time, intending to get as many people as possible around in under 10 hours, when it came to it the plan fell apart a bit due to the strength of the wind, there was no way that 10 people could ride around and stay out of groups so we set off all together but let people drop off as they felt the time was right for them

This is the fourth consecutive year that I have taken part in the Vatternrundan so I think Im starting to get a feel for it. Its as much a battle against sleep deprivation as it is about getting you and your bike around a 300km course, this is a breif rundown of the timings

Friday:

  • 4am alarm, in the car by 4:15 to Heathrow
  • Arrive mid afternoon at Motala to pick up the numbers and timing chip To the accomodation an hour later to build the bike
  • dinner at 7:30
  • Bed 9:30 if you are lucky - take into account the lack of night in Sweden at mid summer and the thin curtains

Saturday:

  • 3am alarm call
  • breakfast then in the van at 4am
  • drive to the start, off at 5am
  • ride for 9 - 14 hours
  • hang about for slower riders
  • Accomodation for a shower
  • Dinner at 8pm
  • Bed 10 pm

Sunday

  • alarm at 6am to get to Gothenburg airport
  • Home mid afternoon

So, the ride

For those who have not heard of this event, its a really well organised 294km ride around the second biggest lake in Sweden, 26000 people take part starting in groups from 7pm on Friday night through to 10am on Saturday

Our start time was at 5am and we had 35 QlikTech employees in matching kit all roll over the start line together. We had talked the previous night about tactics for a fast time, intending to get as many people as possible around in under 10 hours, when it came to it the plan fell apart a bit due to the strength of the wind, there was no way that 10 people could ride around and stay out of groups so we set off all together but let people drop off as they felt the time was right for them

The route down to Jonskoping is flat for the first 50 or so km then becomes undulating past the town of Granna, Normally I push hard at the start and then get dropped out of the big group at Granna but this year I breezed up and over the lumps which made the ride down the descent to Jonskoping really pleasant. You ride through the town and can peel off left for meatballs and mashed potatoes if you are feeling peckish but I have resisted so far. Out of the town there is probably the longest climb of the whole ride, its not steep but if you are in a group that is motoring it does raise the old heart rate a bit, but again I felt good up there as well for the first time.

Onward and the road rises and falls gently, we were now maintaining what felt like a decent averages, it felt like we were flying with a tail to side wind, I kept pushing on but eventually my over developed self preservation gene got the better of me and I was spat out of the back of the 100 strong peleton but I knew we only had about 15k to go until we hit the feed where we had planned to take our first stop so thought we could regroup there. On the way to the feed I still felt strong so collected Martin and Terry who had also been spat out

Once at the feed it was a rush to get the bottles filled and bananas stuffed in my pockets as it was going to be 90k to the next feed. We had managed to regroup and all set off together despite wanting to lose a bit of weight but not being bothered to get half naked to do so. Not long in a fast group flew by, unfortunately we jumped on the back, I stayed in for maybe 20k then thought the better of it as we had not yet passed the 160km mark, I rode along by myself for maybe 5 minutes and then a friendly voice said 'too fast for you aswell?', it was a guy from work called Joe, so we rode together for a bit moaning about the pace and our arses and anything else that we could find to moan about - this was the low point of the ride

It was around this point that I was looking ahead and I saw a two people riding together, the one at the back clipped the wheel of the one infront and swerved about before doing a face plant on the opposite carriage way of the road, that was bad enough but there was a car towing a caravan coming the other way who swerved and got 2 (3 really I guess) wheels on the grass to miss this guy, it was the closest I have come to seeing someone killed I think, I even shouted "Nooooooooo" as it was happening

Our planned feed was Karlsborg but by Hjo I was nearly out of water - my down point seemed to be caused by a lack of fluid so we pulled in, filled up on water and bananas again and then cleared off and as luck would have it a group came past as we pulled out so we both jumped on the back, rolling on to Karlsborg. All the way up the back of the lake I was expecting a tailwind but it didnt happen it was more side and certainly some of it from head on, that was annoying. Passing the entrance to the feed at Karlsborg we met up with our CEO, Lars who was suffering with cramp, he asked me how I was and I just said 'a bit sh*t' and then got my head down to stay with the group

Joe and me again pulled out of the group at the next feed to just get what we needed for the rest of the ride, only about 70k to go from here. More water, more bananas and I even had some blueberry soup - its thick and sweet and gives your legs a bit of a kick, I certainly wouldnt feed it to a 2 year old

The next group we got into was very well drilled, I think they were feeling their pace a bit as every rise that they got to was taken on the little ring, doing this kep the pressure of the legs and allowed them to keep the speed on the flat, it was very well controlled. The way they work is that they do the chaingang but in slow motion, you sit as long as you want on the front then drop back, at the back of the group is a 'policeman' who prevents people from joining the chain and interfering with their flow. Up the preachers hill where a church group bless you as you ride past, the over the bridge to turn into the the headwind that must have been going in an anticlockwise direction round the lake while we did it in a clockwise direction, the home stretch. On this last section we also caught up Martin who had bought my old Eddy Merckx so he jumped in the group as well

This last section has quite a few rises in it so we dropped the speed right down quite a number of times, then right turn, up a sharp little hill to Medevi for the last feed which we ignored and now only 25 km to home. We had just under an hour to do that distance so it was touch and go if we would get the sub 10 hour ride that we had hoped for but its not like you can go to the guys ant the front and ask them to speed up a bit!

Through the trees, out onto the road, 6km to go. At 3km to go Joe jumped out of the pack and made a break for it, it was then that he found how much shelter we had taken in the group, I decided to follow him and managed to get on his wheel to recover, then thought I would do a turn at the front rather than accelerate away, Joe came through and we took the right hander at great speed, then dropped down for the final left, I positioned myself to beat him out of the corner but then he moved to take the same line - I wasn't really that fussed about beating him as it is timed to the minute rather than second so he went through the timing gate not even half a wheel ahead

We crossed the line in 9 hours and 48 minutes giving a joint 4th out of the 35 QlikTech riders, the fastest was a 59 year old Swede called Jimmie who did it in 9:18, 18 minutes slower than last year and the last of our riders came in at 14:10, still a respectable time. All bar one completed the ride which is great considering the amount of training that had not been able to be done in some cases

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/328713693

From a nutrition perspective, I took on probably 7 liters of water with nuun, I at 2 bars, 3 gels and 5 bananas

This is a great ride to do every year, we have a great bit of banter, and are really getting to know each others strengths and weaknesses in the core team that keep turning up

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