Wednesday morning Jenny and me got our luggage into the car, next stop Norway, but first meet up with Terry at his place then on to Matt's to get him and Phil Chandler. We arrived in Oslo about 5:30 and headed for the hire cars, to get the 5 of us and the bikes transported we had gone for a van and a small car, 5 hours of use later we had arrived at the accommodation. Last time we had booked hotel rooms in the oddly named Quality Hotel in Sogndal, this time though, after a bit of searching we were staying in a fantastic cabin as close to the fjord as was possible, this cost the same for 7 beds as one room did last time
I will skip straight on to the actual ride as I think Phil may have some words about the build up. We used the van to get to the start with Jenny and Phil driving back once we had started in Laerdal, ready for their ride the next day
The actual start of the ride was a much faster affair than the last time I took part in this, we set off in the group that started at 9:05pm rather than 9:10 so the target time for this group was, I think, 17-20 hours but you would think it was faster than that with the speed we climbed the first mountain and then headed to Fagernes. I haven't looked at the stats but I think that this was again my fastest 100 miles to date despite the 1000m (approximate) climbing
After Fagernes the second climb starts, I left the group that had been on a mission so I could pace myself a bit better, it was only 38km to the next feed but that is where I had chosen to send a bag with supplies as it's about 2/3 up the climb before it gets hard. Just as I was about to move out to go to the feed I heard a voice saying "Mr Smith". I was amazed to see it was Matt, I had assumed he was way ahead of me as he was in the faster group that split off the front of the one I was in but had chosen to stop at the first feed whereas I carried on through. We chatted for a few minutes and then went on our separate ways. On this second climb there was a bit of a tailwind so I decided to take advantage of it, bearing in mind there was still around 300k to go and it wasn't flat. Most of the way up I just spun my legs around in a low gear and felt very little resistance, and felt in pretty good shape by the time I reached the summit, which this year had no snow on it but instead was windy and covered in mist. The first part of the descent from this mountain can only be described as uncomfortable, the wind was strong and gusted from the side, the rain was falling the road was soaked. Initially when I used my brakes and nothing happened I just assumed that the blocks would clear the water but there was just no deceleration from using any combination of front and rear, instead the acceleration just stopped and where it was so cold and wet there was an involuntary transfer of the shivering into the bars that gave the effect that your frame had snapped or was made of rubber, the only way I found to control it was to relax, fighting your body trying to keep you warm.
Again before the next part of the descent there is a long section where the wind was behind so I again took advantage of this so I would arrive in reasonable shape in Lom ready for the biggest and hardest of the climbs but before I got there I was sat at the feed at Lemonsto and heard "Steve", it was Terry who had caught me up for 4km as I cruised along. We had a chat about his knee as he was in some considerable discomfort, I suggested he take it steady and head onward for Lom as there was some good downhill on the way, I forgot to mention it's quite a way and there is also a, by UK standards, significant climb in the way, he was happy for me to continue so I moseyed along to Lom with the intention of both energy and muscle fibre conservation.
I left Lom and was just a minute slower than last time, because of the condition of my leg muscles I was thinking that I may be able to make decent time on the climb as I suffered massively on this one last time, unfortunately the tailwind of earlier was now a headwind up the gradually climbing valley and I saw the gap open more so I turned the gps back to just telling me speed and lap distance (used so you know how far is left to the next feed) and ignored the other available data. I managed the climb this time an awful lot better conquering the whole steep part to the lake before taking a few minutes to rest out of the wind and then getting back to face my nemesis from last time. It's amazing how much different an experience you can have if you know what is coming up, I saved quite a lot earlier on in the day and let a lot of it out on the next part of the climb to ensure I didn't have the same mental challenges. This hill is a very long, very hard hill, it's hard to find anything to compare it with but if you take something like the Bwlch on the last part of the GFC and multiply the distance a few times then you are getting close, it's a gradual power sapping start followed by a steep section with corners that disguise the length that you have to go, leading to another section that if you look at the right times you get a sneak preview of what you are taking on. This climb is the main part of the Lille Jottunheimen Rundt and not trying to big up the standard ride, but the Lille ride is a tough challenge that can't be completed without a good balance of strong legs and strong mind.
Anyway, I pedalled on up the final alpine style switchbacks and finally arrived at the highest feed on the course to be greeted by an old lady with a freshly cooked waffle. I would guess these are about 10 inch in diameter and are usually quartered and shared but when you have ridden that climb you get a hole one and because there was no one behind in the queue I had another one to top off the lashings of jam and cream in the middle, it was gorgeous
Leaving this feed is horrible as the terrain on the top of the mountain is undulating to say the least, it just rises and falls in steep digs that sap any strength that you just regained in the feed but eventually I got to the proper part of the descent, which had been partly resurfaced with some superb looking smooth black, grippy Tarmac. I took advantage of this and passed loads on the way down, taking advantage of my years of riding motorbikes to help with the lines and fast thinking, it was just fantastic and was getting warmer all the way back down to sea level. One thing I am now is a convert to gels, I used to use them as an emergency energy source but from now I will be using a good balance of gel, water and bars, whenever I felt spent I just stuck a gel in and got a kick within a few minutes, the last one got me on the flat into a headwind to Luster at abut 26 -27kph with around 370km in the legs
I left Luster for the last leg into Sogndal with a guy that had spoken with Matt earlier, eventually I dropped him going up a steady rise to be rejoined by him sat on the back of a group of faster guys going down the other side. There is one sting in the tail on this ride in the form of a 'small' 10k climb with half of that at 7%, it doesn't sound too bad but it really is not what you need. At the tunnel marking the start of the climb you are at 400km, that didn't both me so much as the kid on the mountain bike in t shirt and shorts that took pleasure in sprinting past me on the climb - he wouldn't have got me on the downhill afterwards
Once at the top the end is very close but my body took it as a signal to break down a bit, my hands were sore wherever I held the bars, my right foot was really hurting, shoulders were stiff and I probably don't need to mention my butt, how ever, a combination of standing, sitting and freewheeling saw me to the end in 19hours and about 40 minutes which is about 10 minutes longer than last time, I think a lot of that was lost in the energy conservation in the middle and headwind on the final section, basically it was 137k into a headwind
I will let the others tell their tales themselves but unfortunately Terry had to call it a day part way into the final major climb (about 315k) due to his knee no longer bending, Matt was disappointed to take 18:44 but considering the gearing he had and the severity and length of the climbs it was a herculean effort to just get around. Jenny and Phil both got around the 137k route, Jenny took 7:22 with Phil around 45 minutes after, a great achievement by both of them
So my stats were
Total distance 430km
Calories (I like this one) around 18000
Time 19 hours 49
My legs this morning are ok once they get going but they do take a bit of time to get them used to balancing me!
Matt Doe Writes:
What a trip! If anyone wants to really test themselves to the limit then this is it. All types of terrain, temperatures, weathers and emotions are encountered to really push you to the extreme. No doubt there are other sporting events around the world that have equally or tougher challenges but from a cycling perspective this was incredible.
So begin, 430km lay ahead starting at 9 in the evening with hopefully seeing the finish line the following afternoon. The previous day and a half had been spenting building bikes, sleeping, eating, travelling and as the others will say about my part, more eating, faffing around nervously and more eating.
Jenny and Phil were too encounter the shorter but none the less extreme challenge on the Saturday, but Terry, Steve and myself set off with nerves and unknown feelings ahead. Steve wanted to better his time, Terry wanted to complete the ride and I wanted a 16 hour ish time if I could finish it.
From leaving the start line, the pace was like a road race. A long bunch of about 80 riders plus, strung out for 20 miles of high speed riding until the real climbing began of the first mountain. The large group fragmented into smaller groups and I was fortunate to find myself in the front one until 10 miles over the summit when I starting regretting the fast start. A feed stop ensued, with warm layers of clothing added and then Terry turned up amazed with the pace. Steve was nowhere to be seen but we assumed had carried on as he had done in his last ride here.
A blindingly fast descent in the dark with few riders having good lights due to the additional weight and that it was only really dark for about 1:30 hours. The trust that you put into other riders is second to none and dropping down to the second feed the first 100 miles was completed in about 5:20 to 5:30. Fast and maybe too fast?
Climbing up the second mountain I saw the familiar sight of Steve's bottom and we stopped for more food and drink. I had recovered more by then and we seperated. It was a long solo climb and the most dangerous descent I have ever ridden to the next feed. The descent was very wet, very windy and freezing cold. Thsi combination really scared me as to what would happen if I did crash as there was no-one around for miles and the onset of hypothermia was not far away.
More food and then a slog to the final big feed led to the last stretch. As Steve said, 130km into a stormy headwind with 50km to the top of the last major climb was brutal. It was this part that I definately lost time on, too much struggling in high gears with little energy left. A stodgy waffle that made me feel sick, went on to a rolling hard 10km ride to the final excellent descent. Flying past Norweigan's like they were standing still and then a 40mile ride to the finish.
I collapsed at the finish and burst into tears absolutely drained. I couldn't eat or drink anything without fear of throwing up and laid on the sofa back at the cabin for 2 hours without moving.
So what I have learnt, anything is possible if you put your mind to it and your body stays on side. I really don't need to eat that many energy bars and as Steve said, gels work wonders and I am a convert to. I haven't got a clue what the next target is apart from trying to get up the stairs at home without pain.
As for the rest of our Norweigan contingent, well hats off the Jenny and Phil, both battled against a continuous headwind with none of the benefits of the longer rides with tailwinds and descents. Awesome rides guys
Steve again proved his strength and despite knowing what was coming up continued in appalling weather to ride a strong time only just short of a PB despite the conditions. And Terry, yes he packed after 300km but how many people would attempt a ride like this after 18 months of cycling and riding on with a injured knee?
So thanks to Steve for getting all this together and pushing us to ride. A great long weekend, but no way a holiday, nervous build up and painful ending. Now where is the entry for next years!
Inspiring reports of an awesome achievement guys; the stats are truly mind boggling
Respect and congrats to you all.
One stat that I missed out was that I got through 9 litres of fluid, half water and half was nuun.
I just looked through the results and congratulations are due to Phil for having the fastest final split at 25:23 for 20km, followed by Matt at 26:20, Jenny at 28:46 and me bringing up the rear with 28:51 nice one Phil, those PTTL races have been paying off :-)