Thursday the 2nd May, started early for another Swedish breakfast with Eric. It was then time to set off for the basecamp (Strava Link) from where the event would start with a briefing at 8am for the 10am start. After meeting the organisers and signing our lives away with disclaimer forms, we all got down to last minute bike adjustments.

For once it wasn’t me adjusting my bike just before the start.

Now people that have ridden with me before will know that I am aways tinkering with bits till the last second. We this time I didn’t as everything was ready to go. Instead, while I waited for the start time, I made a very quick dash to the local supermarket to get some extra food and drink as by now I was getting concerned about re-supply enroute. My plan was to have a good stache at the base camp so when I returned each time I could eat and not have to worry about trying to get food in Jonkoping. This proved to be a good idea as the re-supply enroute turned out to be very limited.

My official pre-race photo.

After all the official photos were done, it was time for us to head into the town centre where we would meet the local newspaper and radio station reporters to give a quick interview.

The local paper’s coverage of the start.

At the stroke of ten it was time to go and after a countdown we all set off into a headwind and cold drizzle, little did I know that the weather would play a very important part in the event. (Strava Link)

Smiles at the start.

The first few km’s were on roads and cycle path round the lake. I was keen not to go off to fast, which is a good thing as the gearing meant I couldn’t really keep up with the leaders who were exceeding 30km/h. Still as the leaders were pulling away, I decided to keep to the pace I had set myself at the mid 20’s. The rain and headwind didn’t help that much either. The cycle path soon ran out and the first bit of lakeside trail started. Again I was a bit surprised as it quickly turned into off camber and rooty single track, but as I am used to this kind of terrain in the UK, I soon started to close in on the rider in front of me, Anders Tengblad. After a few minutes the woodland opened out and you could really start to see how big the lake was.

a quick lakeside photo op

Despite it officially not being a race, but in reality it being a race, I had decide that I wanted to actually see Sweden, so I did stop every so often whenever that was a great view. At about 15km, the first real navigation challenger happened, with the gpx file barring no resemblance to the actually terrain. It appeared to just go straight down a near vertical drop across a road and the up a vertical cliff. Luckily the road lead inland a 100m or so and up on to the top of the cliff. There was a nice jetty there which gave a great view of the lake.

leaning into the wind while the camera was blown about

At the top of the Cliff was Anders who was enjoying a quick snack. After comparing notes, we heading on along more of the lake single track till we reached a boat yard. Again the trail was supposed to go round it but after exploring every bit of it we couldn’t find a way round apart from through somebody’s garden, which had a private sign on the gate. This was one of the very few private signs I saw in Sweden.

Still we could see the track further ahead of us so we followed the road for about half a km till we got back on track. The lakeside single track continued until we reached Munkaskog where we turned inland away from the lake towards the town of Habo. Lustfyllt as Anders explained to me, roughly mean lust for life and was an excellent restaurant. Sadly if was closed and was a bit to early to stop for a snack. For a while we rode on small quiet local tarmac and gravel roads, hardly seeing a car. Occasionally we would go though bits of forest and apart from the noise of our tyres and the wind it was very quiet. At about the 40km mark near Fagerhult, we again turned West and by now the rain had pretty much finished and the sun was starting to warm us up. The road soon ran out and the single track started to get quite sandy, very much like the Surrey Hills area in the UK. Now the WTB Byways on my Camino are great on hard pack, amazingly grippy on off road considering they are pretty much slicks, but sand, they do not like. Especially when it start becoming hilly. I had to get off and push and Anders disappeared off into the distance.

By now I was cursing the organisers for saying ride your adventure bike

The sand continued for quite while and I was soon getting quite warm. Still the forest was beautiful and more than made up for the hard going. Eventually the sand became firmer and soon turned into gravel and I was on the go again apart from the odd photo stop.

sunlight in the Forest
The smell of pine was incredible

Despite logging being a local industry, there was no sign of people of machines, just the occasional log pile and odd clearing. Most of these had amazing pine smells wafting across them. Whilst I was taking a picture Anders apeared from behind me. He had been waiting at the end of the sand section for me and then had headed off thinking I had stopped. He then took a wrong turn and ended up behind me until he caught up with me. By now we were both getting hungry so we plowed on hoping that the Bison farm that was the first waypoint, would have food. We were behind time on the schedule that I had thought was possible, as I hadn’t factored in how much single track there was. The initial headwind hadn’t helped either but looking at the tracker, only the leaders had pulled away from us, the others were scattered ahead somewhere.

The Bison was by now fed up of cyclists taking selfies with him.

Upon finding the Bison and taking the required Bison selfie, we rode up the farm drive to look for the restaurant. Of course this ended up being another nice surprise form the organisers. It had a nice restaurant, but was closed for another month till the Summer season started! Out cam my pack of flat bread and Cheese spread in a tube. Anders was traveling very light kit wise and hadn’t brought much in the way of food, so he gladly joined me for sandwiches and after a quick loo stop and water refill we plowed on 70km’s completed. The next few hours passed quite quickly as we were now away from the headwind and the terrain was much more gravel, road and tracks. Anders remembered that the tiny village of Sandheim at 110km’s had a pizza restaurant. I suddenly had much more energy and the race was back on.

Arriving at the Pizza restaurant, we saw another loaded bike and realised we had caught up with Marc Tersman Toll. Marc wasn’t feeling too good by this point and the food hadn’t helped him too much. I wolfed down a meat pizza, a local beer and a full fat coke to try and take on as many calories as I could manage. It was one of the best pizza’s I’ve every had!

Yum yum yum

Once we had eaten and restocked our water bottles, the three of us set of in 5th, 6th and 7th place about 2 hours behind the 4th placed rider. Daniel the eventual overall winner was just about finishing this loop at this point. We pushed on with mainly good terrain and were soon approaching the Ski resort at Mullsjö⁩ that was our next checkpoint at 130kms. Being a ski resort, we had a step club up to the summit, but it was a tarmac road climb and we made it just as the sun was setting.

Looking down the main run at the Mullsjö⁩ ski resort.
How it looks in winter

From here it was mainly single track path for quite a while, but it was mainly smooth. We also started passing some more lakes and th views were incrediable.

sunset Swedish style

As it was now dark the temperature dropped pretty rapidly and we no longer stopped for photo op’s but pushed on as fast as we could manage. The weather and terrain had pushed the 10 hour target out of the window, so somewhere round 16 house was what I was hoping we would come home in. The last few hours in the dark were very peaceful and somewhere in a forest near Jonkoping I saw the cabin from the adverts for the ride. It was misty at the time so it looked very spooky and far more sinister than the daytime advert picture. Someone suggested axe murderers lived there and I realised I didn’t need to be the fastest if one appeared, just faster than the slowest!

the nice looking daytime cabin, it was scary as hell at night

Just after this we were about 5km’s from the end of the ride and Calle Anderson one of the organisers suddenly appeared on the trail to interview us. By now we were all a bit cold, hurry and grumpy, but had out instagram chats and then headed off. The finally bit of action was when we all went into a tunnel under the main road near to Jonkoping. A rabbit or hare ran out of the darkness and straight into Anders wheel. It then went almost all the way round and flew out the other side just before ti would have been squashed by his forks. The little guy’s suck escape spured us on and we picked up the pace into town. Once we hit the lakeside path, my competitive nature took over and I got out of the saddle to sprint the last 500m home and get the 5th place.

Anders decided that the weather was going to get bad and so he decide to retire rather than continue. Marc was also feeling quite ill so he retired and I ate some of my food stockpile and then went to get some sleep before starting again with loop 2 at first light.

You can see the ride on Strava and read about Loop 2 here.