Ride bikes. Have fun. Feel good.

Vatternrundan 2011

Martin Malins writes…

This was my second go at this extremely popular event. As well as a very enjoyable and adrenaline filled 300km ride it also requires a long ride across Sweden to get to and from the start. This year was a lot different in that respect as

1. I was not alone and was joined by a fellow Audax rider and PBP vet Julian Williams

2. We stayed in decent hotels on the way out and back

3. We opted to fly to Gothenburg instead of Stockholm as both cities are about the same distance (Although this year’s route was much hillier)

4. We planned to camp for 3 nights by Lake Vattern rather than the basic and quite soulless gymnasium in Motala.

Unfortunately our promised lift for our camping gear pulled out a few months ago so we were forced to carry our basic camping gear on the bikes all the way. I plotted the route from Gothenburg to Motala into my gps, packed our Carradices and bikes and we were ready to go.

We arrived at the hotel after a pleasant flight to be greeted by a friendly American asking which team we were riding for: it turned out that the World Transplant Games were on that weekend and competitors had taken over the whole city. After a rapid assembly of our bikes we hit the road at about midday for the 170km ride over to Jonkopping. The route was a mix of busy main roads with cyclepaths and quieter empty lanes; all well surfaced. We stopped for a pizza about 60km before the finish and arrived at the hotel just in time for a couple of very expensive beers. The next morning we joined the route of the Vatternrundan in reverse by riding 118km around the shores of the lake to Motala. As we approached the town we were beeped by hundreds of other riders all heading to the same location (we were probably the only riders of over 18000 who arrived there by bike as we never saw any others loaded up like us). We collected our numbers and pitched our tents in a nice spot and relaxed over beer and wine with a team of Germans next to us.

After a relaxing day on the Friday we rode to the town centre where riders had already started heading off in droves from 20.00 that evening. We had an 02.16 start slot so there was a lot of waiting around. After some last minute shopping (a thermal base layer to enable me to ditch my windproof top) we settled down for a coffee in a local hotel before rolling down to the start. The start is very well organised with pens for each start time. As the time came we rolled over the mats led out by a pair of Harley Davisons (the local bikers provide this stylish escort all night on all sorts of moden and vintage machines). And then it was straight into the breakneck speed associated with this event; tempered by a headwind we still flew along at well over 20mph for the first 40km. As we fuelled on coffee and buns the sun rose behind a constant line of riders; a truly awesome sight and much different to the cloud and rain of 2009.

After a porridge stop at 110km the hills started in earnest all the way round to Hjo on the north side of the lake at 170km. This is the best bit of the ride; lots of fast groups but well disciplined with everyone moving over to let the really fast groups who were a couple of hours up on us through; and lovely views of the lake. Filled with veggie lasagne we continued round. Julian had picked up speed by now (he had never done a race of any sort before this) and we finally turned back into the headwind on the north shore of the lake. I was up for a sub 13hr finish so bombed ahead leaving Julian to rejoin the lovely lanes to cross the line at 12hrs 47min.

After picking up our medals and free beer at the finish we headed back to the campsite for a very long sleep. The next day the promised rain arrived in earnest and we had a very wet 2 day return to Gothenburg which tested us to the limit on the hills and into the wind; but at least the event was dry throughout (it poured down about 30 minutes after we finished) and we had warm hotels for the last 2 nights.

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