Viking Tour 2010

hagar.jpghttp://www.vikingtour.org/

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03.08.2010, looking back at the Viking Tour

Being able to attend and complete the Viking Tour was the fulfilling of a dream that was born with an article on the 4/2007 issue of german Tour magazine. I first enlisted with a friend for the 2008 edition, but recurring inflammatory problems on my right knee prevented my partecipation. My friend, Davide, went then on his own to avoid losing money on the already booked flight. Early in 2009 my knee wasn’t 100% fixed and when I was presented the choice between going to an international congress in Quebec City or the Viking Tour I’ve reluctantly opted for the first option, as congress registration had to be done early and an aggravation of my knee problems later that year would have meant losing both alternatives.  Fortunately, the Viking Tour organizers were very kind and transferred both times my registration to the following year. Well, to tell the truth they also proposed me the option to give me my money back, but I preferred simply to defer as this allowed me to  keep a foot in the door…

What I’ve liked of the Viking tour (almost everything): the touring class and its Musketeer spirit; the fantastic feeding-station girls (always smiling and helpful); the landscapes; the route (except perhaps the fact that first and final stages were essentially the same track in opposite directions, with the climbs in stage 7 that were attacked from their most interesting side and Mt. Gaustatoppen… on top); the wheather (thank Thor!); the organization (scanty, but very efficient); the Viking Tour jersey without advertisements on it; the well-behaved participants (in Valhallas toilets were still quite clean in the morning, I’ve seen practically no cycling-related trash on the roads); the Vik family always cheering us from the side of the road; the Coubertinian spirit of riders pushing their bikes most of the way up to Osafjell and Gaustatoppen, and much, much more…

(Few small) thinghs that can be improved (IMHO, of course): starting numbers (adding the name of the rider on the starting number would make easier to remember who is who among the moltitude of participants); timing in the touring class (sometimes unprecise, sometimes lacking: as this is marginal for people not competing in the racing class I’d have preferred a simple but precise statement on whether or not the timing line in each given stage was crossed); wireless connections in Valhallas (it was not always possible to go online).

What I didn’t liked of the Viking tour (just one small thing): the somehow sniffy attitude of some of the top riders in the racing class: e.g., on the way to Osafjell or on the final ascent to Gaustatoppen just few of them, descending, replied to the salute or had a word of encouragement for climbing touring class riders.

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31.07.2010, back to Oslo

Happiness is a cup of strawberries instead of the 50th banana of the week, happiness is a seat on a coach instead the saddle of a bike, happiness is a hotel room instead of the Valhalla, happiness is a bathtub instead of an overcrowded shower, happiness is a bed instead of a sleeping mat, happiness is not caring about the wheather, happiness is discovering that also Gaustatoppen is in the B.I.G. list, happiness is to be able to tell “I did it!”, happiness is a jewerly store in Oslo reopening just for you five minutes after closing time to allow you to buy a present for your wife, happiness is seeing my family again!

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30.07.2010 (pictures), Geilo-Rjukan (149.5 Km2415 m)

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The final stage of the Viking Tour was characterized by several victories for me: not only I was able to complete the entire tour by crossing every single finish line, but today for the first time in a week I overtook another rider during a downhill stretch! For someone bragging to have been defeated by a helium balloon during a downhill competition this was a real triumph!!! During the night I wasn’t really in the mood of another cycling day, hearing what seemed to be heavy rainfall outside and feeling pain almost everywhere in my body. Fortunately, what sounded like rain was only the noise of the ventilation system in the Valhalla and seeing relatively dry conditions outside immediately lifted my spirit. Thus, even if before the begin of the stage actually started to rain, I went underway in a good mood, eager to reach Rjukan. If the Viking Tour has taught me something, that is the follwing: once you’re on the saddle you go, whatever it happens, and that each day there are concealed energies that just wait to emerge. The first three climbs of the day where short enough to allow finding the right rhythm. The nice thing on having a moltitude of different problems while cycling, such as sore butt, stiff legs and rain to fight against, is that you can’t really focus on a single one, which avoids to be defeated by any of them. The head of the racing class caught me right at the first feeding station at the top of the third hill: of course none of them stopped to enjoy the nice cares of the fantastic feeding-station girls. On the fourth climb, the ascent to Imingsfjell, I was overtaken by the gruppetto of the racing class and with my great surprise I could stay with them almost to the top (another small victory for the day!). On the descent to Austbygd and the next feeding station I was mostly alone. There, the usual nice group of touring class riders build up for the last 30 Km to Rjukan… or to the start of the climb to Gaustatoppen. Yes, also this one was facultative for the touring class, but who wants to travel so far without crossing the last finish line? On the last kilometers before the ascent we teamed up with a rider of the racing class and the group sped up a little bit too much, so that many arrived quite tired at the foot of the climb. The first kilometers of the ascent were quite hard, mostly around 10% and with long straight stretches that didn’t allowed to much rest. Moreover, it was damn hot in my long sleeved jersey and I almost came to the idea to throw all the ballast away and to recover it during the descent, but then I saw a raining front coming up from the valley and I decided to continue with what I had on. Luckily, I could also count as usual on the support of my greatest fans in Norway, little Linus and his family, always cheering at the side of the road. After 7 Km or so the road became less steep and the final kilometer was almost downhill. It was really a good feeling to be able to finish the tour after 900 Km and almost 13000 climbing meters, the only things that mattered now were a safe descent to Rjukan and a beer to cheer on a hard but very nice and rewarding week.

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29.07.2010 (pictures), Ulvik-Geilo (127.1 Km1815 m)

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What was meant to be a recovery trip before the final stage tomorrow, revealed itself as a very hard stage mainly because of the harsh wind on the Hardangersvidda plateau. The touring class started in few groups from Ulvik to catch the 8:35 the ferry at Bruravik. The scenery on the fjord was really gorgeous, with the morning mist surrounding the mountains and sunlit glaciers above. The group passed Eidfjord without stopping at the feeding station (not yet set up, apparently) and broke apart only at the beginning of the ascent. Very soon I found myself alone, with a faster group ahead climbing swiftly to the top and slower riders behind me, so I decided to put on some music and continued climbing at my speed. After the first few kilometers I caught up with Christa and we continued to climb together on the main road, even if we had to pass some tunnels that were nominally forbidden for cyclists. None of us had see any of the signs which were meant to lead us on the old road (as Roman told me afterwards they hadn’t enough time to place them). After a short stop to gaze at the spectacular waterfall of Voringsfossen we started again, the road becoming less steep and allowing a good pace. Reaching the top of Hardangersvidda meant for me not only arriving at the feeding station, but also conquering my B.I.G. #39, the only one on the route of this Viking Tour which otherwise seemed to have purportedly avoided the nearby climbs on the B.I.G. list (Aurlandsvegen, Sognefjell Hytta, Stalheimkleiva, just to name  few). We decided for a longer stop and had a coffee on the top, before preparing for what I believed to be a steady relaxing descent towards Geilo. Sadly, the reality was a little bit different and we had to fight for more than 40 Km with a strong wind on an endless series of wavy hills. Of course, since chivalry isn’t dead I took the lead most of the time trying to shield my cycling mate from the wind. At the end chivalry was still alive, but my legs were not! Fortunately, another group of the touring class caught us up as the real descent to Geilo finally began, allowing me to recover just that little bit of energy which was necessary to dare the last climb to the timing line. Of course this was optional for the touring class and many went directly to the Valhalla, but after that endeavour I think I may ask to be promoted from the touring to the stupid class! Small footnote: the bath towel I’ve forgotten in Gaupne reappeared this evening in Geilo…

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28.07.2010 (pictures), Ulvik-Osafjell-Ulvik (44.0 Km1270 m)

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Neither yesterday evening nor this morning I would have bet a single Krone that I’d have been ready also for the second stage of the day. After the morning stage, however I felt very well so I decided to go for a try. Just as when it came to apply as an ESA astronaut, I would have bitterly regretted the fact of coming to the Viking Tour and not completing all the stages. So after the group picture on the Ulvik fjord all the racing and some of the touring class riders started towards Osa, where the free speed line was set and the ascent began. The scenery was surely gorgeous, in a narrow valley with a very scenic waterfall, but the climb was unmerciful: constantly above 10% with peaks up to 17%. At 4 Km from the finish line I ran out of water: I thought that one full 800 ml bottle would be enough and I hoped to save something on the total weight to carry up, but I had to realize my miscalculation on such a hard climb. At the minus 2 Km mark, coming along some small lakes, the road became finally flatter just to return to the usual >10% on the last 1500 meters. After crossing the finish line and emptying a couple of water tanks I went to the master car to retrieve the warm clothes for the descent that I had packed up in Vik earlier this morning and that I hadn’t used on the previous stage. Sadly, I had to find out that the master car* had been completely unloaded in Ulvik, so I had to find an alternative solution for keeping myself warm during the descent. A piece of cardboard from a box of bananas and a rain jacket kindly supplied by the three nice girls of the feeding station prevented hypothermia, moreover that during the descent began to rain very hardly. Back in the Ulvik the shower was more than welcome! Yet, I still had to dry myself with paper towels as the towel I’ve bought in town and gave to Christa to bring back for me to the Valhalla was not there.

* hence it is not true that “for everything else there’s master car

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28.07.2010 (pictures), Vik-Ulvik (114.2 Km1825 m)

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I’m amazed from my recovery ability! Yesterday evening I was aching everywhere and had a body-wide rigor mortis. Most of all I feared for my knee which was still sore from the ascent to Tindevegen on stage 3. Of course the anticipated initial climb of the Vikafjellet did not help to raise my confidence. Fortunately, despite the drizzling rain, the ascent was less hard than I feared with a steady gradient around 7-9% that allowed me to find the right pace and to arrive at the top with an older Dutch guy, Johan (nr. 140), as together we caught up a belgian rider in the last meters. First of the touring class… we believed, until we found a couple of other riders down at the feeding station. It’s already the second or third time that I’ve the feeling of being in front just to discover then that someone has been faster than me. Not that it matters, but I never see these people between me and the motorcycle leading the bunch, so I suspect that they’re breaking up earlier than the rest of the touring class. We were blessed by the weather and rain stopped right on the last meters before the top, so that the road was fairly dry on the descent. The main road to Voss and ahead had a little too much traffic for my taste. Right before the city there was however a detour on a nice, but exhausting rollercoaster-like secondary road. Fortunately we were a nice group of four riders (Christa, Johan, Svein, myself) collaborating to cross this relatively flat part of the stage. After about 90 Km we left then the main road to climb a 300 m hill, a very nice relief for my butt, since standing on the pedals allowed my ass (at least for some time) to lose contact with the saddle. After a nice descent we came finally to Ulvik… ready for some rest? You’re kidding! The next point on the agenda was another stage centered on the climb of the Osafjell. Of course, as a member of the touring class, I could have skipped that, but to tell it in the words of George Mallory the main reason to climb a mountain is because it’s there!

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27.07.2010 (pictures), Gaupne-Vik (80.0 Km – 520 m)

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Easy stage today, only 70 almost flat kilometer between Gaupne and Hella following the Sognefjord, then ferry tranfer to Vangsnes and final 10 Km ride to Vik. A welcome rest day for legs, knee and of course… ass!  For the first time the wheather was not only cycling-friendly but also picture-friendly, which resulted in some better photos compared to the previous days. Today more than ever I enjoyed the spirit of comeradery characterizing the touring class: someone had a flat and the whole group stopped to help and wait. Similarly, yesterday after the tunnels most of the riders  wanted to have their windbreakers off, but nobody dared to stop fearing to lose the group, until someone simply proposed a one-minute break that made everybody happy. The ride along the fjord and the ferry ride were extraordinary, with landscapes reminiscent of our Insubrian lakes (which by the way reveals their glacial origin). There were however some important differences, such as the paucity of man-made artifacts, the leveled mountain-tops and of course the sea. Lot of time to spare in Vik, with the oppurtunity to visit the 12th century wooden church and to relax before the double stage of tomorrow. Only one sad note for the day: I forgot my bath towel in Gaupne, dried myself with paper towels after the shower in the hope to recover it at the lost & found session later in the evening… but it wasn’t there. I will have to buy a new one in Ulvik tomorrow (if I manage to get there).

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26.07.2010 (pictures), Aurland-Gaupne (154.2 Km2125 m)

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Long stage with a hard climb today. Touring and racing classes started together at 8:00 this morning under a drizzling rain as 150 riders went through the world longest road tunnel escorted by a police car and motorcycles. For 24.5 Km there was nothing much else to see except the walls of the tunnel and the blinking lights of the riders ahead. Certainly an once-in-a-lifetime experience: better than cycling on a home-trainer, even if almost as monotonous. However, the distance was  not sufficient to set a world record in uninterrupted  underground cycling, as this is probably set at 27.1 Km. Not even the time enjoy the daylight in Laerdal we promptly entered a second, shorter tunnel (only 6.5 Km) that led us to the fjord of Ardal which we followed for about 30 Km until we reached Ovre-Ardal, foot of the main climb of the day. The ascent to Tindevegen was basically composed of two sections of about 6 and 8 Km respectively, both at steady 10% and separated by just few flatter kilometers. After the toll station at the top there was a brief descent, immediately followed by a new steep ascent which essentially was a replay of the two last nasty kilometers leading to Tindevegen. It was not an easy ascent of course, but I didn’t felt more tired than on a usual one-day trip. Also the descent was not too bad: I managed to stay away from any group, what allowed me to go down with my own speed without misleading any following rider into a ravine. The last 30 Km were a quite ride along the fjord to Gaupne. Time to relax a little bit (after an oversized portion of lasagna and an expensive Norwegian beer). Tomorrow easy stage: just a little more than 75 Km a no real climb on our way to Vik (ferry ride across the fjord included).

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25.07.2010 (pictures), Geilo-Aurland (110.2 Km – 750 m)

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The second day was not as hard as the first one. Starting in Geilo this mornig the temperatures were quite chilling (around 10°C), so I opted for long sleeved jersey and 3/4 shorts. Considering that the first 10 Km were straight downhill and several tunnels were expected on the final part of the stage it wasn’t a bad choice. At the beginning of the stage I was able to demonstrate my downhill abilities by starting the descent in front of the group and ending it at the end (and we’re talking of touring class riders!). The climb started in Hol and lead gently from a rich valley forrest to a barren mountain plain. It was good to find a small group to cycle with along the 20 Km coasting lake Strandavatnet to the timing line and the feeding station. The descent to Aurland was really spectacular, with several long tunnels (up to 4 Km) leading down the valley to the Aurlandsfjord. And yet, these were just an appetizer as tomorrow we will be cycling through the longest car tunnel in the world, some 25 Km between Aurland and Leardal… it will surely be a spooky experience!

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24.07.2010 (pictures), Rjukan-Geilo (123.8 Km2025 m)

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Nice first day of cycling. Although we passed some small fjords the landscape is still very alpine. The climbs are not as bad as feared. The ascent to Imingsfjell was supposed to be the toughest climb of the day, but with an average of 7% and quite some turns it was only a matter of finding the right pace. The three smaller hills thereafter were much harder, both for the increasing number of kilometres in the legs and for the less scenic straight roads. The touring class had the privilege of starting about 45 minutes ahead of the racing class and being among the first riders in that category I was allowed the feeling of leading the race until the second feeding station. At the end my time was the third among the touring class riders, but in the racing class I would have fought hard for the black jersey. Now it’s time to rest, stretch an apply a lot of Perskindol on my sore legs. Time to recover for tomorrow.

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23.07.2010, transfer to Rjukan: about 2.5 hours transfer by bus from Oslo. Water is everywhere in Norway, but horizontal water is difficult to classify. It’s hard to tell whether what you see is a lake, a river or the sea (a fjord). Classification of vertical water is more straightforward: a waterfall is a waterfall! Mt. Gaustatoppen overlooking Rjukan is really impressive and will be the final climb on the last stage.

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23.07.2010, Oslo (pictures): I’ve made quite a promenade through Oslo today. I must have walked a dozen of kilometers or so… now I’m really tired and just eager to board the bus to Rjukan. I visited the Munch Museet and saw the celebrated “Scream”:  I suspect that the subject of this painting is a tourist who has just learned the horrific prices of everything here in Norway! Otherwise Oslo seems to be a very friendly city: I’m very surprised by the low number of cars circulating and the fact that most homeless people have a bicycle?!

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22.07.2010: got in Oslo. Wasn’t easy to leave the family behind: Neva went kinda nuts these days knowing that her daddy was about to leave. The flight from Zürich was rather shaky, but fortunately my bicycle seems to be OK. I’ve heard that there were big thundestorms around Einsiedeln, I just hope that our house is still standing. Wheather here is fair, around 20°C and no humidity: would be wonderful if this would be the standard for the next ten days or so. Looking down from the plane I’m really impressed on the quantity of lakes, river and fjords shaping the landscape around Oslo. Tomorrow visit to the city then @ 18:30 I’ll board the bus for Rjukan and the cycling experience will start…

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21.07.2010: this time is for real! Bags and bicycle are packed, almost ready to go! The luggage is very bulky, but I can’t shake the feeling of having forgotten a lot of things. The wheather is the big question mark: you do not exactly dress the same way at 1500 m with 5 °C and rain or at sea level with sunny 25°C… and in Norway you can have both of them even in July!

5 risposte a Viking Tour 2010

  1. Guya ha detto:

    Buone vacanze Rex. Waiting for pictures and news about your trip 🙂

  2. ward ha detto:

    Hello Fabio,

    Remember, I am the Belgian. Yes it was a great event and we did well. I also finished all the stages but one. So I think we can call you the greatest non racer (after the old dutch one?). You did climb well but as you said a little less on the downhill and on the plains. I am planning to start again tomorrow with an easy slow ride of 50 k. Sunday I will participate in a nice 100 k event and next week I will try “les geants des Ardennes”. a 150 k hard course but I think I will manage. If ever you come near Antwerp just give me a call. You are welcome to stay.

    Ps any plans for next year?

    Ciao, Ward Van Damme

    • drrex ha detto:

      Hello Ward, nice to hear from you again and to know you’re also home safely. On the last evening in Rjukan you disappeared before we could exchange our adresses…
      Well, I’m surely not the greatest non-racer: the “old dutch”, Johan Luttenberg (J-Lu?), was way much faster than me to Osafjell and he did also complete all the stages (luckily he was “old”, not a real cyclist but just a “runner” and living in a non-mountainous country such as The Netherlands…), many were faster than me on the plains and I was the worst downhiller of the whole bunch. I think that everyone that completed the tour deserves a big applause, including those who were pushing their bikes on the worst climbs: that’s the Viking spirit!
      I already came to work on my bike on tuesday and on wednesday, against the advice of my butt, I did my usual lunch-break tour (40 Km, 500 m).
      Thank you for the invitation to Belgi… ehm, to the Flanders: I’d like to come once to test you short but steep climbs. If you’re coming to Switzerland you’re also welcome: we have climbs for everyone’s taste
      http://www.goffredo.ch/bici/index.htm
      With my family expanding, I don’t think I will make anything like the Viking Tour next year, albeit I’d love to repeat the experience. My next goal will be to try some long-distance around-the-clock journeys.
      Good luck for your next cycling endeavours
      Fabio

  3. Anthony ha detto:

    Do you know how many BIG’s we did in the vikingtour? I have added 2! Is that correct? Because I have no idea if there was another one…

    Greetings

    • drrex ha detto:

      Hello Anthony, first of all I want to congratulate you for your performance at the Viking Tour, nice job!
      Yes, there were only 2 BIGs in this year’s Viking Tour: Hardangervidda and Gaustatoppen. Before coming to Norway I had carefully compared our route with the map on the BIG homepage and found out that we would have been riding close many of them (e.g., Tyin Osen, Stalheimkleiva, Sognefjell Hytta) or even underneath (Aurlandsvegen), but without climbing them. I didn’t realized at that time that on the last stage we would have had to climb Gaustatoppen. Only on saturday, back in Oslo, I (re)discovered it on BIG list! 🙂
      On stage 3 (Aurland-Gaupne) after the climb starting in Ovre Ardal we went really close to Sognefjell Hytta: being in the touring class and with no time pressure, I even came to the unhealthful idea of making a detour from the planned route at Turtagro, but this would have added at least 20 Km and 600 climbing meters to my stage, so that at the end I (wisely) desisted.
      Have a good time
      Fabio

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