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in my own words
dalsland runt
 

Words by Nik Schelling and photography by John Braynard

“It’s not a race”

dalsland-06

Day Zero
Bike – Ferry – Bike – Bus – Bike – Train – Bike

Day One
We crossed a bridge and it was on. Attacks went, which confused me. Should I chase? Should I chill here? Which way are we even going? I instinctively just chased, and found myself in the lead group. The first 40 kilometres were dealt with in about an hour, and the group began to shrink as common sense kicked in for some of us, not including me. Not a race, but race pace. I stubbornly stuck in the group until it came down to two of us; a swede named Axel and I. We hit a straight, flat gravel section, took one side of it each, and went for it. Why we were in such a hurry was unclear to us both, but as we reached 50 on that slim gravel road, yellow fields on either side of us, it felt like flying. Reaching the feed station first was a wakeup call, and for the first time I felt the burning in my legs.

I ate some bananas and mixed what turned out to be beet flavoured sport drink. It didn’t taste nice.

I rode with a large lead group to the cabins, and took part in the sprint to the ‘line’. It was fast, but never too serious.

dalsland-07

Day Two
From the very start of the day, mistakes were made. I had given my winter gloves to someone else, and decided to wear neither wool, nor overshoes, and no rain jacket. I realized these mistakes within the first kilometre as my toes and fingers gradually shut down. From the very start, I was completely soaked. Only a few times in my life have I been that cold, and my mind was fixated on 55 kilometres; the first feed zone. If I could get there, I could maybe make it through the remaining 125 kilometres. When my numb fingers were unable to unwrap a bar, I had to ask another rider.

landscape

“Dude, could you open this for me?” I asked.

He looked at me, and at the bar.

“No.”

We all suffered, and everyone was simply trying to make it through the day. I was anxious to reach the feed; my hands could barely shift gears at this point. We passed 55. Where was it? 60 long kilometres in, we finally reached it. I ate, I drank, but most importantly went around desperately looking for a jacket to borrow. One of the feed zone crew guys let me borrow his rain jacket. It was a huge rain cape that went past my knees, and I loved it.

dalsland-11

As we were about to leave the feed, Fredrik the swede returned, walking his bike. His derailleur had gotten caught in his wheel. He abandoned the ride, and I was truly jealous of him at that moment. We carried on as a big group.

John: “If I could get in a sauna of farts to get warm, I would do it.”

dalsland-05

100 kilometres in, our group reached a café; a fancy one. Caked in mud we went in, and the guests in suits stepped away from us in disgust. We were sent out, into a different building with concrete floors instead, where we had cake and drank all their coffee.
I left the cake stop with three dudes from Amsterdam. Directly after the café came the gnarliest bits of the route, and we stuck together the whole way. We went through muddy single-track climbs, gravel trails full of chickens and by a house in the middle of nowhere that inexplicably had a Rolls Royce in front of it. I was on 25mm tires. My favourite section would be the overgrown double track decent.

dalsland-03

It was basically two straight, parallel lines through the forest, where both had been flooded by the rain. I have never ridden anything so wild on a road bike. How Johan, the master mind, had found these trails was incredible to me.
My group of four rode together, and eventually bonked together. No food, no water, no shops, no houses, no one, nothing. All cyclists know the feeling; emptiness. A climb met us, endlessly long and endlessly steep. Someone before us had written “ALLEZ” with twigs.
The gravel road flattened out, and 15 kilometres from the finish we saw people. It was a church. All they had was a plate of biscuits that Frank and I really wanted to steal. But for the first time, the sun came out, and I sat down. It was silent for a moment, and then we could hear them. A peloton. They were a huge, energetic group taking up the whole road, yelling and grinning at each other. Food was the first thing we asked them for, and someone with pockets full of Snickers threw them at us.

dalsland-02

Day Three
Fredrik the Swede, Julien from France, John the American, Frank from Holland and I, the Norwegian. A solid crew that formed quickly, as crosswinds tore the field to pieces from the start. It was a beautiful day, and the Swede snapping his chain wouldn’t stop us from enjoying the ride. Because Fredrik was what John calls a ‘wizard’, we were quickly on our way again.

We had a lot of these mechanical stops, and Fredrik’s Bianchi gradually became a single-speeder. But we didn’t mind the stops; Frank took pictures, I practiced wheelies in the crosswinds, John jumped into a swamp, Julien smiled and ate bananas, and the Swede yelled at his Bianchi.

dalsland-04

The last 30 kilometres were a straight stretch of (paved) road, directly into a headwind. The original crew of 5 was still together, and we rotated, pushing hard and going slow. For the first time that day, I felt like shit. It had been far too long since I had last eaten. Our (and everyones) nutrition for the day was *KEX.

We had started Dalsland Runt eating fancy cycling bars, bananas and sports mix. By the last day, unlimited KEX was all there was. My pockets were still full of them, but I didn’t want to eat them; I had already eaten 8, and they made me sick. I had no choice, and ate one, only then realising how hungry I was. I ate another, and another, emptying my pockets within five minutes; another nine KEX.

dalsland-08

A slight climb approached us, 5 kilometres from Vänersborg; the finish. Julien from France attacked. Frank from Holland went too, passing Julien on the climb. What? We were a crew, how could they? I accelerated up to Julien to ask what the deal was. Before reaching him, I looked back. I saw what remained of the crew, John and Fredrik, but only a few bike lengths behind them, a massive group.

They were the leading group, but had found a café, where we had unknowingly passed them. Led by Jon from Amsterdam, the group of about 30 took up the whole road and looked like a hungry pack of wolves.

The race was on, suddenly. I went, passed Julien, and flew by Frank at the crest of the climb. I thought I was alone at this point, until I heard the Dutchman behind me. He told me he knew nothing of the peloton until I had passed him and he had looked back, seeing the wolves 10 metres behind him, now in a full chase. We went full gas, and rotated smoothly, not looking back. Together our duo kept a pace of almost 45: Dutch people know how to ride in the wind.

Frank and I were holding off the pack until we reached a motorway. We kept going straight, immediately realising the mistake, turning around in time to see Jon and the peloton take the tunnel under the motorway.

dalsland-01

I chased back onto the group and sprinted with them over the bridge and to the café, finishing withwith the front. It was a beautiful day that ended with Dalsland style racing; fast, but never serious. We got pizza, and I bought one for Fredrik, as kudos for finishing the day on a single gear.

*KEX is a Swedish chocolate wafer thingy. It’s full of air and melts in the sun; not great cycling food. The crew consumed over a dozen each that day. Fuck KEX.

Strava

worth sharing?

Name: Niklas Schelling
Age: 16
Lives in: Sandefjord, Norway
Bikes: Cannondale Caad10, S-Works Stumpjumper
Best place to ride: Boulder, Colorado
Strava: @NiklasSchelling
Instagram: @nik.wildcat

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