On the road, in the saddle – lengthwise through Sweden
In March 2014 my friend, as well randonneur colleague, Johan Björklund asked me if I wanted to come along on a cycling journey through Sweden, 2100km from the far north to the southernmost south in only seven days in the end of June the same year.
I was considering it for a while – because first of all I’m runner, not a cyclist. To do a trip like this, I had to leave my running plans aside for a while and focus on the bike. And so I did.
On my 22nd birthday, June 23rd, I left my hometown of Vänersborg, Sweden with Johan and my new-found friend Patch Hofweber, an expatriate American now living in Skåne, and our documentation crew; Tereza Franzén, producer, and Olle Enqvist, photographer.
We travelled for two days in our long, vertical and enormous country. As we got more far north; the less towns we saw and the less people we met but on the other hand we got more sun (during the “night”) and more forest.
During the last two hours of driving, right before entering Riksgränsen (were the start was going to be held) we drove through a magic landscape with mountains, lakes and fantastic views of the national park of Abisko. Incredible. I was thrilled knowing that I was going to ride my bike on the same road tomorrow.
On the 25th we started our journey. We rode from Riksgränsen to Kiruna and then further down to Gällivare, Jokkmokk, Arvidsjaur, Vilhelmina and arrived in Storuman two days and 650 km later.
All those towns are low in population but huge in area. Kiruna is sometimes called “The largest town on Earth” for that reason. Those first four days in the north we saw reindeer and trees, we gazed into lakes and landscapes and we focused on the back-wheel of the bike in front and all the tarmac that we passed.
On our fifth day, we rode through ski resorts and gained more than 6000 meters in elevation and burned 11 000 calories (that’s almost four times my normal daily intake). We rode through the rain for hours that day. The last 100km to Älvdalen, in the northwest of Dalarna, the night came along and darkness surrounded us. When we finally reached our hostel at 1 am in the morning I was cold as hell and with a desire to quit.
The following day Johan had to throw in the towel and abandon the event because of a swollen knee. He couldn’t move his left pedal at all. He was taken to the hospital in Uddevalla for analysis and stayed there for days with the diagnosis of borrelia. With the loss of Johan, Patch and I had to continue on our own. I had several mental breakdowns during the next coming days of our great ride through Sweden.
After six days of cycling, with an average of 300km a day, we started our final ride in Ulricehamn on Tuesday the July 1st. Our goal was to reach Smygehuk the next morning and to do that we had to ride through the night. Our bodies were sore; aching from knees to achilles, mentally exhausted and with a yearning of being back home; eating mom’s food, sleeping in our own beds and putting the bike aside for a (long) while.
After ascending the two hilly ridges of Hallandsås and Söderåsen in the north of Skåne we finally arrived in Smygehuk at 8:33 am on July 2nd, after more than 24 hours on the road and 384km that last day. Friends were there to celebrate us, the sun shone and I was completely empty of feelings but still so happy. I had made it. It was done.
Sverigetempot 2014 served us more than 2100km on the bike, lengthwise through Sweden, in 168 hours (6 days, 23 hours, 33 min). A lot of pizzas were eaten, bars and Snickers too, a massive amount of tarmac completed, new friends from all over the world. New towns, dialects and even languages discovered in our own country. New elements of my mind, with ups and downs, were explored.
This has been the most fascinating journey, an odyssey of both epic fantasticness as well as a ride through the nine hellish circles of Dante’s inferno.
Sverigetempot, hasta la vista in 2016.
Day by day Strava routes:
Day I - http://www.strava.com/activities/160980916
Day II – http://www.strava.com/activities/160981360
Day III – http://www.strava.com/activities/160981715
Day IV – http://www.strava.com/activities/160982138
Day V – http://www.strava.com/activities/160986712
Day VI – http://www.strava.com/activities/160982969
Day VII – http://www.strava.com/activities/160983785