The traditional race - the Vätternrundan - took place in Motala for the 52nd time this year. 300km in a row around the Vättern, the second largest lake in Sweden with starting times between Friday 17:00 p.m. and Saturday 7:00 a.m. is the longest and largest race for everyone, anything but a pleasure tour. Nothing works here without thorough preparation, and if you don't train properly, you can quickly end up on the side of the road here. That sounds a bit hard, but you don't drive 300 km so easily from the hip.
The question why one rides the Vätternrundan is probably a question that many riders ask throughout the tour and yet more than 20.000 cycling enthusiasts come to Motala every year just before the summer solstice to take part in the Vätternrundan. This year, 24.000 drivers were registered and around 19.700 of them crossed the finish line. The Vätternrundan has its charms!
For example, the 300 km would last...
I've never ridden 300km in one go before, the longest was 160km and after that I was pretty flat. However, I had previously tried different driving techniques/driving modes to find the right strategy for me to make the 300km. My goal was to drive under 11 hours and stay under 15 gross hours. In order to be able to drive as consistently as possible, I had made up my mind never to overdo it. In other words, never let your muscles burn.
Starting in the middle of the night...
Starting in the middle of the night was particularly appealing, except maybe getting up early. At night the weather is usually different. It is mostly windless, everything is a bit more peaceful, unfortunately it is also significantly colder. The weather report had predicted temperatures of up to 25°C for Saturday, but during the night it was just under 10°C. As far as clothing was concerned, the onion principle had to be applied.
What do you take with you to eat when you are 300km on a bike?
Of course, during my training rides, I had already tested a lot of food, but nobody could say whether the combination of gels and bars would really get me over 300km. Not to mention the taste you have in your mouth after all that sweet stuff.
…One after the other…
Journey to Motala
Thursday June 15th
In the morning I made the remaining preparations. Of the bully had to be prepared, groceries loaded and my bike loaded onto the rack. At 13:30 p.m. we set off from the center of Hamburg puttgarden - on Fehmarn, where we boarded the ferry. We had to hurry to get the ferry on time and the traffic jam on the A1 put my schedule in jeopardy. But everything went well and at 17:15 p.m. we got the ferry in rodby leave.
Our stopover was that Campsite in Faxe (DK). It's actually a minor matter for you, but the campsite was so beautiful! When we arrived at the campsite in Faxe, we were a bit surprised because the reception was not manned. You could check in with a credit card at the machine, that was new to me. But still everything worked perfectly. The campsite was quite empty, of course it was Thursday and so we were able to secure a great place for our Bully right on the side of the stand. Costs: EUR 35,- very fair. The sanitary facilities were great and it was only a few steps from our pitch to the next water tap. The next morning we were able to have breakfast comfortably at a table and wooden bench. Really highly recommended.
Friday June 16th
In hindsight I have to say: Luckily I didn't have much time to think about Vätternrundan, otherwise I would have been still excited...
We left Faxe shortly after 9:00 a.m. and started on the last stage towards Motala. Passing Copenhagen and Malmo heading north, we arrived at Vättern at 14:30. In Jönköping – at the southern end of Lake Vättern – my wife and I first stopped in for classic Swedish lunch: Bei Ikea.
Side note: Ikea in Sweden does not differ from the Ikea department stores in Germany in terms of food or department stores, only prices are slightly lower in Sweden.
Now it was still about 1 hour along the Vättern to Motala, from the expressway I could already get a small impression of the huge lake: great. Unfortunately the weather left a lot to be desired. It rained for hours and only stopped for a maximum of 5 minutes at a time. We arrived at the first campsite in Motala. Z parking was recommended to me on Facebook, but I couldn't really get used to the ambience. Briefly checked Google and drove 200m further, there it was already next campsite. The place was also full, but it was much nicer.
Here we nested with ours VW Bus a. Because it was raining all the time, it was very muddy, luckily we didn't have to set up a tent. However, we still had to go to the center of Motala, because I still had to pick up my start number and transponder.
In the rain and armed with mine StartID we cycled towards the center. The camp of Vätternrundan wasn't hard to find because Motala is very small. I looked for the tent where I could exchange my Start ID for the documents. That was typically Swedish Customer Jurney perfectly structured. First there was a counter where the StartID was scanned, then you got it start number and vans. In the next step you could check at a terminal whether you got the right transponder, then it went on to a huge, temporary stadium department store tent where you got a bag for your documents at the entrance. You couldn't leave the registration in any other way, I had to walk through the stadium once.
We were now mighty wet and frozen through. We looked for a café where we could warm up and have a bite to eat, and then we cycled back to the campsite.
Now I had mine Start ID exchanged for all my required documents, but my bike still had to be finished. Luckily the rain ended in the evening and the sun came out again. So I did everything that needed to be done.
- Transponder on the helmet
- Start number on the racing bike
- inflate tyres
- Pack your backpack and frame bag with bars and gels
- Get your clothes ready for the trip
At 22:30 p.m. I went to bed and the night should not be long...
Vätternrundan tour report
Saturday June 17th
It's 00:45 am, my alarm clock is ringing. I am instantly wide awake, full of energy, and get out of my bed, climbing forward into the driver's seat, where I had everything ready just two hours ago. First I open the lunch box – yes, I had quick-wittedly made myself some bread the night before – and take a bite first. Breakfast doesn't go down as easily as usual, after all it's the middle of the night. But I know: I must have eaten properly before I start. I even had a cold coffee ready for me. So while I was getting dressed, I kept biting off my sandwich and then went to brush my teeth. I quickly put my small backpack on the Bully (racing bike backpack, Deuter Road One), put on my shoes and off we went at the start of Vätternrundan 2017.
My start at Vätternrundan
With my racing bike it was about 3km to the start of the Vätternrundan 2017. I was for that Starting block at 01:54 clock assigned. 15 minutes before my start I arrived at the market square in the middle of Motala. There was a lot of activity on the square, because a starting block with about 40 racing cyclists started here every two minutes. 5 minutes before my start I lined up in my starting block, oddly I still wasn't excited, I was very relaxed and just looking forward to the experience.
Hardly waited, it started already. The group started moving quickly and quickly caught up with the starters in front of us. That mixed up really quickly, I didn't see the drivers I started with again all day.
We were just over 10°C and driving was very pleasant. Everyone had lights on their racing bikes (that was mandatory, by the way) and we covered the first few kilometers quickly, but not too quickly. From around 03:00 a.m. it got light again, not yet so bright that you could turn off the lights, but visibility was good. We racing cyclists offered one incredibly beautiful sight. After we had left the first waves behind us, we passed many fields, of which it was around the Vaettern there are quite a lot and the fog was still sitting on the fields and just looked fabulous.
After 47km the first depot came into view and most of the drivers drove there directly. However, I had decided not to take a break before I had covered the first 100km. Only at the next depot at kilometer 83 in Ölmstad I filled my bottles and emptied my bladder, after which I immediately went on the track. One of the big ones Depots in Jönköping - where there was also warm food - I left it on the right and drove on until I finally followed 133km the Fagerhult Depot reached where I had planned to take a longer break.
The first 133km I had on the bike only from Latches and Gels fed. It was now 06:30 a.m. and I deserved a break. As I said, I had passed the large depot in Jönköping and went to look for the depot in Fagerhult not sweet food. It wasn't easy, in Sweden people generally like sweet things. However, I'm more of a hearty type and don't really like industrial sugar. No joke: the only food I had was soft Bun and Pickle. I just combined both and ate buns with pickles. You can't believe how delicious such a simple meal can suddenly be and the meal should accompany me throughout the day.
If I remember correctly, I stuffed seven or eight of those buns into myself and felt really good afterwards. Of course, a coffee also had to be in, some caffeine so as not to shut down. I stepped out again and was on my way again.
Continue to the second stage
In the classic way, I started calmly to get into the lap, after a few minutes I joined the next one Group back to. In general, don't forget that 300km in einer good time, can only be done in groups. It is important to have the right feeling for the right speed and the right group. You also meet a lot of interesting people at such a big event.
When I looked at the shirt numbers of the others - the shirt numbers always included the start time - I realized that at this point in time (approx. 150km after the start) everyone around me had started one to two hours before me. Whatever the significance of that, it lifted me up and I felt empowered. Because I started in the dark and had my first real break at 06:30, the time didn't seem that long. The changing light conditions made me feel like I had just started driving.
I felt like I was in a trance. There is no other way I can explain how I was able to drive this route so quickly. My next stop was after 204km at 09:00 in Karlsborg. The sun was out now and it was pleasantly warm. I guess it was about 20°C and sun. Perfect conditions for me. Here the break was a little longer due to the toilet situation and of course there were rolls with gherkins for me again.
In Karlsborg were many drivers the hardships of the tour to watch. Some lay on the grass and slept, others stretched against cramps. The heat made it nice to drive, but if you don't drink enough you have to fight cramps. I got that far and so I jumped on my bike fresh and full for the next stage. Since I didn't have a strong group around this time, I decided to take the initiative myself and sat in front of a couple so that it could be in my could slipstream. Luckily the bill paid off. We were soon joined by a few more riders who liked to take advantage of the slipstream and we started taking turns. The group wasn't as strong as I had hoped, which is why I had to ride in front quite often and for a long time.
The Km 257 I drove to the next depot to fill my bottles. It was at this point that I first felt the fatigue in my muscles. Also, I was starting to feel like I had only slept 2 hours the night before. So I kept the break short, mainly because I just saw a cycling team starting off. Zack on the bike and ran to the team. At first I wanted to join the team to take part in the management work to participate, but that was not desired. The coach of the team made it clear to me that I was welcome to drive next to him, but that I wasn't allowed to mix with the team. Nothing better than that! So I rode all the rest of the group in the slipstream.
My ticket to the finish
All the time I rode the last stage in the direction of the group together with the group Motala and it was clear to me: This is my ticket to the finish. We simply skipped the last two depots and drove through. My wife was standing at the first roundabout in Motala and waved at me, now I knew: I'll be there soon and I enjoyed the last kilometers to the fullest. It went left again around the curve and onto the home straight Vätternrundan.
Unique, wonderful, grandiose and proud. These are the words mine Experience Vätternrundan 2017 describe. Since the end of last season 2016 I had been looking forward to the Vätternrundan and to my Season highlight 2017 appointed and you know what? It was! I can only recommend this tour to everyone Road Bike Festival to join once. I think I'll be at the start again next year.
I had set myself the goal of less than 15 hours gross and 12 hours net. I have achieved Net 9 hours 30 and Gross 10 hours 40, with a pace of 31,5 km/h. The hammer!