Day 23/24 Fri 13-14th June - Vatternrundan

Distance: 300km
Overall Time 12 hrs 13 mins
Cycle time - 10:44
Wind: N-NW 20-25 km/hr
Weathers: some light rain around midnight. Min temp: 7 deg at 3:30 .
Full moon covered by cloud
Flat tyres: 4
Sleep: none
Lasagne: none

The Vatternrundan 300km is given its own blog.
The rego pick up is easy and the queues are rego number based. It leads into the merchandise tent. It was full of stalls and athletes and very hot. The bicycle regulations said a bell and side reflectors are required to obey Swedish road law. Like a lot of others I purchased both, but I now know that no-one checks it. There is a rule for a steady red (rear) and white (front) rule for the bicycle. The steady red like was the norm on the ride and it was better then flashing ones when in big pelitons and concentrating.

The front light was required as it did get dark from about 11:30 -2:00. It was full moon, but there was low cloud cover, and occasional showers until about 2:30.

The start organising is well thought out. There are 3 adjoining marshaling areas, each showing the start time. When mine came up as 20:58, one early and one later were indicated.

The start was orderly and slow and we were escorted out of town by a motorcycle. Then the same shirt team took off and we hung on for dear life! With a good tailwind, in 120 mins we covered 75km, a very quick average. This finished when everyone was forced thru the food stop at Olmstad. At a minimum most take some food and a drink. This was the first of my flats and I had to buy a new tube and put it on my Vatternrunden account to paid later. It's a good system and with 23,000 cyclist this year, a small number have serious mechanical failures and these guys have fixed and mobile mechanics.

At 102km and the bottom of the lake is Jonkoping. This is famous as the meatball stop. Due to another flat needing repeat here, I just grabbed some bread rolls and headed off.

Once I started north, it was getting dark. I picked up a few fast groups and it needed full concentration in a very fast peloton in the dark, and alway passing individuals or other packs. I stopped at Fagerhult and had my second flat. The rough grovel must have been piercing my tyres as I had pumped them to 120psi for max speed. The wet weather does make these racing tyres easier to cut thru.

The ride thru the darkness was a series of bunch riding and then on my own after a flat in the forest. This was the most difficult to change as I only had the bicycle light and I found a small gap in the trees to get off the narrow road. It took two attempts as the first time I didn't get the tyre properly on the rim. By this stage I was sick of changing tubes and would need to buy another new tube at the next service stop. A service vehicle did come by and ask me if I was ok, which was reassuring.

I was looking forward to the lasagne stop at Hjo, where I arrived when the sun was just rising. I couldn't see any lasagne so ate more bread buns (at least 10 for the night) and banana and had a very enjoyable cup of tea (alla Guy Martin) and sent my first messages home:

Dad to pat:
"4:00am done 173 km. legs ok. 4 flat tyres are an annoyance"
Reply:
"4 flat tyres! Don't bikes only have 2 tyres hahahaha. Having fun?"
Dad to Pat:
"Only when I get a flat in the dark in the forest. I have already purchased two new tubes . Just unlucky. Sun rising now"
Reply:
"Hmmm I guess that's half the fun of cycling! Have fun"

So with a strong headwind and about 60% completed, the strategy was to maintain speed and conserve energy. It was interesting that if there was a bunch and I eventually thought I should do some work, a gaps of 50m would form from the second rider. I spoke to a Norwegian guy I met on the train down and back and he said the same thing. So I decided wasting energy doing a turn was just that, and I didn't have energy to waste at 180km into a 300km ride and a savage 25km/hr headwind.

I was closely watching my GPS map, and it took until 50km to go until we turned around the top of the lake and got the tailwind. I was still finding bunches to follow.

At about 33km to go, even with the tailwind and heading home , I was running out of speed legs and had not brought any magic sports gels (a mistake in reflection as I don't normally use them).

It was at this point two of use got dropped on a hill by a fast bunch and I met Alex, the German from hamburg. He had been with two friends and they mistakenly split at a food stop.

It was his chatter and encouragement that go me thru the final 30km. Even when Motala was almost in sight, the route when down a number of side roads and kept returning to the main road.

In the last 20km people seemed a lot chattier. Maybe everyone needed a distraction.

We entered Motala and over the finish line to receive our medal.alex found his friends and we rested at a bar (in Sweden there is a rule that prohibits alcoholic beer before 11am, so the Germans had one of those each). I had a much needed coke.

Then we collected our free chicken with pasta meal and another non-alcoholic beer and sat on the grass with all the other recent finishers and ate and relaxed.

Eventually we went our separate ways. I collected my bike box from the tent next to secure bike storage area. I think the storage of the box was non-standard, but being friendly they helped me out. I was give a tag to collect it.

My gear that I left pre-start was all moved to the school hall, where I could have slept on the floor with many others if required. Eventually, I packed the bike, took the bus to the station and caught the train to Hallstatt for the connection to Stockholm. I slept on the train.

Upon arrival at Stockholm central, it was a very tiring lug of the box to the metro, and once at Tekniska Hogskolan metro station, I arranged with the tenant of my airbnb apartment to meet me.

After a long time without sleep and 300km on the legs, I went to sleep.

 20:58 was my starting time. It was cooler then expected, so I left the jacket on. That was useful as it rained later.

20:58 was my starting time. It was cooler then expected, so I left the jacket on. That was useful as it rained later.

 Spot the 'shirts' - Orange and Blue- they set the pace, and I hung on for the first 75km.

Spot the 'shirts' - Orange and Blue- they set the pace, and I hung on for the first 75km.

 Heading out of Motola with a tailwind. I soon moved up behind the 'shirts', to avoid being dropped. I may not be the fastest, but my years of road racing taught me where to sit in a bunch.

Heading out of Motola with a tailwind. I soon moved up behind the 'shirts', to avoid being dropped. I may not be the fastest, but my years of road racing taught me where to sit in a bunch.

 Artistic shot of our bunch at 40km/hr- concentration was important to maintain safety in the dark.

Artistic shot of our bunch at 40km/hr- concentration was important to maintain safety in the dark.

 A food stop- for me, it was another place to change a flat tyre. Everything was very orderly - there is no pushing.

A food stop- for me, it was another place to change a flat tyre. Everything was very orderly - there is no pushing.

 Around 3:30am, the sun rising over the lake. There were long stints of solo riding into the headwind, until I found a bunch at the right pace.

Around 3:30am, the sun rising over the lake. There were long stints of solo riding into the headwind, until I found a bunch at the right pace.

 Finished at last. I am very proud of my 21 yr old steel, hand made Greg Lemond bicycle, compared to the carbon machines that most rode. I just needed to write down the correct seat hight so it was adjusted correctly after transporting from Australia via the UK and Norway.

Finished at last. I am very proud of my 21 yr old steel, hand made Greg Lemond bicycle, compared to the carbon machines that most rode. I just needed to write down the correct seat hight so it was adjusted correctly after transporting from Australia via the UK and Norway.

 Leaving Motola by train to Stockholm- I do love that medal.

Leaving Motola by train to Stockholm- I do love that medal.