Newsletter - 2013 Archive

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Super Brevet Scandinavia 2013
by Theo Wyne

I had the pleasure to ride the 2013 Super Brevet Scandinavia from August 16-19. I found the ride a real challenge, both due to its unique structure, and the fact that I did the LEL two weeks earlier.


The ride began in the Danish north Jutland town called Frederikshavn. The pre-ride accommodation was at a modern IYH hostel, with riders bunked 3 to a 4 person room. My room mates were Adam from the UK and Bill from the USA. Both guys had ridden the LEL two weeks earlier, with Bill continuing to ride from the UK all the way to Denmark! Adam was riding a 24 inch wheeled bike and had done some 50 mile commutes over the past few weeks. I had gone on a 5 km jog a week earlier but otherwise done no exercise following the LEL. We had a fine roast beef dinner the night before the ride along with rider orientation meetings (one in English, the other Danish). I met a few other English speakers, one an American guy who had been living in Denmark for 8 years and another an Aussie who had been there for 4 years. I also bumped into the Japanese rider Inagaki-san (aka "Micky") who some BC Randonneurs know from the 2012 Cascade 1200 or Rocky Mountain 1200. Micky had also ridden the LEL, so I had lots of company in that regard.

Bikes were secured overnight in an outdoor fenced area of the hostel. Most people woke up around 5:00 am to have a quick breakfast and hand in their drop bag. The single drop bag followed us to each control point. This was a real luxury since we were allowed to use airline carry-on size bags to hold not only cycle gear but also street clothes and shoes. This was a first on a super brevet for me and much appreciated. Breakfast consisted of the usual hostel fare in northern Europe: museli, boiled eggs, bread, cheese, ham, pickled herring, coffee/tea and juice.

Day 1

At 6:00 am 90 riders from 13 countries set off under partly cloudy skies. For most of the day we headed south towards the town of Arhus from where we were to catch a ferry to the island of Zealand (also in Denmark). We battled a south westerly headwind by forming double pace lines. Danish drivers were very accommodating and I do not remember ever hearing any honks of annoyance, only of encouragement - a welcome reminder of cycling in bike-friendly Scandinavia. Once on Zealand we headed due west to Helsingor. This city is famous for holding the castle in which Shakespeare's Hamlet is set. I felt like a pensive Dane myself when I noticed the weather turn an ominous shade of grey as we headed by ferry into Sweden. Several hours of hard rain awaited, but at least it was not too cold. I arrived at the overnight Swedish control around 1:00 am along with a German I had met at a rest stop by a 7-11. We were both soaking wet and the rain was pounding down. I had a quick shower, changed into street clothes, had a hot meal and then slept till 5:30 in a 4 person IYH hostel room. Prior to lights out I hung my wet cycle gear in a special drying room with heaters and fans. The large frog I saw hopping down the hallway was a reminder of how wet it was outside.

The first day of riding had seen us take four ferry rides. Each ferry trip served to regroup the faster and slower riders since there always seemed to be a bit of a wait for the boats. The fastest riders were able to make earlier sailings and so were never really seen again by anyone slower. The slowest riders were separated from the group and lost time due to the infrequent sailing schedules for some of the ferries. Two of the ferries were just short 15 minute jaunts while the other two were closer to an hour or more and allowed for a sit down meal and real rest. During the crossing to Sweden a horn blew which signaled the opening of the duty free shops. Faster than you can say "Carlsberg" there were young Swedish men carrying cases of beer everywhere you looked. It was a Friday night.

Day 2

I woke on day 2 to have a leisurely breakfast at 6:00 am. It was still raining. The weather forecast was for rain until noon. When I decided to start cycling I found out both Micky and I had flat tires. Micky fixed his first and headed on. I was the last rider to leave that morning into what was then a colder rain than I expected. Shortly after leaving I met a young German rider in some kind of distress on the side of the road with a Dane. The Dane was on a cell phone calling for help. I later learned that the German had broken both his bike frame and his hand in a nasty spill on the road.

The next four hours I cycled hard. The flatness of Denmark was now the gentle hilliness of Sweden. The rain grew worse. Peripheral vision showed a bike leaning against the door to a supermarket. I stopped, entered the market, and then noticed some more bikes parked further down a hallway that led to a cafe full of wet Swedish SBS riders. One was a local to the area. He told me the town we were in was the wettest in all Sweden. The food in the cafe was awesome and the view of the rain outside awful. The time came to leave and I did so reluctantly. Luckily, within two hours the rain stopped and was replaced by sunshine. The Swedish country side was now pastoral fields in harvest colours and rolling hills with low forests and lakes. The next rest stop was a Pizzeria. I could not communicate with the owner that I wanted a ham and pineapple pizza until I resorted to making oinking sounds. That got a smile. I bought a small pizza, folded it in half and ate it as a sandwich. Ready to head back on the road in what was now hot afternoon sunshine, I heard word that some group had just gone 20 km off course. I noticed that my Garmin GPS had stopped working. I hastily hopped on a train of riders (various nationalities) and spent the remainder of the day hopping about between different riding groups. When night began to fall I was at a Macdonalds control point. My GPS had stopped working completely at this point and so I chose to follow an Italian named Joseph. Between his poor English and my non existent Italian we exchanged confusion till we both decided to just focus on the riding. All was well till we came to a road with a bridge under construction. Joseph's GPS said we could go back and do a detour, but I did an exploration and convinced Joseph we could walk through the valley of construction. It made for an interesting bit of walking/climbing after which we had to empty our shoes of rocks. Finally, we ended the day at what was the best accommodation of the trip - a real hotel! Again, such luxury to have a shower and wear street clothes to dinner. I went to sleep looking forward to the next day riding into Norway.

Day Three

My hearty breakfast at 6:00 am was followed by disbelief as I looked at the weather forecast - a bloody weather bomb was headed our way! Rain varying from 2-8 millimeters per hour was slated to hit from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. The first couple hours of riding were so good I was sure the forecast must be wrong. At the first control we were given lots of bun sandwiches and Coca Cola to drink. I left feeling really good but then noticed the sky turning an ugly colour. I suddenly thought, "Gee, I guess its got to be really bad weather headed our way for the organizers to have handed out those bun sandwiches!" And then the rain hit and hit and hit. For an hour I thought I was following a pair of Japanese only to discover it was an American and Danish couple. The rain had been so heavy I had not been able to make out their features. Likewise, I am sure the Norwegian countryside is very beautiful as you cross over from Sweden, but all I remember are grey silhouettes of lakes with islands in them. A well placed cafe after the next control allowed for a cheeseburger and fries. I was thankful for that and enjoyed the company of the American and Danish couple. And then, like the day before, the weather finally cleared up and Norway began to show itself. The climbing began to get more extreme and I found myself comparing the riding to that of Vancouver-Whistler-Pemberton. Up, up, up, down, down, down. The roads were good, allowing for high speeds, and the views were of low coastal mountains as we snaked our way inland through Norway, headed towards Oslo and Skien. As night fell I found myself on a high plateau in the region of Telemark. Our next accommodation was at a ski hotel in Skien. Enroute we passed through some amazing climbs and descents - some really fast ones. Special cudos to Barry Chase for his help in selecting my lighting last year. The dual helmet light and Schoen generator system he counselled me to get have worked out great and allow for fast speeds on night riding. At 1:00 AM right after I concluded the final high speed descent into Skien, I got a flat tire. It made me stop and think about how much chance plays a role in this hobby/sport. Two flats in my brand new Michelin Pro tires - bad luck for sure, yet the flats came at the "right" time too. At the rest control in Skien we were again treated to a hotel and a fine meal, this one lasagna. I was quite tired while eating, and in chatting with a Brit named Andrew, I heard him say "I sure hope the American Bill gets through." I asked him what legislation he was talking about. He gave me a funny look and said, "No, I mean the American rider named Bill. He hasn't arrived yet. I hope he gets through." Time for me to sleep I thought.

Day Four

One of the organizers of the event named Birgitte told me that the final day of riding would have the best views and she was right. There was no rain on the final day and the cycling was fast. There was a lot of hill climbing/descending, and the views were wonderful. There were many picturesque fjords dotted with Norwegian summer houses along the shores. I rode with a Danish/Swedish/American group for much of the day. We collectively tried to remember the words to the old Beatle's song "Norwegian Wood", which was entertaining. One more 30 minute ferry ride remained which was followed by good food in the deli section of a supermarket at the next control. After that I couldn't resist a quick swim in a fjord late in the afternoon. On arrival at the final control in Kristiansand we were treated to cold beer. We then had dinner on the dance floor of a local night club. Blue and purple ultraviolet light along with background Euro-techno music provided a surreal twist to the conclusion of the day. Dining with people from so many countries is an experience to savour. Early the next morning many of us got up to catch the 3 hour ferry back to Denmark, while others went their separate ways off to other destinations.

Concluding comments

The 2013 SBS was different from other super brevets I have done in terms of the ferry rides, the progressive climbing difficulty over the event, the beauty of Norwegian fjords, and the luxury of showers and wearing street clothes before each meal at overnight controls. The organizers of the event did an excellent job of route planning, and in arranging accommodation and meals. Special thanks go to Lasse Olsen for encouraging me to do the ride.

Although I did not have a camera on this ride, there are some photos available from the SBS organizers. [linked below]

[The photos on this page are from the official gallery. They are decorative and aren't connected to the surrounding text. EF]


Go to: Super Brevet Scandinavia Home
Go to: Super Brevet Scandinavia Photos (on SBS website)


August 29, 2013