15 September 2016 / sweden

All that I could think about on my way to Dalsland was “it’s not a race but it’s a race pace” that somebody said about the last years Dalsland runt. Dalsland runt is an independent three-day-event, originally hosted by Vänersborgs racer club and located in the middle of the Swedish woods.  I wanted to participate last year, but since I started cycling in 2014, the gravel roads and the distances had scared me off. This year, I was ready.

First day 
Arriving at Vänersborg on Friday made me realize that not only were my fellow Instagram riders from Sweden there, but that it’s gotten quite international. I was recognizing people from all over Europe!  Everybody knows that the cycling scene is small, but the Instagram-cycling scene is even smaller. Dalsland runt is going viral!

After some mingling, we finally set off: 104 km to the base camp in the Dalslands woods. I yelled to my friend that we were too far behind in the peloton so I caught up with the first group. I cursed myself for doing so. I always get carried away when the boys start racing and feel the need to prove myself. I got dropped on the first bigger hill after 50 km. Whatever. I found a new group and we continued chasing.

Being the first girl to arrive at the base camp, I realized that I had left all of my friends behind. Whoops.  My knee was hurting from having my saddle height wrong. Noo. I was fast to the shower while there was still some hot water left. Score. Friends rolled in and we had a good vegan meal before hitting the beds. Nice.

Second day
We decided to go the long route of 213 km. Hitting the first hill, we started rethinking this plan. Coming from a really flat part of Sweden, I always get amazed by the hills that actually do exist in our country. Dalsland is forest, hills, and lakes. No cars and a lot of gravel. When we arrived at the first feed (chimpanzee-bars) zone we decided that we would do the short route (175km) after all. Doing the short route meant that we would miss taking the ferry to Norway and would not see the infamous car cemetery. It felt like missing out on the all of the fun parts, but my knee pain was getting worse and it was getting late so we headed straight home.

With some 20-30km left, we stopped for pizza. I don’t think that the owners had ever had that many people at their place before, and certainly not that many cyclists. After too many bars I was craving some “real” food and stuffed my face with kebab pizza. 

This was something that I regretted the minute we started cycling again. Pizza legs (slow) and pizza tummy (pain) are not recommended, but I guess that if I had to do it again, I would have eaten the whole pizza, again. It was worth it.

The last 20-30 km were the toughest. It seemed like they would never end. We hit the gravel roads again and at every corner, I hoped to see the base camp. Instead, we got a pretty sweet gravel climb. As I said, I’m not good at hills and imagine a gravel hill after 160km or so. The boys just went for it while I was considering getting off the bike and walking. Gravel hills are hard, kids. Don’t underestimate them!

Last day
On the last day we woke up to pouring rain. Dalsland, you wouldn’t be Dalsland if it didn’t rain at some point.
At breakfast, people were talking about taking a car back to Vänersborg, but there was no car? We put our rain jackets on, hopped on the bikes, said goodbye to the base camp and headed back to Vänersborg the shortest way possible. The lazy route, lazy pace. It stopped raining, we took the jackets off and enjoyed the last day at Dalsland runt.

Back in the car we were exhausted, our bikes were muddy, dirty and looked like pigs and I was happy that I wasn’t the one driving for four hours back home. Thinking about all the roads I had ridden, all the roads I had missed, all the people I’d met all the bars I’d eaten and how good it all was, the post- Dalsland runt-calm hit me. Then, I fell asleep.

Words by Lea Rovinski @kidister

Photos by Johan Björklund @dvnder