When you set off for a 560-kilometer bike race (yes, a race, not a typical endurance event), you expect some grumpy weather. This is especially true if the race is held in Norway, a stunning country known for its rain. After all, Alfred Wainwright’s quote “There’s no bad weather, only the wrong clothes” has become very popular in Norway: “Det finnes ikke lägg vær, bare lägg klär!”
But it’s one thing to get a little rain, and another to push through the torrential rain and set a new race record.
“We started with five hours of rain and headwind, then at the top of the Dovrefjell pass we saw the wind sign indicating 15 m/s,” says Alexandra Diem of the team. speed Trondheim-Oslo. “At that point, I went from ‘let’s make the record’ to ‘we’re going to make it as good as we can.'”
The race is known as the Styrkeprøven (which translates to the Review of strength), and it is not only long, but also has 3,600 m of vertical drop, distributed mainly in the first 120 km, and a mind-blowing route from from Trondheim to Oslo. steep and impressive mountains.
The Velocio team wasn’t just there to have fun. Instead, they aimed to break the women’s team record (set in 2019 at 17 hours 56 minutes) and go under 17 hours.
When they left – at 4 in the morning on June 18 – the weather forecast only announced a couple of hours of rain. Not more. But heaven unleashed hell on the roads.
When they climbed the mountain, they climbed in a long line, two abreast. Due to the conditions, they were unable to overtake other drivers, not that it made sense as everyone, including the other competitors, were pretty much at a standstill.
“And then a bus pulled up on our left trying to overtake this long line of cyclists,” recalls Diem. “Then a car came down from the opposite direction, and they stopped in front of each other. So there were a lot of dangerous situations like that with cars trying to overtake us at Dovrefjell.”
Amidst the general chaos, solo cyclists were also trying to position their gear for shelter and some drag. But that led to more incomplete situations, near misses and last-minute stops.
“Because of the headwind, we probably lost more than an hour up there, if not more,” Trude Solvang continues. “And that’s when I realized it wasn’t going to work for us.”
Velocio Team Trondheim-Oslo was built slowly over the past two years, and the riders didn’t all know each other. Some trained together if they lived nearby and had online sessions on Zwift and a group training weekend. However, apart from those moments, it was a mix of people from all over the country.
“At one point, there were 25 of us on the team,” explains Solvang, “but this year we started the race with 15. Ten finished together, two finished later and three dropped out.”
Among those who left the race for those mighty mountains was Monica Egeberg, the catalyst of the whole project. He had to contend not only with the harsh conditions of the day, but also with the physical and psychological effects of catching a long Covid in the spring.
“After 120km, I had to let the other girls go,” she says. “I know that race. I did it in 2019 too. It’s very tough. You have to have a great day and have confidence. The Covid took away my confidence. I wasn’t in a place where I could go deep. And in this race, you have to dig deeply.”
When Egeberg caught Covid in March, he had to stop training, but probably didn’t take enough time to rest properly. The urge to get back on the bike hit her again, and as a result, those weeks off the bike took a toll on her strength and focus.
After nine weeks of Covid, he started training again in May but was unable to return to his previous form, and the frustration added to the challenges of preparing for one of the toughest bike races in the world This further shattered his confidence.
“Covid destroyed me more than physically,” he says. “It also broke me mentally and I’m starting to feel better now.”
The idea to break the record followed the 2019 edition, when his team had another unfortunate experience with the Styrkeprøven.
“Then we weren’t lucky with the weather either. In addition, we also had a couple of crashes and mechanical problems. So we lost a lot of time, but as soon as I crossed the finish line I started thinking about the new record” .
Although he has yet to achieve the goal and had to withdraw from this year’s edition, the humbling experience has taught him some important lessons. And it still provided him with good memories.
“The best moment of the race is when I saw the other girls at the finish line in Oslo when they did it,” she says. “The team spirit that day was amazing. I could feel it. It made me very proud.”
Although Egeberg and the team have yet to set a new goal, it’s clear from the twinkle in his eye and the tone of his voice that there will be more. Team Velocio will be back, stronger and more experienced than ever.
This feature was produced in partnership with Velocio, learn more here.