You probably understand that there are several distances and all of them have their own challenges. Some more than others. If you have chosen the shortest distance from Eidsvoll, then you don't need advanced planning in comparison if you are starting from Trondheim and have the complete distance of 540km in front of you.
I have cycled Trondheim – Oslo twice and Eidsvoll – Oslo four times. I have cycled from Eidsvoll with IF Frøys youth team and we ended up winning this over the last two years, with some excellent sprints.
Good creative thoughts
It was sumer 2005 and I was together with some good friends outside of Tønsberg. We were enjoying an excellent summers day with a good barbecue and a few beers. I can't remember the complete scenario, but it ended up with three of us agreeing to cycle Trondheim – Oslo the following year. None of us had any form of road cycling experience, but we weren't scared of any new challenges. We had done a lot of weird things over the years. This was no exception.
We read up on the race and found an article from Sykkelmagasinet (Norwegian Road Bike Magasine) that discussed the preparations. We found a training plan in which you had to have cycled at least 2000km under your belt before travelling to Trondheim. It seemed fair. You started off easy when the snow disappeared in the spring and increase the amount of cycling towards the Styrkeprøven weekend. The trips would gradually get longer and longer and culminate in a trip of at least 250km 14 days before the big day. So far, so good.
I needed a bike
I borrowed a road bike in September 2005 from a neighbor (I had never sat on one before) and went down to Rygge together with a friend with some experience and cycled Kråketråkket. A mass start 60km race. It was great fun, but tough. I didn't have full control over the gearing or cycling in a group, but it went fine. I think I came last, but it was fun. I became stiff and sore, but that disappeared gradually on the way home.
After a few weeks, the same friend dragged me to Oslo Sportslager to help me buy a road bike in the autumn sales. Having your own bike seemed like a good idea. I ended up with a blue Spcialized Allez. It was cheap and right for the job. It cost just around 6000kr. There were names like Tiagra and Sora on the gears, something that was completely strange, but I didn't waste my energy on understanding that. What was fun now was cycling!
I became a member of IF Frøy. They had winter training at SATS where I live and that was the main reason. Perfect. A short distance, practical. I didn't know anyone there, but that didn't bother me. I arrived at spinning with cycling shorts my wife used when she was active when she was younger. The shorts were 15 years old and had a special pad that had to be moisturised with a special cream to maintain it's softness. After a few washes, they fell to pieces and I bought my own cycle shorts for 90kr. The pad was like a cotton wool ball and had zero effect on me, but it was something I didn't have any knowledge about, so it did the job. The most important thing was that I felt cool.
After a while, spring arrived and I began to cycle with Group 3. They cycled with a speed that suited me well. I went regularly to training and began to think that some race experience would also be a smart move. I took part in Baglerrunden (Tønsberg, 60km), Enebakk Rundt (Oslo, 80km) and Vestfold Rundt (Horten, 165km).The guys I was to cycle the Styrkeprøven with lived in Tønsberg while I lived in Oslo, so I didn't see much of them, but we cycled Baglerrunden and Vestfold Rundt together. I remember having my first fitness peak during Vesftold Rundt. Everything felt right and my body felt really good. It was a warm day and I had two bottles of water, something I understood was not enough for 5 hours on a bike. I went empty before we were in Tønsberg and had a few gruesome Km from there in to the finish. This was an important lesson. Eat and drink during a race. Do not forget that!
We could've cycled Mjøsa Rundt as well, but it didn't fit together with our plans. As a result my buddies took a super long trip in Vestfold while I went off alone and cycled 250km like the training plan said. Suddenly long bike trips were not a challenge any more. My body had adapted to my new lifestyle and things were much easier than before. I used a full day in nice weather and it was good. I thought a lot about Trondheim – Oslo while I cycled.
Preparation for Trondheim
One of the guys I was cycling with, Simen, took care of most of the planning and logistics. His father was our support apparatus and we had even hired in a fine old caravanette. I packed everything I owned in the way of cycling clothes, bottles and the like and was picked up the morning before we started. We drove up to Trondheim and the atmosphere was pretty good. We found a free parking place somewhere and wandered into Trondheim city centre to take in the atmosphere in town. The atmosphere was pretty relaxed. The square was full of life. Loads of sponsors and the like selling bikes and equipment with full stands. The shops were selling everything to desperate cyclists and all of the restaurants were full. Good signs of life. I was looking forward to starting but was very excited at the same time. 9pm was the start time for our group with an expected finishing time of 30 hours. I noticed one guy in military clothes and a steel bike from the army. He started too with that equipment. Impressive or idiocy? I was unsure. I felt that I was the most professional cyclist there, but I wasn't, only psychologically.
The importance of sleep
On the way back to the parking place we noticed that people had parked and were sleeping everywhere. You could hear snoring from cars and caravanettes. Folk were doing it as simple as possible. We went over our bikes, oiled wires and all that good stuff. I had zero knowledge, so I just watched the others and tried to mimic them. At least my bike smelt of oil.
I don't think I slept so well that night. I thought way too much. I wasn't nervous for the distance, more excited really, hoping for sunshine and good weather.
Ready to start
We were pretty stiff the next morning, but we managed to get down some food, filled our bottles with water or that 'Maxim' powder that all the cool guys use. Our driver had worked out the locations for giving us food, fresh bottles and clothes. Our plan was solid. We cycled gently over to the start area and found our group. We were interviewed at the start line and then the cycling began.
Our speed was ok. I felt that we should have given a bit more out of the City Centre, but Lord, we had another 538km left. After 5 km, I took a few sips of water and lost the bottle. That was pretty stupid! I didn't want to stop and pick it up, so I just left it. With a bit of luck, 0.7 l water should keep me going for quite a few hours!
I've cycled the Birken a couple of times after the Styrkeprøven. I'm the type of guy who doesn't know where Kvarstad or the other central points in a race are. I don't feel it's necessary for the actual experience of the race. 'How were you when you passed Skeikampen?'. I just smile and say that it was very nice there. This was similar. I had no idea how far it was to Oppdal, but I remember that it was around 100km.
Everything was going well and we had charged our bottles on the way. My body felt pretty good and the group we were in was cycling well together, nice and tight. We continued to overtake people and that gives you a good feeling. It also felt pretty good as we approached the highest point on the course. Morale was up and we were flowing well. We were watching out for musk ox in the area, now that would have been something! There was a car with a loud speaker on the roof in front for a good while and it was playing loud music. That was fun, you just had to smile and look at the rest of the group. With the good weather, there were plenty of spectators by the side of the road cheering us on and waving. That kind of thing is really good to see. I can't remember any stress regarding passing cars or cars coming towards us. The cars and the cyclists seemed to mix quite smoothly. The guys at the back shouted that there was a car passing, and then we just tightened the group to reduce our width. There were no crashes and no drama.
On the way to Oslo
There was a substantial food station at Dombås. Plenty of soup and snacks getting served in a large tent. Everybody looked tired. We were also tired, but not so tired! I don't think our speed was very fast, but we cycled pretty fast to Dombås from Dovre. Our next psychological goal was Lillehammer which was still a good distance south. I was beginning to get a sore neck and my bum was a bit tender. We had new cycle shorts that we had designed ourselves, but my cheap shorts were in my reserve bag – just in case!
After a while we came to the food station at Kvam. I think I shoveled in 12 slices of bread and two cold chicken thighs. I was desperate. I had an incredible headache, and that together with the neck and the sore bum, became a nightmare. There seemed to be so much pain that I didn't know what I was doing. I have some vague memory of pulling my pants down in the middles of the E6 and emptying a bottle of moisturiser on my skin on the inside of my shorts. That helped a bit. I chewed in a few Ibuprofen for the pain. This wasn't very cool any more, it began to remind me more and more of a test of strength (Styrkeprøve). We noticed a very tall German who cycled well. We decided to throw ourselves on his back wheel. We cycled past Kvitfjell and Hafjell and other recognizable places. The feeling that we knew the geography better felt good – it also reminded us that we were only a 'short' way from home.
Pain and strange noises
I had a few problems with my digestion from here in. A lot of strange noises come out of your body when you don't have control over it anymore. The only thing that helped was to think positive and to know that the guy beside you felt worse than you. I learned that from a neighbor that had cycled the Styrkeprøven with Rye a couple of times. I managed to think those kinds of thoughts. Packing it in was not an option, that was never discussed. I just had to pedal further. It was cold and dark when we passed Brummundal. A huge feeling of exhaustion came over me. It was downright dangerous. There were some steep descents here, with a lot of blind corners. My brain was slow, my contacts were as dry as the Sahara and I couldn't see very well. There was one bloke in front of me, I wanted to be in front due to my poor vision. Suddenly I noticed that the one bloke was actually two people. And then one again. I understood that I was beginning to see double and didn't have a lot of control over my cycling. I remember hitting myself in the face and trying to talk loudly to myself. I was totally out of it, but unbelievably I managed to stay on my bike and stay in the group without destroying myself or anyone else.
Getting close to the finish
I remember we arrived at Eidsvoll. That was good. There was only 40km left? Or was it less? Well, it was actually 60km. I had began to slip up on my arithmetic. Well, we just had to keep pedaling further. Our speed was slow and my body was full of pain. I began to freeze. My body was tired and cold. My legs were extremely stiff. I knew that cramp would break me completely if I moved or made any sudden movement. I sat as still as possible and focused on cycling in the one position.
It was an amazing feeling when we came out on the E6 by Olavsgaard. Only 15km left. That was almost nothing. The rise to the top went fine and I managed to get the lads to catch up with a group a bit further in on the way to the finish. We managed it and it gave us so much strength and happiness. We passed the finish just after 24 hours. An incredible and beautiful feeling. We managed it.
Finished at last
There was a huge marquee after the finish line at Løren. We staggered in there and ate anything that could be eaten. We were tired, fatigued and nauseous. Honestly, I was mostly happy that we completed it. Next years Styrkeprøven wasn't even in our thoughts. I entered again as quickly as I could. You forget quickly in this game.
It was very early morning when I arrived home. I showered and fell asleep naked in an armchair in the living room while the rest of the house woke around me. I was out of it for several hours. Sufficiently exhausted. On the Monday, I got back on my bike and cycled to work. It was fine to get going again. Only a month to the Birken ☺.
The year after I cycled with IF Frøy and a group of around 20 cyclists. A good group that I have cycled a lot with. It was a totally different set up, but really not so different. We cycled down in 21 hours this time and it rained about 530 out of 540km. It was incredibly wet and cold. We froze. I didn't have enough clothes or shoes and over shoes. There was also poor morale in the group during the race. Quite a few wanted to throw in the towel. At Brummundal there are a few long descents. I decided to stretch my legs a bit and increased my cadence considerably, ending up way in front by the bottom of the descent. I cycled slowly so that the others could catch up. I understood, after a while, that they must have stopped as they never passed me. Well, I thought, I wont be hearing about quitting, and just had to cycle the last 140km alone to the finish. I met the odd bloke on the way and managed to get a wheel to cycle behind, but I was mostly alone. It was fine. I could concentrate on myself. The major disadvantage was that I had no support apparatus for food or change of clothing. But 140km is not long, quite short in this case, so it went fine.
When I was showering after the finish, parts of my body exploded that had been so frozen for several hours. My privates were extremely swollen and my skin was cracking also due to sand in my shorts that came from the road and the spray from the bikes in front of me. This was a new experience I hoped not to go through again. In short, painful and frightening. I cycled home from Løren at 0400 in the morning, in the rain and wearing soaked through cycling clothes. I took another quick shower and slept after a while. It was painful to cycle to work on the Monday, but fine to get started – only a month to the Birken!! Again? Next year? No Trondheim – Oslo yest!
I am cycling from Eidsvoll in 2015 and am looking forward to it yet again. No support apparatus and full speed ahead.
Hey – remember that guy in the military uniform that started on the friday night? I saw him roll over the finish line just after me. Totally done and bloodshot eyes. But he did it. He managed it!
Thank you Mr Anthony Joseph Dinning for translating this article. My friend from IF Frøy.