How Not to Do Your First Vätternrundan!

Authors: Roxana Cremer and Maura Dewey

This is the tale of two PhD students and novice cycling aficionados who, despite never having raced or biked more than 130 km at once, managed to finish their first 315 km Vätternrundan race.

Part 1: The Training Plan

Around this time last year, we began to seriously consider what we needed to do to complete the Vätternrundan. With a team registered and a fantastic kit sponsor in Sigr, all that was left was to devise a training plan. Our preparation goals included:

  • Undergoing a fitness test to ascertain our heart rate zones
  • Adhering to a weekly training schedule
  • Learning team riding techniques
  • Cycling for 200 km to gauge the feeling
  • Biking for 8 hours to see the distance covered

Spoiler Alert: We commenced strongly, conducting a fitness test in the second week of January. However, we only managed to achieve goals 1 and 3 before the race.

Part 2: Training Reality

Winter training began promisingly with gym visits for strength exercises and interval sessions, supplemented by weekends filled with hiking and nordic skiing. Without indoor trainers, creativity was key during too-cold-for-cycling weather. Although we didn't accumulate the miles we intended, with four months to the race, time seemed ample.

A makeshift training camp in Mallorca during Easter marked the start of our outdoor season. It was a blend of challenging mountain climbs, iconic routes like Cap de Formentor, and a stay in a quaint guest house in Caimari. Despite some routes being closed and Maura experiencing a crash (fortunately, without injury), it was an enjoyable experience that finally allowed for significant team kilometers.

Training faltered in late spring as Maura departed for work in London and I was engrossed in my PhD thesis due June 30th. My life revolved around sleep, eating, thesis writing, and cycling. Group rides around Stockholm introduced me to team riding dynamics, including the occasional flat tire - twice in one Saturday!

Part 3: The Race

With increased stress and fewer kilometers than hoped for, we adjusted our goals upon arriving in Motala. The initial 12-hour completion target was replaced with simply finishing.

Our race began at 5:20 AM on Saturday. Our detailed plan accounted for elevation, aid station distances, carb intake per hour, and pace management. Despite plans, we started fast, averaging over 30 km/h in the first 100 km.

After the first stop at Ödeshög, teaming up with another duo helped us appreciate cycling's team spirit. The first half was swift, aided by clear weather and efficient rest stops, including a substantial break in Hjo for lasagna.

Post-lunch, as pairs, we navigated through groups, joining a team for a stretch before taking a restful nap at Åkersund. The ensuing segment was solitary and challenging, leading up to a rejuvenating draft behind a group of seasoned riders towards the end.

Crossing the finish line at 19:00, we surpassed our adjusted expectations with an 11 hour and 20-minute finish. The journey was a testament to the camaraderie among cyclists and our resilience against training hitches. Special thanks to Sigr for their support, making us feel united and easing the day-long saddle experience. We look forward to 2024's starting line!

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