by Rikke Bak Dalgaard, elite road cyclist
I’m back home in sunny Copenhagen and have just finished a ride on my time trial bike in 26 degrees. A big contrast to the last days in Iceland with less than 10 degrees.
Team Integra Advokater – Giant was once again invited to join this spectacular race in the north. You can read about the tour of 2017 here. This year five of the guys and three of the girls were ready to race Tour of Reykjavik.
I went to Iceland one day earlier than the rest of the team because of sold out seats with WOW Air on the plane, so on Wednesday I went to the airport after only four days home. This month has been crazy with travelling. I have been out of home 17 days out of the last 26 days starting with my trip to Stockholm and Tour of Uppsala in the beginning of May.
Well, I landed in Keflavik Airport at 14:00 local time (Iceland is two hours behind Danish time in the summer and one hour in the winter – because they don’t use daylight summer time). I thought my bike case was lost, but they found it between the “transfer bags”. Then I took the bus to Reykjavik and was picked up by our host who lived in Kópavogur.
I unpacked my bike and went for a ride, but I still haven’t found my inner compass, so of course I was lost a few times. The weather was cold and grey, and I was not happy with having to wear my winter kit again, but it was nice with some serious hills, a different and beautiful scenery and company by a lot of Icelandic horses. I love their special gait.
Thursday, I wanted to go for ride ending downtown Reykjavik for a coffee and a snack. It was not easy getting there! The thing about Iceland is that they do have paths for cyclists, but they don’t follow the road for cars and they split several times along the way, so it’s very different to figure out the direction. In the end I succeeded and had a happy coffee stop with myself.
In the afternoon the rest of the team arrived. While they went for a ride, I made dinner. And when they got back, I was somewhat delighted to hear, that I was not the only one having trouble getting around in Iceland.
Tour of Reykjavik started on Friday with a stage of 125 kilometers at 18:00 in the evening. This time of the year it never really gets dark because the sunset is around midnight and sun rises again around 03:00.
The unfortunate thing about the late start was that it was difficult for us to do sightseeing. Iceland is a big island of 103.000 square meters (with 10% covered by glacier) and 334.000 inhabitants (120.000 of them living in Reykjavik) and we didn’t have the time to go on a road trip. Instead we went downtown Reykjavik, looked at the streets, the church ‘Hallgrimskirkja’ and had a coffee and a snack at a local bakery.
But let’s get back to the race…
The start was from the city center and we were divided into groups of Men A, Women A, Men B and Women B. We had to stay in our groups for the master but after that drafting was allowed. We were only nine women in the A-class so even though I think it doesn’t make a fair race with drafting, it wouldn’t have been a race anyway with a peloton of only nine riders.
Almost all information was in Icelandic and I had no clue of how long the master would be. It took 45 minutes! And the car leading the master was not used to the job as he kept speeding up and hitting the breaks hard.
When the race was finally set free (as we say in Danish) we were quickly overtaken by the Men’s B-class. None of the women did anything, so I said to my team mate, Katrine, that we should just stay with the other women and race without the men.
But the second I had finished my sentence, a woman passed me to follow the men. “Screw it!” I thought and followed, passed and kept jumping from wheel to wheel, closing gaps for groups further ahead until I made it to a group of men where I was not able to go faster alone.
It took me a lot of effort and I didn’t have any of the other women with me, so I decided to stay in this group. But then there was a long hill and I couldn’t follow the men. “Damn it!”
I tried to close the gap, but I couldn’t and after some time alone I had company from behind by a group of men including my team manager, David. I was happy to see him but unfortunately, he told me that one of the other women was also in the group now. Double “damn it!”
David and I decided to make it a race and tried to get rid of both the other men and the woman. David set the pace high several times to make the others tired. We counterattacked each other and used the crosswinds, but every time we had a little gap, the men paced the woman back. I was starting to get tired of all the attacks, but David kept pushing and finally, after about an hour of trying, we made the final and conclusive gap.
We were then on our own for more than an hour overtaking a few single riders on our way. No one could follow David’s pace and I also struggled a bit, making me able to only take a few leads. I was constantly afraid of being caught by the woman behind me. She was with three men when we made the gap, so it was two against four.
When we reached the famous climb, Nesjavallabrekkan, which was a 3 kilometers climb of 7% in average peaking on 23%, I was so tired I felt I was standing still and would have given my right arm for a 32 cassette instead of my 28, but 36/28 gearing had to do the job to the top. I talked and complained all the way up just to focus on something else than the pain in my legs.
After the climb and descent, it was a little up and down and a whole lot of boring straight with only a giant water pipe to look at. The wind was quite strong, so I was happy that we caught a group after the descent.
But I was still afraid of being caught from behind, so I told David, that I thought the group was a bit too slow. As a result, David went to the front with me on his wheel. A few minutes later we had dropped the group. We were again alone for some time until we reached another group of three riders that was riding an acceptable pace and we established a great teamwork.
It was not until now I discovered that the route was changed to 116 kilometers instead of 125, but it made me relax according to getting caught and I could see an end to my suffering. I had pushed myself to the limit several times and I was very happy that David made sure I came through safely.
I crossed the finish line as a lonely majesty with my arms in the air almost seven minutes in front of number two. And after the finish I was interviewed and felt like a pro for a few minutes.
We were back at the house and having dinner around 23:00 and I couldn’t sleep until 3:00 at night but woke up next day at 7:00. Not optimal for another race day.
We went to a swimming pool before stage 2 on Saturday. Iceland is filled with hot springs and their swimming pools have several outside jacuzzies. I tried one with 42-44 degrees warm water and that was hot! But it was nice to heat up the body in the cold and relax the muscles.
Race start was again in downtown Reykjavik. The course was only 12,5 kilometers and we had to go four laps. The last two kilometers was a bit technical with a few corners, cobblestones, bumps and one narrow road. The rest was easy, flat and wide roads. There was headwind and tailwind, and no one would or could get away from the bunch.
I sat in a big group of men with most of the other women. I had no reason to be offensive since I was the race leader and my closest opponent apparently didn’t want to try to get time on me, so it was a very boring race. I decided to help my two team mates just to do something and I wanted to ride our Icelandic rider, Kristin Edda, to victory on home soil.
In the final things got hectic and in a group with a lot of amateurs there is almost guarantee for a crash. People around me started to ride into each other and I thought “there will be a crash soon” and then it happened in the front.
One rider down and the domino-effect took place. Riders were falling on both sides of me and I started to hit the brakes but then I thought of the many riders behind me and miraculously I found a way through the bikes and riders on the ground without crashing myself.
Only a few riders did the same but luckily also Kristin Edda, so I pedaled hard and told her to stay on my wheel. She did until the last few hundred meters and then switched to a man’s wheel before sprinting and crossing the line as the winner. I came in second. Our team mate, Katrine, was caught behind the crash but still managed to get a 4th place.
As a team we took the overall win in both the Men A and Women A category. We also took the overall 3rd place in both genders and took four stage wins besides my QOM. Our team manager took the overall win in the men’s B category as well as two stage wins and the win in his age-group. He was on fire! And maybe in category A next time.
The prize ceremony took forever (almost two hours of freezing) so it was too late to go home and shower before dinner, and we went straight from podium to eating burgers and lots of fries. The complex 10 kilometers ride back to the house with full stomachs and a hilly, rainy course was interesting.
Back at the house we celebrated further with packing and midnight tea and cake.
We had to leave for the airport at 4:00 in the morning, so again I only had three hours of sleep. I took two hours more on the plane and didn’t sleep more that day. Last night I made up for it with 11 hours in bed!