Tackling a tough, three-day course around Stavanger, Peter Kimpton battles the elements to discover a stunning landscape that involves as much water as land
Fri 14 Sep 2018
Garlanded with wispy clouds, jagged mountains rise sharply above glassy lakes, reflected to sky with such perfection you are almost dizzy with how upside down it all appears. Or is that a mirage – from exhaustion? From the moment 250 cyclists clattered nervously, like skinny, helmeted warriors on to a ferry at 6.45am to battle through the water in mist and rain for 45 minutes even before the start, it was clear this would be no ordinary event. Cycling in Norway is less travelling on land, more an undulating series of roads and bridges linking breathtaking fjords; a constant movement between mountain, sea and lake.
Haute Routes sportives are always challenging, designed to replicate professional-level riding, except unlike Alpine routes, this inaugural event is three days long, pleasingly located in one place, the harbour city of Stavanger on Norway’s west coast. One hotel, one race village nearby, and three days of circular routes. So the logistics were easy, everything close at hand, and the post-ride food and massages were excellent.
A dank and misty start at Lysebotn, Norway, just off the boat. Photograph: Peter Kimpton But don’t let that convenience fool you, or the route profiles with apparently shorter climbs than many in the Alps, Pyrenees, or Dolomites. Day one, beginning with that ferry to Tau, also then required a very damp 12km warm-up ride to the official start at Jørpeland before 157km of relentless ups and downs totalling 2,700m of ascent – breathtaking in every sense.