Charity Bike Ride - Sognefjord 2017 Posted by Matt in Out in Nature on 30th August 2017

In August 2017, I joined a team of 11 cyclists to cycle the length of Norway's Sognefjord, Norway's longest and the second longest in the world, and then after that 2-day warm up, also over the top of Tindevegen mountain. The ride was in aid of the children's charity World at Play, which takes teams of young volunteers to refugee camps and children's homes in Europe to deliver and structured play programmes.

The team met in Bergen and was made up of riders of all abilities and a range of ages from 30 to 60. The ride was very ably supported by volunteers from World at Play who led the ride and kept us fed, safe and cycling in the correct direction. Many riders had some form of personal connection to World at Play and the work that they do.

I will admit to being more than a bit apprehensive at the thought of 3 days in the saddle, two of which involved longer distances than I had ever cycled before and all of which involved more metres climbed then I have ever done before. The most daunting prospect being the 30km climb from sea level to the top of Tindevegen at 1350m, involving over 1550m of climbing. But, having done the training, borrowed a bike and committed myself to the challenge I was determined to enjoy the experience and do my best.


 

Day 1 stared from picturesque Aksavatnet lake just outside Leirvik at the western end of the fjord. Stage 1 would take us along the northern edge of Sogneford to Vadheim, via Lavik.  The weather in western Norway can be very challenging, which is why Skogstad design clothes to meet these challenges. I have to admit, though, that on Days 1 and 2 the weather was fantastic and Sognefjord could be seen in all its glory.  It made the long days in the saddle so much more enjoyable. 

From Vadheim we cycled through Kyrkjebo to Hoyanger, hugging the banks of the fjord. I am told some of the team saw a pod of porpoises here but I was too busy looking where I was going to witness them. At Hoyanger we had to jump back into the minibus to travel through a 7km tunnel. This ride would not be possible with the support of World at Play as several tunnels cannot be cycled through. The last 10km of the 120km cycled on Day 1 were through the charming town of Balestrand and looping around Esefjorden to Dragsvik, and a view of the glacier, where we stayed the night. This 10km was so beautiful and distracting that we didn't feel any of the heaviness in the legs that you would expect after 5 hours of cycling. 


We started Day 2 with a quick ferry across to Hella and another day of hugging the norther shoreline of the fjord in warm sunshine. A very enjoyable 36km leg took us through Leikanger to Sogndal. That took us to first real climb of the ride, a sharp climb of around 200m followed by a fast, zig-zagging descent into the lovely village of Solvorn. This was a real highlight of the ride. From Solvorn we hopped on a small ferry to Urnes and one of the quietest parts of Sognefjord.  At Urnes we took a short detour up to their stavkirke (stave church) dating from 1150AD. This was described to me as “a wall” and the 5-minute 14% climb was one of the biggest challenges of the ride. With the resultant less steady legs we completed the last of the 95km to Skjolden at the top of Lustrafjorden and the end of Sogneford. 

So, having cycled 220km and the length of the fjord, Day 3 brought the biggest challenge of all – a 30km climb from sea level to the top of Tindevegen via Turtagro. Tindevegen is around 1330m and the climb involves around 1550m of ascents. Stage 1 is an 850m climb at 8% from Fortun to Turtagro via a series of switchbacks and then longer straighter climbs once you get beyond the trees. For me, I just had to find a rhythm and grind out the metres. The stop at the Hotel in Turtagro could not have come at a better time after 73 minutes of relentless effort. 

 

 


Day 3 saw the weather closing in so we had to make a quick turn around and prepare for the elements for the second stage up to Tindevegen. Another 650m of climbing with a steep 175m descent just before the final 200m wall up to the top. This stage was competed in driving rain, intense cold and a very strong headwind which made the challenge all the greater. I will admit that I won’t have beaten any records up the last climb but I never stopped enjoying the experience. At the top, we were met by the incredible support team and the quickest riders and took the chance to put on many warm layers.

The 20km descent into Ovre Ardal has to be one of the most enjoyable rides in Europe.Or at least it would be in the warm and dry. The road twists and turns dramatically and can be seen snaking away below you.

It was a huge privilege to be cycling this most beautiful part of Norway for World at Play.  The company and support from all the riders and volunteers was wonderful and it is great to know that every penny raised will be going directly to their work with refugees in the Balkans and Bulgaria this autumn. 

More details can be found at www.worldatplay.org.uk and www.worldatplayride.com 

It was an amazing and unforgettable experience.

 

 

Tags: Skogstad, Sognefjord, charity, biking, outdoors, cycling, Norway, World at Play

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