Words by Henrik Jappe.
The gravel scene has reached Denmark. The small Nordic country without mountains, but lots of happy people, world class craft beer, ice cream, small forests and castles everywhere. But how the hell do you combine these things to 120km gravel rouleur?
We arrived to a small town 60km outside Copenhagen in the northern part of Sealand, the place where Hansen Ice cream has made superb ice cream for three generations. At registration we noticed that the finish area had several food trucks; craft beer, BBQ food, hamburgers, coffee and of course ice cream. 120km can be hard, very hard, and we wondered if we could do a race like this in reverse. Eat and drink first and then try to bike 120km. “DNF ate to much”, DNS got drunk” on the list?
Start at 10:00, and at exactly 10:04 Danish-style the race was on. 22km neutralized start with a big ice cream truck in front, helicopter over our heads, media crews and all the usual incontinence guys along the road. Normally the peloton is very nervous, but today everybody was talking like we all knew each other – that´s Denmark. But soon that should change!
As the smell of gravel and wood came closer, the peloton became nervous with racers moving to the front. No more peeing, and a little shouldering here and there. The Vikings were on the move!
As soon as the race marshal waved the flag there was gravel everywhere and the race was frantic. Everyone held on for about 10km and then we settled in small groups until the first singletrack. There the amateurs – that´s all of us except two guys way out in the front – with small slick race tires were doomed, but we went on full -peed on our 36 mm Clémént Xplor tubeless set-ups.
After about 30km, the first ice cream feed zone showed up. OK it was a hot day, but ice cream at 11:00 was not our idea and we wanted more speed and berms. The parcours took us through small beautiful forests, along the Mølleåen (åen = creek) – further on to The Royal Store Dyrehaven (Great Deer Park – old royal hunting grounds) with more singletrack and more casualties on thin tires.
The middle feed zone was just after The Royal Summer Residence at 67km and was a neutralized zone. Time to enjoy ice cream, sandwiches, cold drinks and coffee. We spent about 15 minutes there talking to people and enjoying the beautiful view of Esrum Lake.
Full and heavy, we hit a small hill, tried to make good speed again but nobody wanted to break the wind so we broke free of the peloton. Alone for the rest of the race with a small head wind and big guns 55km is good training. On my rear wheel I heard Esben whining about speed, hills, wind and hurting legs – I had to do the echelon alone.
In the last 10km Esben found his Jedi, and we flew in at 4 hours and 17 minutes, finishing 25th out of 250. Winner of the race was pro rider Sebastian Fini Carstensen from the BBB Superior Bart Brentjens mountain bike team in 3:44. Fastest woman was Anne-Sofie Noergaard from Team Hansens Floedeis / POC in 4:10.
On now, not in reverse, food, cold beer, BBQ, ice cream, coffee, music and good friends. Repeat next year – oh yes!
I bike therefore I am.