Today was the dreaded day three –its the day that always seems the longest, most fraught and where things go wrong, we get lost, double back, things break or breakdown and tempers fray because the fatigue really kicks in at around the 250/300km mark. Ride time is always the same (about five to six hours) but the overall day tends to be double that.
This time things were different somewhat. There was still the fatigue and moments of internalized frustration from everyone but the day was an overall success – 105km in just over five hours.
The morning had started with slightly dull heads from the 5.5% beers and screw top bottle of Chilean Merlot with the pasta the previous evening. We then woke to discover that local raccoons had decided that they would rather have the Belvita biscuits for breakfast than us.
Departing Ostermalm and another beautiful lakeside resort, we were soon in the middle of more typical Scandinavian style forest with its pine and birch trees. Monday morning Rush hour was very unlike the London version we’re used to. Here it consists of the occasional articulated lorry full of fresh cut trees and the occasional Volvo estate pulling out of deep woodland, leaving us wondering who they’d just buried there.
Swedish roads tend to be really (really) straight, which can add to the occasional monotony that kicks in on a ride like this. On distance roads like this, you really do tune into this as the road can suddenly take you – a slight downhill, a low traction and a tailwind and you can suddenly find yourself flying at 50/60kmh. The converse of uphill, poor quality tarmac and headwind can slow you by up to 20% and drain your mood and energy so when you get the chance to move, you take it.
As you move through these hidden forests, there are countless typically Swedish red painted cottages and summer houses. Most of them have immaculately tended gardens that house most of Sweden’s senior population. It’s unknown how people shop and eat - other than perhaps trapping a local elk - as you can go miles before you find the occassional Spar or Lidl (even further for a decent coffee or lunch).
Mid-afternoon the rain hit, leaving everyone and everything sodden. This was enough to tip two of us over the edge and decide it was time for a solid structure. Two nights in tents had pushed Simon and I to the limit. For me, camping parallels booking a Ryanir flight – more last resort versus choice. For Simon, it’s his first experience of doing this and he’s very easy and goes with the flow. However, after crying himself to sleep the previous two nights in his undersized tent (he’s 6ft 4in) we both colluded to rent a a building on arrival in Vaxjo with walls, electricity and heat, while hardy Sam opted again for canvas. The next two days are going to total nearly 250km so a night of proper recovery felt in order.
Starting Monday morning with sunshine, beautiful pine forest and only the sounds of the forest. Successfully hitting over 100km on day three. A beautiful lakeside lunch. The 20km stretch of converted railway line converted into dedicated bike path. A hoofing tail wind that probably made our journey 10/15% easier and quicker. Apparently hitting a top speed of 94kmh on a downhill - probably morelike 64 but I’ll take it.
The realisation that Gaviscon is not only a permanent part of you medi-kit these days but the most used.