By Julius Strömberg – Ride Organizer
From the ranches on the western banks of Lake Vänern to the dense and dark forests by the border of Norway; the mountains of Kroppefjäll and Baljåsen to the thousands of small tarns everywhere you go, Dalsland is a vast undiscovered region in the south of Sweden. It is a perfect spot for cyclists searching for rolling hills and endless gravel roads.
The Swedish Prince Eugen once called the region a ‘Sweden in miniature’: it has rustling forests, sparkling waters, steep mountains, fertile plains and a long coastline to the great lake. Unsurprisingly, Dalsland has always been a holiday retreat, mostly attracting German campers and Norwegian shoppers. Germans come here to hike, bike or cruise the Dalsland Canal, while Norwegians cross the border to buy meat, butter and beers. Less than 50,000 people live in Dalsland and most of them live in the towns of Åmål, Mellerud, Bengtsfors and Ed, meaning a lot of open air and a lot of places for exploration.
For riding, there is a diverse mix of beautiful tarmac, nice and small gravel and moss-covered paths leading to nowhere. The best thing about cycling in Dalsland is the lack of cars: you can end up riding in the middle of the road, chattering with a friend for hours on end. It’s perfect to get lost in.
By Johan Björklund – Rapha Europe Ambassador and Ride Organizer
In the Summer of 2011 three of us from the Wenersborgs Racer Club in Sweden rode parts of the renowned Dalslandsleden cycle route for the first time. We were used to doing 30-40km rides, but our ambitious plan was to do 276km in two days. We didn’t really know what we were doing and, after a late start, my brother ended up riding into a ditch in complete darkness and pouring rain on the notoriously serpentine Brudfjällsvägen.
We soon realized that there must be better and more exciting roads to discover, so in 2012 we created our own route, with five of us riding 193 kilometers. A tradition had begun and by last year we had 30 participants riding 400 kilometers. We traversed small gravel roads, ate fantastic food in Upperud and had a great time. So, in 2015 we’re doing it again. A new route, probably the best one yet: a nice mix between small winding tarmac roads and even smaller gravel roads. It’s as far away as possible from an organized race – it’s all about having fun on the forgotten roads of Dalsland.
THE 2015 EVENT
By Ricky Buckenlei – Rapha Europe Marketing Manager
Day 1 – The warm up
The Dalsland Runt went international this year with riders coming from the US, Netherlands, Norway, Germany, Hungary, Denmark and France to take part. Starting on a cloudy Friday afternoon, and with bags dropped in the support car, most of the 67km participants forgot the ride-not-race rules and charged their way up to Håverud 79km away, where everyone would be staying for the following two nights. While the weather turned out to be fantastic on the Friday evening, the forecast for the weekend was terrible, to the extent that nobody even spoke of it. Curtains closed for the evening, we hoped for the best.
Day 2 – The hundred ways to ride through cold, wet, remote roads.
It started raining in the middle of the night and the temperatures dropped with it. In the morning, debates about the best clothing strategies could be overheard on every breakfast table. Most of us decided to go for longsleeve / shortsleeve and arm warmers, plus rain or softshell jacket and plastic bags plus oversocks for the feet. It took less than 30km before my shoes turned into little swimming pools, however, and my hands were cold to the bone. The only option was to keep going – by myself though, as it was easier to keep up the motivation alone than looking into the freezing faces of the other riders.
At the food stop after 60km everybody was in the same position, cold and completely wet. It was also the point where some people decided to turn around and head back. Others opted for a shortcut while most continued on the original route. I changed socks, plastic bags and overshoes and jumped back on the bike hoping to warm up soon. We kept riding, strong and calm, trying to make smart decisions, but it wasn’t until after 145km that we could warm up and have some more food, at the fancy restaurant of a golf course. Walking in wearing our soaking wet and muddy clothes, the waiter offered us food but only if we ate it while standing. A hamburger, fries, coke and coffee later, rainy Dalsland looked a lot nicer than before.
Day 3 – We had sun, we had rain, we had wind!
At breakfast on the last day of the 2015 Dalsland Runt there were a lot of very tired faces and legs. The originally planned route of 143km back to Vänersborg could be shortened to a little over 60km going the direct way. Some people did that. We stuck to the original route though, as we had no other plans for the day other than to finally eat pizza in Vänersborg and check in at a local hotel before heading home on Monday. The Swedish scenery showed off its beauty with blue lakes, green meadows and occasionally a red painted farm house. It would have been idyllic, if it weren’t for the extremely strong headwinds that made riding in a group an absolute necessity. In several mini-pelotons we all finally made it back to Vänersborg and crammed into the only place open and serving food: a Pizza Plus takeaway.
THE VIEW FROM OUTSIDE
By Julien Verlay – Rapha Europe Ambassador
Coming from France, the Dalsland Runt was a unique experience for me. Vast forests and amazing roads that I hadn’t even dreamed could exist lay ahead of our multinational group. On the Saturday the rain, the sand and the mud were with us all day. The Swedish mountains were revealed to us too, along with the cold and the wind. It was beautiful but it was hard. On the Sunday we had the sun with us too. My brake pads had worn down by then but no matter, what an adventure! Thanks Johan and the Swedish guys for organizing it. Nature opened its arms to us – Dalsland Runt is for outdoors lovers.