Fjords, boats and forkings: cycling the Haute Route Norway

Tackling a tough, three-day route around Stavanger, Peter Kimpton combats these components to discover a stunning landscape that involves as much sea as land

Garlanded with wispy glooms, jagged mountains rise crisply above glassy lagoons, manifested to sky with such perfection you are almost dizzy with how upside down it all seems. Or is that a mirage- from tired? From the moment 250 cyclists clattered nervously, like scrawny, helmeted fighters on to a boat at 6.45 am to battle through the water in mist and rainwater for 45 instants even before the start, it was clear this “wouldve been” no everyday incident. Cycling in Norway is less touring on region, more an undulating succession of highways and bridges joining breathtaking fjords; a constant push between mountain, ocean and lake.

Haute Routes sportives are always challenging, designed to replicate professional-level ride, except unlike Alpine roads, this inaugural episode is three days long, pleasingly located in one region, the harbour municipality of Stavanger on Norway’s west coast. One hotel, one race hamlet nearby, and three days of circular itineraries. So the logistics were easy, everything close at hand, and the post-ride nutrient and massages were excellent.

A A dank and murky start at Lysebotn, Norway, just off the ship. Photo: Peter Kimpton

But don’t let that convenience clown you, or the road profiles with apparently shorter climbs than numerous in the Alps, Pyrenees, or Dolomites. Day one, beginning with that boat to Tau, also then asked a extremely damp 12 km warm-up go to the official start at Jorpeland before 157 km of relentless ups and downs totalling 2,700 m of ascent- breathtaking in every sense.

Route for Haute Route Norway 2018

I had worried that the longest heatwave since 1976 would make this even tougher, but Norway kindly dropped to a more traditional British 20 C just as we arrived, is supported by that familiar ration of continuous rainwater. The directions overall were wonderfully imagined, dishing out equal dosages of charm and ache, stunning attitudes, wheeling mountains and short, sharp-worded clamber. Unhappily, good first-day visibility weakened the charm and increased the sting, leading to a 40 km final carwash-like slog back to Tau via a final nasty climb.

Riding Riding through the soak on the first day still drew impressing slews of ponds and connections. Picture: Manu Molle

Soreness aside, the second daylight( 125 km/ 2,350 m rising) gradually returned the impressive visibility we implored , not so much on the outgoing barge along one of the most beautiful fjords in Norway to Lysebotn, but improving from Lysefjord bridge and around Pulpit Rock and Kjerag Rock, and then eventually to Sandnes, our destination.

Haute The street around Kjerag Rock brought fantastic sceneries. Picture: Manu Molle

The route’s spectacular fjord base-jumping orientations were also used in the latest Mission Impossible film. Not that we had much time to contemplate this- our own duty hopeless began with a long, harsh climb- nearly 10 km at 9% median gradient, with 20 hairpin bendings. On the method up this included all of us in sole paraphernalium and throbbing like bird-dogs along a red-hot, dark passage for 3km. Never have I been more grateful to see the light.

Ascending Ascending steeply through a long passageway on day two. Image: Manu Molle

Finally at the top, and onwards around Keirag mountain, this turned into a stunning date. It was one to savour from that first top in particular, when a few kilometres of ancestry were untimed to allow for what turned out to be very minimal tourist traffic.

The only gripe of the day was the need to repetition an extra 25 km back to Stavanger after the end of of this stage, which, with a more car-filled, urban centre, was a drag.

The final epoch, a 17.5 km day test from Stavanger harbour was by distinguish a sunshine outburst of adrenalin. Its profile believe that this is flat, but again rarely was, and included three short but lung-busting climbings of well over 20% gradient, pointing with a celebratory sentiment over the city.

Sharp Sharp climbing on the time trial disappeared above 20% gradient. Photograph: Manu Molle

And then suddenly it was all over. I was very pleased to have strategy a short additional stay to enjoy the country, and revisit these views at a more leisurely pace, in better condition by ship or on foot.

Leisure Rest period: the top of the stunning Pulpit Rock, Norway, after a long tread. Picture: Peter Kimpton

Any event like this is full of personal ups and downs, delving deep, going to pitch-dark neighbourhoods, but also wonderful camaraderie and humorous instants. The distinguished guest equestrian was former pro star and now pundit David Millar, going with his wife. He cheerfully shared gallows comedy about the toughness of the course, although he’s hardly out of shape. On the time visitation stagecoach he principally destroyed the rest of the field.

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