Hundreds of excited cyclists gathered at the Clarion Hotel in Stavanger today to collect their rider packets and bib numbers for this weekend’s Haute Route Norway. The once-in-a-lifetime experience of riding through Ryfast Tunnel was one many riders’ minds.
The 14-kilometre Ryfast Tunnel will soon open to car traffic, but before it does, Haute Route secured exclusive access for the start of Haute Route Norway Stage 1. Descending to a depth of 292 metres (958 feet) below sea level, the tunnel is the deepest and longest undersea road tunnel in the world, and features an expansive cave or hall two kilometers from the bottom, which is lit to make it seem even larger. This may be the only time an undersea tunnel like this is open to cyclists, and riders were excited for the opportunity.
The climb out of the tunnel isn’t easy, averaging about 7%, and doesn’t end when riders reach the sunlight. Rather, it continues on Heia at an elevation of 280 metres (918 feet) above sea level, making the first climb of Haute Route Norway a 572 metre (1876 foot) ascent from bottom to top!
“Haute Route always aims to create unique experiences for cyclists,” said Helmer Berre, who is a Norwegian Haute Route Ambassador and one of the Lanterne Rouge riders for the event. “Cycling through the deepest and longest undersea road tunnel is something that may never happen again. Once this tunnel is open for cars, it won’t be shut down again for a cycling event.”
Once out of the tunnel, riders will be treated to Norway’s beautiful landscapes as they complete either the 142-kilometre Original course or the 105-kilometre Compact course. Both finish in Jørpeland before a short ride to Tau to catch a ferry back to Stavanger for a post-stage massage and a relaxing afternoon.
Charlie Rowland, an Infinity Pass rider who on track to ride 8 Haute Route events in 2019, is looking forward to a different type of riding in Norway. “Based on the course, I think riders may stay together in larger groups, compared to more mountainous events where the peloton splinters more,” he said. “It will be fun to work together in pace lines, chat, and get to know more people.”
The event kicked off on Thursday afternoon with a warmup spin led by Haute Route Ambassadors Helmer Berre and Nic Frank. About 50 riders joined them to work the travel out of their legs and explore the sights around Stavanger. Following the opening rider briefing and traditional Pasta Party, riders stayed and chatted as they made final preparations for a great weekend of cycling in Norway.