Teamwork was the name of the game right from the beginning of Stage 2 of Haute Route Norway. The day started with getting everyone – and their bikes - aboard two ferries bound for Lysebotn. After climbing the Lysebotn ascent, riders formed into groups of 10-20 riders to power through the scenic valleys on the way to the finish.
The opening climb was a bit of a shock to some riders with tired legs, but they quickly found their rhythm on the 27 switchbacks that took them from sea level to 881 metres, and then on to the high point of the day at 932 metres above sea level.
Joel Brown, a rider who has experienced the famed switchbacks of Alpe d’Huez, commented, “The opening climb was a lot like Alpe d’Huez, just steeper and also steadier. When climbing Alpe d’Huez, you think about all the riders who have been there before. This one is great, it just isn’t as well known.”
After the initial climb, the narrow single-lane road traversed the rocky landscape above tree line, providing panoramic views of surrounding peaks. From this high point, the narrow and twisting road dropped quickly to reach the valley below.
Asked for his impressions of his first time cycling in Norway, David Ward commented, “The road surface is really nice, and the scenery is outstanding. And the drivers are great. I’ve never ridden in a place where drivers see you descending and pull over to let you pass!”
Once the twisty descent was over, the road widened (slightly) and straightened out, but was still a gradual descent. Sensing the opportunity to work together, riders regrouped into pace lines of about 10-20 cyclists and set off down the valley.
The third feed station, at 85 kilometres, marked the finish for the Compact course, with another 38 kilometres – and two short but substantial climbs, plus the ramp to the finish line – left for the Original course riders. Stan Beraznik faced a dilemma: “I rode the Compact because I brought my family to Norway on vacation. I can ride the shorter stages and spend time with them. But the course and the weather today are great, and riding with the group is fun. Maybe I’ll just keep riding…” In the end, Stan chose the family vacation over riding more kilometres, and maintained his overall lead in the Male Compact course competition.
Original course riders were keen to leave the third feed station with a group, knowing there were more valley roads ahead, where a pace line would help the kilometres tick by faster. However, there were also three sharp climbs in the final 38 kilometres, which added to the challenge of staying with the group.
At the finish line, riders who split up over the final climbs reconnected to compare notes and swap stories. David Dokakis, who thought himself more suited to pulling on the flats than soaring through the hills, was greeted cheerfully by a rider who finished behind him on Stage 2: “So, you are a climber today, or still a sprinter?”
In truth, Dokakis said he is looking forward to tomorrow’s Stage 3 individual time trial, a nearly 18-kilometre test that features a mix of terrains, including short ramps of more than 15% in the final kilometre. You can preview one of the steepest sections of the final climb in this video from this year’s Hammer Series pro cycling event. Haute Route Norway will pass through the finish line used by Hammer Series, and then turn left to tackle another steep ramp to our finish line!