Tjejvättern Adventure!

(First training ride… you can see from our clothing that it was not warm in Stockholm yet)

Back around Christmas time, one of my friends mentioned to a group of us that she was going to ski the Kristinaloppet – a thirty kilometer cross-country ski event – and asked if any of us wanted to do it with her. I’ll admit I was tempted to say yes but given the fact that I’d never even stood on cross-country skis, I thought better of it (well, my husband told me I was crazy to even entertain the thought) and politely declined. A week or two later the same friend asked if we would be interested in doing a 100km bike race/ride in June. This was more doable and sounded fun and I had plenty of time to train, albeit during the cold, icy, Swedish, winter months. At least in the beginning of our training period. Was I completely crazy?

(Spring training ride… much better :-))
Perhaps yes, perhaps no. But in the end, five of us, plus one and then minus one closer to the race, ended up making it to Motala for the Tjejvättern. In one car with five bikes and five girls, and we not only survived but conquered the race. We all finished in under five hours, which was the originally estimated time we had allowed ourselves, with stops.

(Three bikes on the back and five girls and two bikes inside… ready to roll!)

What began as a fitness goal turned into one of the neatest bike adventures I’ve been on. Closer to the race we discussed going up the day before to avoid having to get up with the chickens and drive there the day of the race, for our 10:48 a.m. start time. The race was to take place in Motala, Sweden, which is a couple hours drive from Stockholm. Unfortunately the hotel we had booked for Saturday night was now full on Friday so one of the (very resourceful) girls (K) just happened to find Kullagården – a farm bed & breakfast with a room large enough to accommodate the five of us, with an extra cot. I was apprehensive at first but staying there turned out to be one of the most awesome experiences during our trip.

(Cow greeters, as we drove up to the farm… Kullagården Bed & Breakfast)
 (Hay!!! Early morning grazers the next day)
(Entrance to the bed and breakfast)
(The Barn)

Kulla Skattegård, as it is called, runs an ekologisk, or organic, farm and horse hotel. Breakfast, towels, sheets, our own bathroom, and cow greeters included. And the proprietor went above and beyond to ensure our stay and experience was comfortable and pleasant, allowing us to lock our bikes in their garage over night and even printing out a race start card for one of us who accidentally left it on the printer at home. She even gave us directions the “back way” to Motala which took us through more beautiful farm land. It was a wonderfully peaceful start to our day.

(Got my kit on and ready to roll!)

Once in Motala, we managed to find parking and get to the start just in the nick of time. And that was arriving early, so we thought. Most of the race took us through country, farm land where we were unfortunately forced to share the road with cars, and even a street sweeper in one stretch of road. (There were some curse words uttered during this leg of the ride). However, the “mountain stage,” as I like to call it, was absolutely beautiful… quiet… and peaceful… as we wound up… and then down… the mountain through sunny and pine-tree, shaded spots. Lovely!

(This photo is courtesy of C – one of the gals on my “team”)

I felt strong throughout the race but once we hit the 70km mark I was ready to be rid of my clipless pedals and the shoes that were attached to them. It’s funny that they are called clipless pedals, when the shoes are actually clipped into them. My shoulders were also complaining and every so often I stood up on my pedals to give my bum a breather from sitting on the hard, unapologetic sadle. But once I reached that 10km left marker I was given a burst of energy and spunk and I sailed into the finish. 
(M, G, Me, C & K – Photo courtesy of C)

We hung around Motala in the afterglow of our finish for a short while, lounging near the water front or in the lush, green lawn of the park, before we got back on the road for Linköping and the much awaited and longed for hot showers and clean, non-bicycle clothing. The restaurant, Riva, that a friend of a friend had recommended to us just so happened to be located right across the street from our hotel in Gamla Linköping. How convenient! We dined on some of the most delicious pizza I’ve had. And being a connoisseur of pizza I truly feel that my opinion is accurate. I had a pizza appropriately named, La Favorita, only without the oxfile (meat). We finished the evening with a stroll around Stortorget (the big square), an ice cream cone, and a visit to the hotels roof top.

(Riva – Restaurant recommended by one of K’s friends – It was awesome!)
(La Favorita – without “oxfile,” or beef)

A few more photos from our visit to Linköping the evening and day after the race…

(Cykelparkering (bike parking) Before)

(Cykelparkering After)

(One of the many churches around Gamla (Old) Linköping)
(A rooftop sneak peek at our hotel – Best Western Linköping)
(A cool exhibit of “dreams” along a wall by the water)
(The entire wall – it was really fun to read the dreams of people from ages 2 through 80+)
(Linköping)

It was an awesome adventure… 

On My Bike… 

but this time with Friends and a Cast Iron Will!

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