One day bike events are getting more and more popular – the sportive culture continues to grow and with that comes high expectations, high entry fees and a big range of riding abilities. Prudential Ride London 100, the cycling equivalent of the London Marathon will be into it’s 5th year in 2017 and is already oversubscribed by about 2:1 entries to places. These big events can be awesome, with great atmospheres and you’re often riding on closed roads which are an absolute treat. But for every big event there’s usually a better, much smaller one. You just have to seek it out.
Race Across Skåne is a small scale event where riders and racers cycle from Malmo, on the west coast of Sweden, over to the coast on the east and back. It’s an unsanctioned brevet ride with four checkpoints and you make your own way, unsupported, to each point where you pick up a stamp on your brevet card. It’s basically orienteering but on two wheels. There’s no prize for first back to Malmo but there is an enforced one hour lunch stop once you reach the coast. Three of us liked the sound of this schedule, which revolved around a half way food stop, and signed up. The daunting mileage was also eclipsed by the fact that registration opened to women a week before general sign-ups. It sold out within a few days.
It’s basically orienteering but on two wheels
We headed over to Sweden from London after work on Friday, two of us collected loaner bikes from a friend and met at the local bike shop the following morning. It was all very fluid and very surreal, rocking up at what seemed to be the main hub of the cycling community in Malmo. We were greeted with perfectly brewed coffee, on the house, and smiles from new faces.
The ‘riders’ had already left a couple of hours earlier – opting to take the route at a steadier pace, and that meant we joined the ‘racers’ who were signing on and collecting their brevet cards. Others were fettling with their bikes or packing extra tubes after some talk of long gravel sections. There were some big groups in club kits and individuals from a fair few different countries. The vibe was chilled but with that air of apprehension about just how fast this group would take the 193km ride.
It didn’t take long to reach the edge of the city and the roads quickly opened up to offer some amazing Swedish countryside. With the first 26km neutralised, there were plenty of introductions and chances to take in the new scenery. The pace kicked off once we hit the town sign marking the start of the race, and within a short distance we turned onto the first gravel section – it felt awesome rattling along with everyone and the sun beating down. The bunch split but that didn’t matter as everyone regrouped at the checkpoints. Alongside getting the brevet stamp, it gave a chance for some respite and a can of coke before powering on due east to the coast. The roads were rolling with no major climbs, just open country and long slithers of tarmac reaching forwards to the horizon.
The lunch stop did not disappoint – a fresh veggie wrap, fruit and energy drinks awaited. A coffee van too. Bikes parked up, people sprawled on the grass with the expanse of sea as the backdrop.
The ride out to checkpoint 3 was hot and sunny and with 50km left to Malmo we paused at the mini mart and refuelled on cinnamon buns and more coke. Watching everyone roll in and out of the checkpoint was great. Riders and racers now overlapped and expressions had become a little weary, faces a bit dusty. The final leg of route went though some incredibly lush forests and up a gravel climb flanked by yellow crops and birds of prey up above. And then the thunderstorm hit. The rain battered us for a good hour or so but it wasn’t cold and it just made the skyline even more dramatic. Dried off by the sea breeze we arrived in Malmo docklands for hot dogs and beers and our fourth and final brevet stamp.
So, heading off the beaten track when you’re looking for new, lightly organised adventures is a must. This was somewhere between a gravel sportive and an audax. We were lucky enough to not have to travel with the bikes, and kit was minimal – we didn’t even need a gilet. If you can stomach the environmental cost of taking a cheap flight to another city for the weekend then this is completely worth it. New roads, new landscapes, new smiles. I would 100% do it again.
Read more of Sophie’s cycling adventures at The 5th Floor.