On Saturday March 20th, I went Everesting in the dark tunnel of Jordalen to shine light and spread hope. It was a long and mental challenge, but riding to raise money for World Bicycle Relief helped me push through and overcome the dark.
Dark, cold and creepy. Riding in a tunnel is never something enjoyable, and even though the Jordalen Tunnel is just a few years old, in good condition, party lighted, and almost free of traffic, it was certainly going to be a battle.
The tunnel was located near Gudvangen, Norway. 3 km long, 293 meter height difference from bottom up. To manage an Everesting, to reach the elevation gain of 8848 meter, similar to the summit of Mount Everest, I had to do it 30.5 times.
I was riding alone. Thankfully, I had a support team. A small team, following the Covid guidelines and prevention measures. Viktor was soigneur, Terje from Cannondale helped as technical support, and Joakim from J Birkeland Foto was creating content taking photos and videos, and in charge of SoMe.
I had no connection inside the tube, so had to get into my own mental place.
Sleeping in the Viking city of Gudvangen and the well-styled Fjortell, I could really feel my Viking spirit coming alive.
I was eager to get started, and finally at 9 AM we were set and I could get on my first lap.
It was chilly. The road was mostly dry, a few wet spots, but temperatures were down to 2-3°C. It was humid, so riding uphill I got the heat, but also got sweaty.
The first hundred meters were probably 3-4%, then the tunnel ramped up to 9-10% and the road went in a spiral in the mountain. The last 2 km were pretty much straight, 10-11% and you could see the whole stretch. Only the last few hundred meters the road curved again, and with two hundred meters to go, the end of the tunnel was visual.
It was all about finding the rhythm, not much to look at, just some road markers and signs telling me how far it was to go.
I started in a controlled manner, and finding a comfortable intensity I could keep for a long time. 270w felt about right.
I kept drinking a bottle an hour, every second with Squeezy energy drink. My food was Squeezy Energy bars, and tasty fresh rice cakes from Velochef.
The climb took me short of 18 minutes, and the downhill was super fast. I was lapping in the bottom approximately on the 20 minute mark.
Easy calculation would tell I could do three laps an hour, 30 laps in 10 hours. However, things are not always as easy as on paper.
I am quite competitive. Not to beat others, but more to reach my own goals. My main object was to finish the 8848 meters, while inspiring and raising money for World Bicycle Relief.
I had a target time for myself in mind, somewhere below 11 hours.
It didn't matter at all, but it made me a little stressed seeing all food stops, photo shooting, talking to the camera, and so on interrupt my riding plan.
Finally after the first five laps I got into rhythm. The next five felt quite easy, and the pace was good.
I really getting connected to my new Cannondale SuperSix Evo. It was light, stiff, and good uphill. Downhill it was easy to control, comfortable, and together with my Met Helmet I felt safe, even when the speed was up in the 80's (km/h).
Breaking it up
10 up, and one third done.
Pretty good to have a sit on a chair, instead of the saddle. I could have skipped the break and kept going, but it was nice to enjoy a coffee and a chat with the crew.
Riding in the tunnel was quite lonely. I was never far from the guys, but on the same time I didn't have much time to talk while riding. I had no interaction with the world outside, due to no mobile connection, and didn't see much people at all. Only a few passing cars.
Having a few minutes to chitchat gave me a mental break, but also gave me the freeze. When restarting it took me almost the whole climb to get the heat back up, but eventually I was once again finding the rhythm feeling strong.
13 laps went to 14. 15 to 16. This looked promising. Passing 6 hours riding time.
I suddenly lost the flow, and was feeling worse. I was lacking power. My energy levels dropped. It was a struggle to get up without stopping.
It was strange. I had been eating alright, drinking well. What happened now?
I needed to have a break. For the first time I started questioning what I was doing. I needed some more sugar, but on the same time I wanted some proper food, not only energy bars. I had some eco food from Økoland.no, which was a nice contrast of taste from the bars.
Usually when doing these contests I bring some Markets Oat Bread. This time I didn't. I should have.
Luckily I had a baguette from breakfast I could eat. I washed it down with a coke.
I was not going to quit, but I needed some inspiration. I called my friend and mental coach Dennis Oxaas. He always has some good advices and helps me restructure my thoughts. He is sometimes a little direct in the way he speaks, but I needed some authority now. To get my focus right again.
– Take one pedal stroke at a time. Aim for the next road sign and just divide up the climb. Then you will eventually get up.
He reminded me when I broke the 10.000 meter elevation World Record back in 2018. I had then the same down about 2/3 into the contest.
I just needed to push through and eventually I would feel better again.
A caffeine pill and a few salt tablets later I was back on it.
The tunnel was well lighted when a cars were in the tunnel. The light sensors at the entrance registered the incoming vehicle, and all the lights were illuminated. However, when there were no cars, like most of the time, the lightning went into battery saving mode and only 1/4 of the lights were on.
Sometimes it became quite dark, first visually then also mentally. Downhill I had to really concentrate to keep the sight and not miscalculate the curves. After all, the speed was up to 85 km/h.
Uphill I was falling deeper into my own mental dark place.
Some passing cars honked to cheer for me, which was such an awakening. Once a girl yelled she was gonna follow me on Instagram. I laughed and felt again inspired to keep pushing.
23 laps in, a journalist approached the tunnel. The local newspaper Avisa Hordaland had received tips from someone that a crazy man was riding up and down the tunnel. They found me.
A short interview and I continued while the journalist was up the road taking photos. It was a nice little contrast to the monotone laps, and made the next repeats fly away.
The journalist got his shoots and the storyline, and went home.
Terje had to leave, he was driving all the way back to Stange.
Soon Joakim also had to get on the road to Bergen.
It was only Viktor and me left.
5 laps to go. And the sun outside was setting. The tunnel kept on getting darker.
Party in the tunnel
Counting down and I started seeing the light in the end of the tunnel. But the climb felt longer and longer.
Viktor kept the spirit up. I had to laugh. Coming down the climb, I was met by a dancing Viktor with disco light up illuminating the party tent.
I smiled and pushed on.
The finish line was getting closer.
I knew I would make it, still each lap was quite a challenge. My time was now about 19-20 min uphill, so the speed was way slower than the initial morning laps.
I had to be patient. One pedal stroke at a time and I would get there.
Through all the battle, I had been enjoying it. I loved the craziness and doing such an epic ride. I never regretted being there, even though I definitely had some troubling laps, and the cold and dark conditions weren't something I would encourage others to try.
Each time I was in discomfort and doubting the reason, I always reminded me of why.
I wanted to shine light. We need trailblazers in this time. Someone who is looking for what we can do, rather than restrictions.
I want to ride for hope, and use cycling to help others. World Bicycle Relief is changing lives through bikes. Giving kids and families a tool for transporting helps them mobilize and access schools, medical care, and food market.
Bikes can be life-changing.
The light never died
And the ride came to an end. I reached Mount Everest, the world's highest mountain of 8848 meters a.m.s.l. No mountain's too high.
It was a long day of riding. Including stops, it took me 12h 34min over 185 km.
Through the dark I had enjoyed the pain and suffering, and this epic experience is something I will never forget.
Back in Gudvangen I celebrated eating tradisional raspeball and having a ginger beer from Økoland.
Looking through my phone I am humble to read all the messages and wishes. Thanks to those taking the time to cheer for me.
A even bigger thanks to all of you donating to World Bicycle Relief. We raised about NOK 10.000 ($1200), which is great. If you did not contribute yet, but want to make a difference, my fundraiser is still until April 10th.