First ever gravel weekend in Norway was organized by us this last weekend. Green Cycling Norway invited to Nordic Gravel Series, and we were asked to manage the event. Next to organizing, I rode the 140 km route too, which made it overall an amazing experience for us in the Nordic Trailblazer team.
I know the region well being a half Halling. My mom is from Ål, and we have a cabin in Nesbyen.
It is a cute little village in the middle of a majestic hilly valley. Nesbyen has put a lot of resources the last years to build this as a cycling melting pot, inviting riders from all over Europe to visit. Usually the riders are riding Enduro.
Nesbyen has more to offer than downhill tracks, and I wanted to invite the riders to see a bit of the huge network of gravel roads and trails, making it a paradise for gravel cycling. A great location for setting up the first ever Nordic Gravel Series event in Norway.
And to make it more inclusive and green, let's make it a Green Cycling Weekend!
Cycling should be for all. We decided to engage Green Cycling Norway and make a weekend of cycling and green thinking.
It should be inclusive, involve future generations, support the local businesses, promote green transportation, no littering, and sorting trash. Viken fylkeskommune believed in the project and supported the Green Cycling Weekend financially.
The main event was Nordic Gravel Series on Saturday September 4th.
Already on Friday morning the 3rd and 4th graders from the local school was invited to a Green Cycling School. Almost 50 kids were developing cycling skills and enjoying being on two wheels. They all got green t-shirts, and bottles, fruits and juice from Kiwi.
A great start of the weekend.
Later on the same day, we invited riders to the Hill Climb Challenge up Påverud. It was quite a challenge just to get up. I felt strong and set a new KOM of 17 min 30 sec. One minute faster than my previous record.
The guys behind the Nordic Gravel Series was coming from Helsinki to Nesbyen. We had quite an international group of people in the event, with more than 8 nationalites.
We offered two distances. The 90 kilometer started from Nesbyen and up the climb to Vassfaret and into the mountains, before coming down to Herad and following the railway back to Nesbyen.
For those who wanted more, it was possible to also do the Nesfjellet first, including lots of fun gravel trails, and add another 40 km and 1000 meter elevation to the route. Then it would be a tough 140 kilometer day with more than 2800 meter of climbing.
I did the long route.
We started off from the the sport hall at 10 AM and went straight into the gravel trails. Going up these is not as fun as downwards, and a lot harder, but still pretty cool. I had company of Karsten the first 10 km, but when the climb ramped up again on forest roads, I left him and was from there alone in front.
The first part of the route was pretty tough, going up to 1000 meter above sea level. Then we were back on gravel trails for the next 10 kilometers. There are trails made for families and kids, but also really fun with the gravel bike!
The downhill followed the Rukkedalsvegen to Nesbyen, and the 2nd part began, following the 90 km route.
It had been a chilly morning. Going up, it was easy to keep warm, while going down was cooler. Therefore I was pretty happy about the climb up to Vassfaret. This one is steady and about 8% average, but on asphalt, so not as challenging as the first one to Nesfjellet.
On the top, the beautiful Trytetjern Lake appeared. Here we had both our first feed station from Squeezy and it was also the location of our kids and family event. We had sent invitations the locals to come and ride the trails around Trytetjern, and we offered hot dogs, juice and bottles to all the 20 kids who came.
After the feed zone the route kept going up to 900 meter above mean sea level, and into the mountain following fast and good quality gravel roads.
I really enjoy the mountain area between Nesbyen and Bagn. It's quiet, little traffic, yet many good gravel roads.
After riding 75 km the route passed Vangen and we crossed over to Søråsvegen. Then part in between was diverse, both farm roads between cottages, a forest trail, and some more gravel roads. Some kickers and other parts fast.
On this section it is all about keeping the moral up. I am sure we were all tired at this point, and understood it was still a long way to go. The section was changing a lot, so hard to get the flow.
It was nice to have some change of terrain, but I was also happy when I reached the second feed station from Shimano.
After a chat with Sindre from Shimano, and filling my bottles I was again on the road, and soon heading down back to the Hallingdal valley.
First, I passed the amazing open landscape of Raudalsfjellet, and Frøysåkstølan. It's such a nice scenery up here.
Soon the downhill started and the next 10 kilometer down to Herad flew away.
The last part was a lot more gentle, following the Hallingdalslågen back to Nesbyen.
Expect a kicker from from Svenkerud, it was a really smooth finish on gravel, before asphalt on Alfarvegen back to Nesbyen Idrettshall.
I came in solo as the first rider, but still sprinted to the line. I wanted to finish the ride in style, keeping the momentum all the way.
At the finish we were met by the Nordic Gravel Series organizers, Cannondale crew and Shimano guys, who had gotten company from the Belgium embassy and a Belgium waffle truck from Waffle Factory. They offered all the riders free waffles and a Stella Artois non-alcoholic beer.
Bjørn Bergenheim, the manager of The Nordic Trailblazer, was in charge of the BBQ and all riders also got local short travelled lamb, goat, or moose sausages from Hallingdal Lokalmatsenter, 10 km up the valley.
The riders started coming in, one smiling more than the other.
We all agreed it had been an epic ride and the Nordic Gravel Series Nesbyen was a success.
40 riders was part of the first gravel weekend in Norway and next year we hope for at least 200. Join us then!
SEE MORE: Nordic Gravel Series
Thanks to all event partners and helpers:
Nordic Gravel Series
Green Cycling Nordic Norway (Karsten Østeberg, Ingunn Baarstad, Eline Rud, Viktor Hajdu)
Squeezy Sport Nutrition (Discount: 20% off (if buying more than kr 500) – Orset20 )
Nesbyen Ski og Sykkel
Thank you also to the partners of The Nordic Trailblazer. Without you it would not been possible.