The saga is best read with this background music.
Jonas was an ambitious kid from the suburbs in the great Kingdom of Norway. He never settled with the modest lifestyle and wanted to seek the adventures of the world.
He was small, almost tiny, but had a heart big as a bear. His bicycle become his closest friend, and he was able to swing it as his ancestors had swung their swords, plundered thousands of people on their raid all over the Norse territory. At an age of 23 he started traveling looking for new roads and paths, soon becoming known as The Nordic Trailblazer.
But it all started when he got familiar with the cycling discipline of gravel.
Jonas was getting stronger and fought many battles. Sometimes he won, sometimes he lost. In his 32. year he was on an expedition cruise to the heart of gravel racing, in God's country of Texas. He was challenged by the greatest, it was a big battle in heat hotter than hell’s kitchen. He lost and left for Norway, where the vikings came from, with a promise to return for revenge.
In the summer of 22, after the flower had bloomed, and the sea was full of fish, He went to the island of Iceland, with active volcanos spitting fire, to challenge the gravel-community. The great battle of the North was held in the town of Hvollvöllur, and Jonas was preparing himself to fight and challenge the top gravel-cyclists of the world. He the true gravel viking, in the land of his bloodfellow ancestors, he was determined to fight for glory, even if it would make his life at risk, his blood flow and his body in total fatigue. The name of the battle is The Rift, and the contestants would challenge each other to be the strongest over a distance of 200 km around a volcano where the rocks would be sharper than the finest knife, where the rocks could cut a bone in two.
At sunrise, on an early Saturday morning, the contestants, lined up for the challenge with a total of 1000 strong women and men. Jonas had his morning oats, and his bike was pumped, lubed and ready for war. At the start he found himself among riders like the Aussie Nathan Haas and the American Innokenty Zavyalov. Jonas has determined to be at the head of the race when the gravel section started at km 9. As said as done, and he pushed on to make a selection early on. And then they were off.
The riders run across the river, with their carbon horses lifted above the water. The rugged tracks made the split and not long after a group of 8 riders had taken off, with Jonas as one of the driving forces. He had a good day, his legs felt stronger each time he hit the pedal.
The trails were full of loose rocks, some sharper than others. At km 41 the group went down a little hill and an unexpected explosion was heard all over the place. It was not a Volcanic eruption, but Jonas front tire. It was out of air and the Norwegian viking had gotten a cut to the sidewallI The cut was not reparable and he needed to insert a new tube. It all took time, which ment the main contestants were getting away, with the Nordic Trailblazer left in the dust.
Jonas started the chase, and flew like a wind through riders ahead. The course went up and down a volcanic land, with steep hills and downhills, some easier to walk than pedal.
Riders started suffering, and some complained when they needed to walk across sections of snow. After another river crossing Jonas arrived the midway point, and caught up with his fellow Norwegian Andreas Ohldieck. They refuelled and went on side by side. It was a good move, as it didn't take long before Jonas again had a flat front tire. He needed to change tubes. He now had no more left.
Then a few kilometer later it was Andreas' time for a flat. His tire sealed, but he had to add air. Just when they got restarted, again - Jonas flatted his front tire. Thanks to the Gods, Andreas stopped to hand him a spare tube, and after the tube change, they once again got going, now taking it ever so slow in the rocky sections hoping for luck, since they both were out of tubes.
The two of them started catching contesters. Some had technical issues, others lacking speed. Jonas gave away his pump to one rider, now totally depending on Andreas support for the rest of the ride. The Rift was becoming more of a survival, than a race. But, the two Norwegian strongmen kept on riding fast, making up ground and closing in to the finish. The rough trails from the first part had transformed to longer stretches of tarmac and gravel. It was still riders all around the course. Jonas had already more than an hour extra stopping time due to punctures.
The chase was on to catch the remaining riders. The fastest was about to cross the finish line, while Jonas still had a way to go after all his mechanical problems. Together with Andreas, they sat a new the goal, to catch as many as possible. A german rider became their nemesis. They passed him, but he couldn't hang on. Then a little later, Jonas has his fourth flat of the day, this time the rear tire. It sealed, and after adding extra air and he could ride on for the last 15 km.
The smell of sea and farmland meant Jonas was closing in to the finish. He outsprinted Andreas, and finished in 33.place. It was a big margin to the first two riders, Nathan Haas and Innokenty Zavyalov. but due to all the flats, just to make it home was a win for our Norwegian. A Viking spirit is not determined whether you win or loose, but rather your mindset of never giving up and overcome the obstacles you face.
The Nordic Trailblazer will be back again to win on the ground of his Viking ancestors.
All photos shared by permission from the organiser of The Rift.