“It has been a year full of highlights and challenges. I had the opportunity to participate in 20 gravel races and 12 criterium races between February and October. Additionally, I spent 35 days teaching kids cycling and participating in various other cycling-related activities. It was an amazing year! Now, let’s take a look back at 2023.”
At the beginning of the year, I started with a few weeks of winter training before heading south to Spain for an 11-day training camp with Andreas Ohldieck. We had some great rides and training sessions near my family’s summer home in Guardamar, near Alicante. It was the first time I brought a gravel bike to the area, and it was the perfect location to use my new Felt Breed Carbon. It was also a good time to announce my newest bike sponsor.
READ MORE: Test: Felt Breed Carbon
In February I led the Oslo initative of celebrating the International Winter Cycling Day, through Green Cycling Norway in collaboration with Syklistenes Landsforening, Bedriftsidretten, Retyre, Sirquel and Birk Sport.
A few weeks later, I set sail back to America, visiting my friends in Dallas and starting the season with Renegade Rambler. In the 100-miler race, I eventually took off with my friend and teammate, Corey Ray. A great start to the season!
READ MORE: Renegade Rambler
Finally, the 2023 season had begun, and on the following weekend, my friend Corey and I traveled to Phoenix to take part in the Belgian Waffle Ride Arizona. It was an incredible course and one of the most epic of the entire year. We arrived the day before the race, and I didn’t have enough time to acclimate well, so my result could have been better, but I still enjoyed it. The course was challenging, with zig-zagging cactuses and sandy single tracks to maneuver through. It was a hard but amazing race! and amazing course!
CHECK IT OUT: Belgian Waffle Ride Arizona
Corey and I traveled to Stillwater, Oklahoma, for the Mid South event the following weekend. It was a hot and windy day, and since I was not familiar with the course, I missed the first echelon. However, I managed to catch up with group 2 after struggling against the wind with the help of Luke Hall. We were in contention for a top-10 finish. Although I had a strong race, a poor sprint caused me to finish in 14th place.
READ THE RECAP: Mid-South Gravel
At the end of the month, I organized DNF GRVL for the fourth consecutive year in Norway. Due to the cold spring, only seven riders were willing to take on the 100-mile ride. Despite the unpleasant weather with sleet, all of us pushed through and completed the ride. Great job, guys!
Spring had arrived in Norway and as the CEO of Green Cycling Norway, we started our cycling activities program for the year. Our team visited schools and organized cycling events for kids where they could learn new skills, experience mastery, and have fun. It was gratifying to see the kids progress and enjoy riding. As the CEO, I am proud of our team and the positive impact we have in the community spreading cycling for all.
Easter was spent in Nesfjellet with my fiancé. It was time to relax, go skiing, and have some sessions with the trainer.
From the middle of the month, it was time for another American adventure—this time to California.
I stayed with Nicolas Roche, and we had a couple of nice pre-rides before the Belgian Waffle Ride California – the most significant event in the BWR series. Cadence Cyclery shipped my bike from Dallas to San Diego to their shop, and I felt welcomed to the West Coast.
The race had a tough start, and I didn’t feel great. I eventually started feeling better during the course and made it to 33rd.
RACE RECAP: Belgian Waffle Ride California
Then, the following week, I made it up to Monterey, near San Fransisco, for the Sea Otter Classic – The World’s biggest bike expo. It’s a huge venue, and a lot of races and activities and I won the La Gravilla Gravel race! In such an event, that was truly an amazing experience.
READ: Win in Sea Otter Classic
I was back in Norway for a few weeks. I organized a couple more 101percent Crit races, and through the summer it added up to 10 weeknight crits. Grateful for the people helping me put ut this event, which I believe is important for the sport of cycling around Oslo – especially for the youth when many races have been cancelled lately.
Hanna, my fiancé, joined me at the UCI race in Aachen, Germany. It was another kind of gravel, more technical, and you had to fight for position all the way. 37th. After a couple of days visiting Benelux with Hanna, we went back to Norway on a Tuesday night, celebrated the Norwegian National Day on the next day, and already on Thursday morning, I had to return to the airport for my next destination – Dallas, USA.
I was back with the Ray family, and our first event was Gravel Locos in Hico. It’s one of the gravel races I love the most. I was so inspired I made a one-man break ahead of the rest for the first 30 miles (50 km). Eventually, I got caught and stayed with the front group of 15 riders until I punctured twice. I got to the aid station and inserted a tube, and had to chase the last 90 miles alone, finishing 19th.
READ MORE: Gravel Locos
I stayed in Dallas after the Gravel Locos, prepping for the biggest race of the season, Unbound Gravel. I got in some good workouts and raced a couple of local crits with my gravel bike. I was well taken care of during Unbound, staying with Felt Bicycles and having Alan Pockock as my support man. Unbound isn’t just a 200-mile gravel race, it’s a weekend-long gravel festival and expo.
The race was affected by the night’s rain showers which made the gravel track muddy and sticky. Many riders had to withdraw from the race due to mechanical issues caused by the mud in the first 20 miles of the race. However, I managed to keep going and found myself in a good position, around the top 15 after 1/4 of the race. But then I faced a series of punctures, not just once or twice but four times. I had to run the last 3 miles to the aid station where I changed my tire. By then, I was more than an hour behind the first riders. Nevertheless, I kept pushing through and passed some riders, finishing 47th. I’m confident that I could have reached a top 15 position if I had not faced punctures.
READ ALL ABOUT: Unbound 200 – The World’s Premier Gravel Race
After racing in the Unbound, I returned home after spending three weeks in the United States. Before heading to Lahti for the FNDL GRVL, I organized a crit race and had a few date nights with Hanna. For the 170k race, I felt surprisingly good, even after all this travels and less than a week after the exhausting race back in Kansas. However, bad luck struck me again when I lost my chain at a terrible moment. I had to stop and was unable to catch up to the front group. Instead, I caught up to the second chase group and was in contention for 14th place, but ended up crossing the line at 21st.
READ ABOUT: FNDL GRVL
I had again just a few days back in Norway and organized another 101 percent Cup race before again going outbound. Hanna and I traveled to Alicante, to my family’s apartment. On Saturday, I raced the Iron Gravel Alicante, which I got familiar with in January. This time it was the real deal, 170k and 5000m of climbing. I felt good, but once again, I punctured. This time the valve broke. I had to put in my spare tube. But then, a little later, I got another flat, and no tubes. I desperately asked fellow riders for one, but no success. I had to walk for 17 km in the burning sun to the aid station! Finally, I got a tube that fitted my wheels, and I rode the rest of the challenging ride alone. One of the toughest and most epic days this year!
CHECK OUT: Iron Gravel Alicante
I took a week-long break with Hanna after Iron Gravel. I needed it.
On July 1st, I participated in the first edition of Unionsrittet. In the lead-up to the event, I assisted the organizers by sharing my experiences from various events around the world. For the race, I was in good form and won the first stage by a margin of 10 minutes! In the second stage, I teamed up with Vebjørn Rønning and we worked together. He won the stage, and I won the overall!
The rest of July was spent building fitness and organizing cycling schools. Hanna and I bought a house, and the spare time was used to move out of my old apartment and into the new one. I had some great gravel rides, both with riders I coach and a few crazy solo rides.
In early August, Hanna and I went on a road trip to Helgelandskysten. It gave me time to check out some new cycling routes. My favorite ones where riding on Vega Island and the around Tonnes. We spent 11 days on the road before coming back home Thursday afternoon.
On a Friday morning I organized a cycling school in Langhus, before getting picked up by Andreas Ohldieck and driving over to Bergslagen for the Gravel Earth Series event. It was a rainy race, and I didn’t feel at my best, but I held on with the front ten riders until the last 20km of the 180k race, finishing 8th.
READ MORE: Nordic Gravel Series Bergslagen
Over the following weekend, I found myself in Sweden once again, this time for the UCI Gravel race in Halmstad. I managed to break away with four other riders, but we were caught by the main peloton with 30 kilometers left to go after a strong selection had been made. Unfortunately, I had another chain drop, which caused me to lose contact with the front group. In a very strong elite field I finished 18th in men 19-34.
READ ALSO: UCI Gravel Series Halmstad
Back in Norway, I had a tour of cycling schools, and we in Green Cycling Norway shared the joy of cycling with many kids through August and September. A busy, but fun month!
Early in September it was time for my own Nesfjellet Gravelduro. Being the race director and a rider is quite challenging, but with a good crew, it was a success. We had 70 riders of all different ages and skills having fun on bikes in Nesfjellet September 2nd. Already look forward to next year, Sept 7, 2024.
RACE LINK: Nesfjellet Gravelduro
Later in the month, I went to Catalunia and the Gravel Earth Final. It was a proper final of the series, and a course I really enjoyed. It was challenging, and I didn’t feel great, but made it to 14th in the end.
I was nearing the end of my season, but there were still many exciting events to come. The most notable one was the UCI Gravel World Championship in Veneto, Italy. I was chosen for the second year in a row to represent Norway in the elite/pro category, but this time the course was completely different and much more challenging. Unfortunately, I fell sick again during the preparation and was bedridden just a week before the event. Fortunately, I managed to recover from most of the sickness and was almost at my best, just lacking a few percentage points.
The race was a true killer, and midway I was around 50th, and feeling good. I bonked a bit into the last climbs, losing positions and finishing 72nd. The race was won by the infamous Matej Mohorič, and honestly, I think a 30th would have been a great result for me in this field. I really hope I can be 100% fresh for the next World Championship and without any injuries or sickness.
MUST READ: World Championship in Italy 2024
Talking about injuries, after all the house moving and cycling school work, my left hand had gotten tendinitis. It wasn’t terrible while riding, but during October it started impacting my racing. I knew it was just a few races left, and I didn’t worry too much, but rather planned to push through. Next onto America.
My last racing block was Belgian Waffle Ride Kansas followed by Big Sugar in Arkansas. For BWR, Corey and I had a long road trip from Dallas, but it was a fun weekend. I was struggling to fully recover from the sickness, and in Kansas, I decided to ride a bit conservatively in the 200k race. This turned out to be a good strategy as I was able to maintain my energy level throughout and ended up finishing in a great 10th place.
READ MORE: Belgian Waffle Ride Kansas
The next weekend Alan and I went to Bentonville in Arkansas. The final race of the Lifetime Grand Prix was Big Sugar, and all the best gravel riders in America were there.
I wasn’t worried and started riding aggressively and did several attacks. After about 20 miles, John Burstemann and I took off and got a gap of almost 2 minutes. We stayed away for quite some time in the break of the day. At mile 65, a 12-man front group caught us. I assume travels, recent sickness, and tired body at the end of the year, cope up with me. I exploded and couldn’t push the pedals anymore. It was probably both a mental and physical thing, but it was all or nothing in the last race of the season, and I was happy to put on a show. I crawled to the finish, making it in 33rd. Next year it might stay until the end, and on a good day, a top result is in reach.
LAST RACE RECAP: Big Sugar Arkansas
Big Sugar was the end of the season for me, but I still had a couple of days in Dallas to catch up with the Cadence and Ray family, people who have been close friends and supporters this year.
Back in Norway, it was time to disconnect, catch up with accounting, and plan for 2024. I had plenty of discussions with partners, and I am still working on getting everything together for 2024. The economic situation in the world is impacting me and making it hard to get partners on board. I am still positive, as I deeply believe in the Nordic Trailblazer vision: To inspire and help people to reach their own goals. Partners who share my vision are welcome to contact me.
Besides the business side of things, I organized a winter cycling day at Haugenstua schools, where the kids tried studded tires. They loved it!
After a few weeks off the bike, I was back in training, mostly focussing on gym work at this time of the year. I’m still working with 101percent Training, as I see it’s working for myself and those riders we coach together. It’s all based on the newest science and best practices from elite racers.
CHECK OUT: Trailblazer coaching
Hanna and I are getting married at the end of January, and in December, most of the spare time between training and work stuff was spent planning the wedding. It will be a winter wedding and should be great! We are heading on to a two-week honeymoon to Mexico, and I’m not bringing my bike. Believe it or not!
The quality time with my wife means my season start will be slightly postponed. My main racing focus will be after Easter, and I should be back in top shape then. Traka 200 is the first big goal. You can follow my preliminary race calendar here (more events will be added soon).
In December, my colleague Kent Erik and I have also been working on developing our website. Now, we are spending time organizing the site’s backend. There are so many stories in the archive, like from the time I was racing in China or when I was living in Belgium. I hope, this spring, we can give the page a brand new look and improve the functionality for you as a user.
As I write, we are at the end of December, and I just had a nice Christmas week in the mountains with my family. It has been an active week, with lots of skiing, but also Zwift. I’m eager to start 2024 and be a even better rider the following year.
It has been an amazing year, and I am grateful for everyone who’s been a part of it. Most of all, I want to thank the people closest to me, my friends, and my support crew. Thank you the families of Harridsleff, Ray, Bergenheim, Plumlee, Sønsteby, Pocock, and Birkeland. I want to thank my partners and sponsors. Especially the Cadence Cyclery, CCN Sport, and Felt Bicycles. There are many more to thank, and the list is way long.
Thank you all, and have a happy new cycling year!