By Bengt Sandborgh
The second edition of the Super Brevet Scandanavie was held July 12 1997. It started in Frederikshavn, Denmark and finished in Kristiansand, Norway. We were 45 starters most of whom chose to do the ride in a co-operative fashion, meaning we had pre-booked accommodations for each day along with dinner and breakfast, plus baggage shuttle between overnight places. Everyone started at the same time every morning. But the Brevet was run according to ACP rules with a maximum time of 90 hours.
The first day (355 km) we had 3 ferry crossings. We were making very good progress down the eastern coast of Jylland as we had a light tailwind. The first two ferries were across narrow inlets on the coast (ride time app. 15 min. each). Of course we managed to miss every ferry within a couple of minutes. During the waiting time we had time to shop for food and refill our waterbottles. When we came ashore from the second ferry we had, according to the route sheet, 67k to the next ferry. That ferry departed every hour on the hour. If we rode the 67k in two hours we could make the 2pm ferry. The average speed so far was slightly over 35k so it looked as we might would make it. But the route became more hilly and we made a wrong turn in a village so the time was running out. When we had made the 67k we had two minutes to spare, but we found out that the ferry terminal was another 4k farther. Foul language and disappointment! But I said: Let's press on. It might be delayed or something.
When we reached the terminal, the ferry was still in and cars was driving aboard. At the check-in point our baggage van was parked and the driver was inside the terminal. As he was supposed to buy our tickets we assumed he had already done that so we rode straight through. An official stopped us and told us to wait. He talked a lot on his walkie-talkie and I heard he talked about cyclists. Danish and Swedish is related but it's quite difficult to understand when they are talking fast. After a while we got the impression that it was OK for us to ride aboard and we went up the ramp. Someone was shouting "stop, stop". But all 16 of us thought "Is he meaning me? NO!" and rode on. Before we had stowed our bikes the ramp went up and the ship sailed! A nice dinner in the restaurant during the crossing (40 min) and we where beginning to feel good again. I don't think I have ever ridden as hard as we did after the wrong turn when we where trying to catch up lost time!
Safely ashore on the island of Sjalland we had 170k to Helsingor and the first overnight stop. As the time was only 3pm we felt rather good about ourselves. Riders who had given their best to catch the ferry were beginning to drop out of the group. We arrived at the Helsingor Youth Hostel at 9.30pm. Now we were only five guys in the first group. But where is the van? A phone call told us that he was delayed and was not due for another hour. We took a shower anyway, who needs soap? After dinner the van arrived, we changed and went to bed. It was not easy to fall asleep. My heart was pounding and I was all keyed up. 355k in 11 hours takes it's toll. I could hear the soft clicking of riders arriving for a long time. During breakfast the next morning we heard the full story of the chaos of the last ferry. Because one of the two ferries servicing the route had broken down half of the departures had been canceled. As a result all reservations had been annulled. We were indeed very lucky (and bold) to have managed to get on the 2pm ferry. The last riders had started to ride the last leg at 7pm. One of our club mates had arrived 4am and she was not last. The van had not been able to get a place at all and had to drive a long way to take another ferry.
During breakfast one rider approached me and said: Don't you have a red Cannondale? You have a flat front tire. I quickly changed the tube and checked the tire for pieces of glass etc. Nothing. Strange, as it was clearly a piercing puncture. We started the second day (319 km) by gently rolling down to the ferry terminal to catch the 7:11am ferry to Helsingborg and Sweden. The boat ride is short (20 min), we are soon on our way to the first checkpoint. As usual the group thinned out after the first hills and we were soon about the same group as yesterday. The first control was at Hishult, a very small village. We looked for an open shop or gas station to get our cards stamped. We saw a shop and turned sharp right into a smaller road to get there. As I turned, it felt as if my front fork was broken and I was sure I was going to crash. I managed to stay upright and found out what the problem was. Front tire puncture again! I gave my Brevet card to a friend and fixed the flat. The shop was closed so the card was finally signed by a man who was having morning coffee with his family in his garden. I pretty sure they were sick of crazy cyclists by the end of the day!
Now we where riding in Smaland. Lots of big woods and very far between houses. The group had by now thinned down to eight. One Dane, one Frenchman, 2 Norwegians and 4 Swedes. We made up a great team, everyone about the same strength. In the afternoon the route started to get more hilly with several long dragging climbs. This surprised me a little. Hills get harder when you don't expect them! Finally we arrived at the overnight checkpoint. First again. Today's statistics: 319k in 10.48 hours (rolling). Rather slow compared to yesterday but still okay. The dinner at a nearby restaurant really tasted good. Before I went to bed I patched up my two spare tubes. The third day started with a big breakfast at the same restaurant as the day before. It's amazing how much food 40 hungry Randonneurs can shovel in! Today we had 292k to cope with. The ride was rather uneventful, except I had a third front flat! I really should have bought a new front tire. In the afternoon we crossed the border into Norway. The first checkpoint in Norway was at Halden. We had a rather long rest at a gas station. The route sheet for the Norwegian bit was very thorough, clearly written by someone who had test ridden the route several time. It said "Long hard climb for 2k out of Halden". When we had almost made it to the top, Hakan cried out "Hell! I left my Camelbak at the gas station!" Our laughter followed him down the hill! In the evening we had a ferry crossing again over the Fjord of Oslo. The final checkpoint for the day was a Camping Park where several cabins had been booked. Today's statistics: 292k in 9:49 hours (rolling). The last day was rather different from the first three. We mostly rode on the heavily trafficked E18 road. Norway is the most mountainous of the Scandinavian countries and we had several hard climbs during the day. We also had the only rain for the whole Brevet, a small 20-minute shower. It was really good to reach the finish in Kristiansand. We had 268k and 9.38 hours for the day. For the total Brevet: 1235k in 41:16 hours, rolling. Total time 82:30 hours.
Super Brevet Scandinavia is a nice ride through three countries. Lights: never needed! The flat farmlands of Denmark, the big forests of Sweden and the mountains and fjords of Norway. One problem with three countries is with the currencies, your wallet soon becomes a mess of different coins and bills. For a Randonneur the "Euro", a common European currency is a great idea! The ride lacked perhaps an overall responsible person, one people is responsible for each country. This can explain the lack of "marketing" for this ride. The route sheet was clearly better for some parts (i.e. Norway).
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The next Super Brevet Scandanavie 1200k will take place July 21 2001. For information contact: Johannes Kristiansen, Lynge Bygade 17, DK - 3540, Lynge, Denmark. Tel/Fax: 0045 4818 7771: Email: Johannes Kristiansen Website: ard.sjaelland.adr.dk