Jotunheimen Rundt

Tour of Jotunheimen 1995

by Jørn Dahl-Stamnes


The Tour of Jotunheimen is a very hard tour. Since 1991, when it was first arranged, the number of riders has almost doubled every year. In 1995, over 360 riders was ready to concour the mountains. And we all knew that some of us would fail due to different problems such as mechanical problems, stomach problem, fatigue, etc.

The weather forcast on the TV the day before did not look very good for the Jotunheimen area. We might expect rain and some wind. Wind on the mountains is not good, because there is no trees that can stop the wind. The good thing was that the temperature would be acceptable, which mean between 15 and 20 degree Centigrade.

We was six people from our team that should do the ride. One of them had his own plan while the rest of us was going to drive down to Sogndal the same day as the tour started. We met early friday morning and drow to Sogndal together in three cars. We had three stops so that we could have something to eat. One of the stops was on the top of Sognefjell mountain (Picture: Geir Wiker and me at Sognefjell). We arrived in Sogndal early in the afternoon. The plan was to take a bus over to Lærdal to the start area. But we found out it would be much easier to take the cars over and get over the next day and pick up the cars again.


When we arrived to Lærdal, the first thing we did was to collect our start numbers and to make sure that we got in the same start group. Previous years they had have two starts, one for the group that should try to set a new record and one for the rest of the people. This year they had to split the people into groups with about 100 riders in each group. After getting the start number, we went to the local school where we could park the cars, make our bikes ready for the tour and change into the cycling gear.

I began to make my bike ready for the tour. On with the wheels, mount the front and rear lights, mount the front bag and seat bag, put stuff into the bags etc. After I double-checked the bike, I changed into cycling shorts and jersey. The temperature was high and the sky above is was almost clear. But if I looked up the valley (which we was going to ride up through) and up to the mountains I could see dark clouds building up. A nasty sound from between the mountains told us that we could expect rain within a few hours. But even if I we could expect rain, I desided to wear glowes without fingertips, a short sleeve Team@Internet jersey and no extra pants to cover the legs (Picture: Me with the Team@Internet jersery). If the temperature got lower up in the mountains, I could stop and put on some of the clothes I had with me. My problem is that my toes and fingers tend to loose the blood circulation when exposed to cold and wet weather.

We, my team mates and I, discussed how we should do the ride. One of us was starting in the first group and wanted to ride fast, but the rest of us wanted to finish within a reasonable time. For me a reasonable time is between 17 and 19 hours. Since I didn't have much training this year, and since the previous year was a disaster (I had to give in in both the Great Trial of Strengh and the Tour of Jotunheimen), I wanted to take it easy in the beginning, so that I could feel how well my body worked (or if it worked).

Previous years the start has been at 4 am saturday moring, but his year the organizor have moved the start to friday evening at 10 pm. 20 minutes before the start we rolled down to the start area. Five minutes before the start it began to rain. And it sure rained! While waiting for my group to start, I found a shelter for me and my bike. It was 15 minutes between each group, so I should start 10:30 pm. I was hoping that the rain should stop before I started, but it did not. So a few minutes before my group started, I found my Gore-Tex rain jersey in my front bag and put in on.

Go for it!

At 10:30 pm I was on my bike ready to pedal through 430 km and climb three mountains. The five of us that wanted to stay together as long as possible, let some of the riders pass us while we made sure that we didn't loose each other in the pack. Within the first few kilometre the large group had spit into smaller group. We found out that the group we was riding in did not go as fast as we wanted, so when we came to the front of the group, we pulled away. So far t he body seem to work good.

When we came futher into the Lærdalsdalen valley, it stopped raining. And as it was a small climbing, I began to feel warm with the rain jersey on, but since we worked as good as we did, I did not want to stop to take it off me. As the climbing get steeper we caught other riders in front of us, while a few had caught us. And I also felt that it began to get harder and harder to keep up with the speed up the valley. In a short steep climb, we broke up since I and a Svein (a friend of me) wanted to take it a bit easier.

Soon after we broke up, I told Svein and another rider that I wanted to stop so that I could take off the rain jersey. "Not a bad idea" was Svein's comments. While taking off the rain jersey another rider came up from behind and joined us. A few minutes later we was on our bikes again.

Soon after we had put the harders climb up to the Filefjell moutain behind us, we 'hit' a large group that had stopped and a car that tried to turn around in the middle of the road. It looked like someone have had an accident. I spotted a rider lying in the grass close to the road. Later we was told that a rider from Trondheim VK had hit a large pit in the road causing him to go over the bars and that he had a mild concussion. Later I was told that he had touched wheels and lost his balance.

We continued after letting the car turn around (the car was going to the first food station a few kilometre ahead and notify them about the accident). We arrived to the food station a few minutes later. The only thing I did was to fill up the empty bottle with water and get a few bananas. Before continuing I put on the rain jersey again, since the temperature had dropped and there was no more climbing ahead for while.

It was only Svein and I that left the foodstation. A few kilometre after we came to the descending from the mountain where we reach 70 km/h without any problems. The only problem now was the darkness and the fog. We did not see much of the road, so I was glad I only have to keep an eye to one other cyclist while pedaling like crazy down the mountain. The descending is in two parts. Between the first and the second part I noticed some strange flashing lights between the fog and the low clouds. Soon after I understood that it was an ambulance that came towards us with the blue lights on.

At the bottom of the last part of the descending, we caught up with a group of ten riders that we joined. In the beginning we stayed at the back of the group to rest and to see how they worked. I also used the time to get something to eat. It is much easier to eat when staying at the end of the group. Later we participated in the work and we helped increasing the speed. The road to Fagernes isn't much to tell about, espessialy when riding in the dark and with lots of fog around. Sometime we did not see more than 10 to 15 meters ahead. It was the white lines marking the edge of the road that was most visible in the fog.

While pedaling towards Fagernes, I noticed that we had lost several people. It was only Svein, two other riders and me left of the large group. I know that we had kept a high speed, but it was too dark to read what the computer showed. When we began to get more daylight I was able to see what my cyclo-computer tried to tell me about the speed. I got surpriced when I noticing that I managed to keep 38 km/h on the flat while being in front. I thought this was a bit fast for such a long ride. But since I felt so good when pulling, I continued at that pace.

About 20 km before Fagernes I began to have problem keeping the speed up. I tried to eat more, but my stomach refused to have that much food in such a short time. At the food station at Fagernes, I tried to eat a slice of bread, but without luck. I knew that I had pushed my body to hard and that I know had to pay the price. I tried to drink some non-alcoholic beer (called vørterøl) which contain lots of energy before continuing to Beitostølen 38 km ahead.

Soon after we arrived to Fagernes, a large group arrived to the food station. If we only had know that they was a few minutes behind us, we could have relaxed a bit and joined them. We would have saved a lot by riding together with them. But Svein, another team mate and I left Fagernes on our own. We took it easy after the stop. I think it was not only me that felt a bit exhausted. Svein was very tired and it looked like he was about to fell asleep on his bike.

While pedaling towards the next climb, I noticed that my chain needed some lub after the wet start last night. I use to carry a small plastic bottle with light oil in my front bag, but this was the first time I needed it. I took it and while pedaling I lubbed my chain. Since I have never tried lubbing my chain while on the bike, I struggeled a bit before I found out how to do it right.

Before we came to the bottom of the climb up to Beitostølen a few riders caught up with us and we joined them. But a few kilometre after I began to have problem keeping up with them, so Svein, on other rider and I got dropped by them.

As we came closer and closer to Beitostølen, I became weaker and weaker. And since I was not able to eat anything, I knew that I could not continue much longer. So I decided that the best thing I could do, was to stop at Beitostølen before I got problem with my stomach. No point in continuing when I knew that I will not make it much longer.

Bad news

At Beitostølen I told Svein that he had to continue on his own. I parked my bike and went inside the bus that they used to collect the riders that stopped during the race. I was not alone. The first one who stopped was a team mate that got pain in his stomach during the climb up the first mountain.

After sitting in the bus for over an hour trying to sleep a bit, one of the organizors asked me if one of the other riders could borrow my back wheel. One of the spokes on his wheel was broken and the wheel was not longer true enough for the rest of the tour. It was OK for me, but when I told him that I use glued tires, he refuse to borrow it. He told me that he did not know how to change a glued tire. He joined me in the bus. Guess he thought that a warm bus was better than a cold mountain...

Before the bus should leave Beitostølen, I spotted Reidar Nydal, one of my team mates. He is over 70 years old and began cycling only a few years ago. He complained about the low speed and the steep hills. He had not done anything with his gearing, so with a 42 chainwheel and a 21 cogwheel (while I have a 39 chainwheel and a 24 cogwheel), the hills must have been very hard for him. But he is a kind of type that refuse to give up. I whished him luck before heading back to the bus again.

I slept most of the time during the bus tour in the mountains. But on the stop at Lom I wake up and got out to the food station for some hot food. And when we left Lom, I felt asleep again. So when we got to Sogndal, I have had several hours of sleep.

After a shower and more food, I found Svein's luggage (that he had sendt back to Sogndal the night before) and found the keys to his car. Since I was the first one to arrived to Sogndal, it was my job to go to Lærdal to get the car. When I came back with the car, both Svein and some of my other team mates was waiting for me. After a short discussion we found out that we should not stay in Sogndal to sunday morning. Instead we should drive back to Trondheim during the night. And since I have had a few hours sleep, it was my job.

On the way back to Trondheim, we stopped at the last food station before finnish. The first one I spotted was Reidar Nydal eating. Also his wife was there (she drove a car). We talked with him and he told us that the climbes up to Sognefjellet was very hard. He had to walk several places. Before we left, we whished him luck with the few kilometre left to the finish line. He used a few minutes over 24 hours - not bad!

This was the forth time I tried to do the Tour of Jotunheimen and the third time I had to give up finnishing the tour. But I'm an optimist, so I will try to do the tour next year. I know that if my stomach don't give me too many problems and the weather is not too bad, I will make it. If I don't try, I will not make it! Wanna join me next year?

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I made this! Jørn Dahl-Stamnes