At 0530 sharp, the alarm went off and it was time for the last, northern loop of the Christianssands 1200. Dry clothes from the drying cabinet made it much more pleasant to get dressed. Outside the rain from yesterday had seized, but still with grey skies as far as you could see. There were not much wind, and therefore the start went well. After a few kilometers, the worst soreness in the muscles from the days before also had disappeared and the last 250kms lay ahead. First stop Engesland.
There were not much traffic this Saturday morning, and when leaving Vennesla on the Rv 405, the early birds sang all the way to Engesland, leaving iPods completely unnecessary. At first the ride went very well, but when approaching Vatnestraum, a lot of short stretches with gravel road started to emerge. Road works are always done in the summertime in Norway, due to the ground freezing during the winter. The risk of puncture is always here when a lot of small stones are littering the entire road, but luckily punctures were avoided. At this time I also got a text message from Jos, telling me he had to withdraw from the rest of the ride due to the tough day the day before. The 4 riders who had started the ride then were down to 3. A reminder to us that riding in the southern part of Norway can be tough at times. You have to be prepared physically and mentally for the challenge. Just after Vatnestraum the rain also started to pour down again, as if to test our strength to carry on. Kengu and Vernon had started an hour after me. When arriving at Vatnestraum they believed they had come to Engesland. The quickly discovered the error and woth no time to spare they rushed towards Engesland, reaching the check point with a difference of only 4 minutes!
At 10.10AM, the checkpoint at Engesland appeared for me. Being wet and with the finish within reach, no time was left on the check point. Next control, the 15th, was 84 kms away at Ose in Setesdal (1089 km), but first a long ascent from Vegusdal to Evje was on the menu. The course here follows the river some 20kms west before falling 3kms down into the valley Setesdal at the town of Evje. Setesdal were once one of the most isolated valleys in Norway. Poor quality of the roads lead to a culture developing along the rivers and farms in the valley. There are stories of the Setesdal-giants, long men with big hands of an incredible strength. There are also a number of silversmiths in the valley making jewelry found nowhere else. The language is also something special and even people living in Kristiansand can have great difficulties understanding what some people living just 150 kms further up the valley are saying. These days, the roads are better and are continuously improved, so riding there is no problem. The course goes on the eastern side of the beautiful lake Byglandsfjord. At one point the road crosses from the eastern side of the lake to the western side of the lake at a place called Storstraumen. Here we also find a road continuing on the eastern side along the Byglandsfjord. The road is narrow, but almost without traffic, making it ideal for riding. Now the rain also started to seize and after a short while Ose was within sight.
From Ose the course goes straight south along the Rv9. At Storstraumen the course goes on the western side of the lake, ending at Byglandsfjord. From Byglandsfjord it is just a short ride to the last check point at Evje (1143 km). At this point you almost feel like you have finished the ride. It is just 60 kms to go and you feel like you have done it! But you still have to go those 60 kms. So after some food, the last ride to the finish was bound to happen. With almost 8 hours to complete 60 kms, you have enough time, but at the same time you wish to get that shower and be able to sleep without having to set the alarm to wake you up. An even, but not too high pace was used, and after around 4 hours, the finish at Kristiansand emerged. What a beautiful sight!
Bjørn Olav finished first at 1015PM, then Kengu and Vernon followed with huge smiles on their faces at 1025PM. Both riders had their times adjusted by an hour due to the time penalty applied at Brevik on the first loop. I was keen to hear what Vernon thought of the ride. The first thing he said to me when finishing was: “Do not change a thing!” I’ll take that as a good sign. Vernon was as a joke declared best foreign finisher.
The Christianssands 1200 proved to be a tough ride. An experienced randonneur like Jos Verstegen, having ridden 16 of the 1200’s, got his problems with the terrain and the weather and had to give in at 950 kms. The gps afterwards showed 13382 meters of height. Not too bad, perhaps, but the hills sometimes comes relentlessly for long distances, draining you for power.
This does not keep us from organizing the ride once more. Perhaps already next year. Who knows? Keep an eye on the international ride calendar at the Les Randonneurs Mondiaux website if you could be interested.
Agder Langtråkkelag wishes you a nice summer and a lot of good rides.