On September 14th, a group of cyclists gathered around a table for dinner in Puy-Saint-Vincent, a small mountain village in the French Alps. Among them were an Italian, a Spaniard, a handful of Dutch, a British couple, a French couple, and a Costa Rican. They were meeting for the first time and were strangers to one another. However, they shared a common passion: mountains, food, people, and bikes – and that’s what brought them together for the inaugural Le Pilgrimage, a brevet-style gravel event…
Matt and Brad have been riding together for years, on increasingly difficult rides and races. This is unexpected for Matt, as he was told “no bikes for the rest of your life” by his doctor after an injury, only to take on Ireland’s Transatlantic Way, a 2500k route along the west coast of Ireland years later… Matt and Brad finished in 7 days, 15hours, and 43 minutes, finishing first place out of seven teams!
Paris-Brest-Paris is a crucible, a pilgrimage, a quest. Paris-Brest-Paris is a cycling event. It runs 1200km (768 Miles) from Paris to Brest on the coast and back. Out and back. 6,000 people participate. They start in waves, pulsing towards the French Coast in a chrome-fendered murmuration of wool jerseys, Berthoud bags, and dyno lights. Racers have to finish their migration to the coast and back in 90 hours. 90 hours, on a bike – that’s little to very little sleep. That’s riding pretty much straight through.
In May, ten riders headed to Japan for an adventure with the goal of raising money for cutting edge cancer cell and gene therapy research. “Shinrin-yoku” in Japanese means “forest bath”, referring to a walk in the forest soaking in nature and green light. We are all aware on some level of the restorative effect of going for a walk in the woods, but it took the Japanese to give it a specific word. Starting in Uguri, Japan, the team embarked on a six-day, unsupported tour from the town of Hamamatsu en-route to their finish in Tokyo. Along the way, they searched for inspiration and reflected while in the Japanese countryside, as they honor and remember the loved ones we’ve all lost to cancer. The goal: raise funds for the Alliance for Gene Cancer Therapy – the cutting edge of cancer research and our best hope for ending cancer forever.
The TCR video series continues with a profile of photographer James Robertson at the Kinesis Control, the third checkpoint, which takes riders from Grindelwald to Furkapass.
Practice makes perfect. After a string of late starts, mishaps and consequently even later evenings, our group pushed through the sleepless nights, finally hitting the road before 8am. It took a while, but so it goes in brevets like this. 2100km in 177 hours is no walk in the park, yet it doesn’t have to be a panicked sprint either. There’s a balance to be achieved and oftentimes, it takes a bit of on-the-bike rehearsal.
As you might have noticed in the previous two galleries, not a lot of riders in the Sverigetempot are on traditional randonneur bikes, or even touring bikes. Rather, many of the participants are on carbon fiber road bikes, with a few select modifications to their components and of course, bikepacking bags. While there have been many excellent examples of bikes on this trip, I managed to photograph three in particular from the riders in our troop: Johan’s Focus, Daniel’s Roubaix and Johan’s Venge. Each have very similar specifications in terms of gear range and tires, but as you’ll see, are built to be lightweight, long-distance rigs.
At a certain point in brevets like this, it becomes a game of catch up. You’re either catching up on sleep or mileage. Think of it as a scale. On one end is hours slept and the other, mileage ridden, with events on the road either adding to, or subtracting from the balance. In our rider’s case, mechanicals on the third day made for a long night in the saddle.
In the world of brevets, or randonneuring, Paris Brest Paris is probably the most infamous, with its total length of 1200km and massive rider roster. However, if you travel further north in Europe, something more sinister awaits. The Sverigetempot is a ten year old, officially-sanctioned brevet, totaling 2100 kilometers. It begins on the Sweden and Norway border, in a small town called Riksgränsen, which can barely be categorized as a town, it’s more of an outpost. From there, a small group of riders have either 144 hours or 177 hours to make it to the southernmost point of the country, Smygehamn. Along the way, there are checkpoints, or control points, at which point the riders will have to have their brevet cards time-stamped at designated places as proof of their mileage. There are other rules, such as there is no roadside assistance allowed and the riders are to be self-supported. While the organizers will transport a bag from the start, to the finish, every entrant must carry their clothing, food and water on their bikes. The countryside offers many hotels and hostels for shelter, so luckily, no camping equipment was necessary, allowing for lightly-packed bikes, with one thing in mind: efficiency.
The Sverigetempot is a brevet from the northernmost to the southernmost points in Sweden, which is about 1400 miles. That’s like riding from Seattle to San Diego. Entrants have the option for a 144 or 177 hour cutoff, which is roughly about a week. So far, there are 37 registered for the 177 with only 11 going for the 144. I’ll be there documenting the event and the vernacular of the Swedish countryside alongside Erzui Film, so be sure to follow along at @theRadavist and @ErtzuiFilm on Instagram.
Riding in Sweden’s Sverigetempot Brevet
Words and photos by Johan Björklund
In 2012 I thought about riding the Sverigetempot for the first time. I had never done it before and so I didn’t know what I was getting into…
I can’t think of anything to write here, aside from “whoa”. Jenny’s photo from her recent 200k Del Puerto Brevet has me jonesin’ for some California roads.