My main objective for this year was to successfully complete my first 1200 km brevet. I opted for the Midnight Sun Randonee (MSR) for two specific reasons: the minimal need for lights during the nights and my long-standing wish to journey above the Arctic Circle during midsummer.
The MSR is an Audax event that adheres to the rules set by the French organization. In essence, participants ride a specified distance within a certain timeframe and have their "brevet" stamped at checkpoints along the route for verification.
Starting from the Swedish east coast, the MSR traverses Sweden and crosses into Norway. It continues northward beyond the Arctic Circle before turning eastward and concluding in Umeå, the starting point. The route encompasses 12 checkpoints, where food is provided, and most of them offer sleeping facilities.
The ride commenced on Monday, June 19, at 23:07, time of sunset. During the first 245 kilometers and 9.5 hours, with an average moving speed of 30 km/h, I rode with a fast-paced group. However, I eventually reached a point where I could no longer keep my eyes open, prompting me to take a nap.
After parting ways with the group, I predominantly rode alone, ensuring I slept whenever necessary, with the closing times of the checkpoints dictating my pace. I managed to sleep at four checkpoints, ranging from 2 to 6 hours, and also took two additional naps, one in a ditch and the other in a bus-stop shelter.
Sweden and Norway are divided by a mountain range, which not only presented climbing and descending challenges but also brought about variations in vegetation and weather. We encountered both warm, sunny conditions and colder, rainy spells, amplifying the overall challenge. Fortunately, the weather was ideal from the base of the ascent to the Arctic Circle, but it became colder and wetter upon returning to Sweden.
I ended up getting completely soaked on three occasions, but I was fortunate enough to dry myself and my gear at two checkpoints. On the last occasion, I persevered and rode to the finish line without changing out of my wet attire.
While I primarily rode alone, there were instances when I teamed up with fellow riders. Between checkpoints 11 and 12, I rode alongside a British-Australian rider, engaging in a 20-minute chat before eventually leaving him behind. The following day at the hotel in Umeå, I learned that he had fallen asleep on the bike after I had left him but managed to survive the crash and reach the finish line 90 minutes before the deadline.
I was the last rider to check out at checkpoints 10 and 11. Unfortunately, there were no available sleeping accommodations at checkpoint 12, so I made the decision to complete the final 120 km and ultimately finished as the 32nd rider out of the 51 who successfully completed the brevet (20 participants DNF).
Finish time: 83 hours and 21 minutes.
I highly recommend the MSR to anyone seeking a long-distance cycling adventure and the opportunity to witness the breathtaking beauty of northern Scandinavia during midsummer.
For a visual glimpse into this year's MSR, I invite you to watch a video created by one of the organizers who also took part in the event.
To learn more about the MSR and its details, please visit the official MSR homepage.