Cycling is not that hard, especially when you can share the steep hills and the rest of the burden with your team. What will eventually floor you when taking on a race like WOW Cyclothon is the nature, the 24 hours of daylight and the calmness of cycling in The Middle of Nowhere, Iceland by the light of midnight sun.
WOW Cyclothon is an ultra-cycling race where team members take turns cycling on Iceland’s Ring Road in less than 72 hours. The race promotes healthy living and outdoor activities in the beautiful nature of Iceland while raising money for a good cause. In 2014 ca. 500 contestants took on the challenge and raised a record amount for the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at the National University Hospital of Iceland.
There’s no “I” in team!
Five brave men signed up for the first WOW Cyclothon Solo race and three of them finished the race, Sigurður and Þórður, who cycled side by side, and Eiríkur who cycled the whole Ring Road all by himself.
“The companionship was the best part of the journey. When you go through something like this with someone you bond in a very special way. I know I have a friend for life,” says Þórður adding that he and Sigurður also enjoyed the company of Jón Halldór, a fellow solo cyclist, before they reached Akureyri. “Of course we had ups and downs during the race but luckily for us we never had them at the same time, so we always had each other’s backs when we felt completely exhausted,” Þórður says. Siggi agrees and stresses the importance of taking the whole race one little bit at a time. “First you think about reaching Kjalarnes, and when you get there you think about reaching Kjós, and once there you think about finishing Hvalfjörður and so on.”
Hand in hand
Emotions ran high, and after leading the whole solo race together neither Sigurður nor Þórður felt like competing against each other for first place. “I don’t think we ever thought about who would win; we weren’t even sure that we could finish the race. I asked Þórður to do this with me for the companionship. We took on this challenge together and winning wasn’t the goal although we wanted to lead the race,” says Sigurður. Exhausted and emotionally drained they stopped right in front of the finish line, stepped off their bikes and walked hand in hand those last few steps, sharing the first place and the honor of being the first to finish the WOW Cyclothon solo. Sigurður and Þórður finished the Ring Road in 74 hours and 28 minutes, well within the allotted time frame for the solo competitors.
How do you do it?
The most important thing to remember, according to Siggi and Þórður, is to have fun and be happy to be able to do this. Þórður adds that his support team was really on point meal-wise. “They made sure I was fed properly and I completely trusted them with all my food and water consumption. They told me ‘eat this and you’ll get a treat!’ and then they’d give me a few Skittles and I was so happy to get a treat. It really kept me going!” Sigurður says he made sure his three main goals were met, that he was warm, fed and happy.” The two are also very thankful to all the people who showed up by the side of the road or by the finish line to cheer them on as well as those who supported them in the pledge competition. “It’s unbelievable how much those people inspired us and kept us going throughout the race. Every gesture counted,” they both agree.
Eight solo cyclists entered for WOW Cyclothon 2015. We asked the two to share tips for cyclist competing this year. “Don’t do it!” Sigurður says jokingly. Þórður recalls how much he loved brushing his teeth as a way to pass time on the bike so he encourages everyone to remember their toothbrushes. “The most important part though is to rest well once the race is over. Lie down with your feet up in the air, literally, to give the feet their well-deserved rest and prevent any blood circulation problems,” says Sigurður. He advises everyone who competes in a race of this kind to see a doctor for a checkup afterwards, just in case. “Despite this warning I still wouldn’t have wanted to miss out on this experience for anything,” he adds.