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Sportive preview: Maserati Haute Route Norway

Joseph Delves
3 Sep 2017

Three wild days in the far north at the preview ride of the Maserati Haute Route Norway

Haute Route is a multi-day sportive series allowing riders to live out their cycling daydreams in pro team style, with support cars, daily meals, and regular massages. Similar to the existing Haute Route events held in the Rockies, Pyrenees, Alps, and Dolomites, the new Norway sportive includes timed and ranked racing giving amateurs the opportunity test themselves across multiple stages.

However, unlike their full-length events the Haute Route’s first foray into Scandinavia comprises a long weekend, rather than a full week’s tour.

Maserati Haute Route Norway 2018: All you need to know

Dates: Friday 3rd to Sunday 5th August 2018  
Location: Stavanger, Norway  
More info: hauteroute.org/norway_2018   

Scheduled to run for the first time in the summer of 2018 the entire event is based in the port city of Stavanger, and Cyclist was lucky enough to get an invite to its recent test running.

A country that’s almost as much sea as it is land, Norway might not instantly suggest itself as a cycling destination in the way that France, Italy or Spain do.

But with stunning scenery riding there is a raw and elemental experience that well repays the journey north.

In fact Stavanger has a rich history within Norwegian cycling, attracting international races like the Tour des Fjords, Arctic Race of Norway, and Tour of Norway along with providing a home to pro cyclist Alexander Kristoff.

Arriving at our base for the weekend in the pretty port city of Stavanger, proximity to the sea was to quickly establish itself as a recurring theme for the trip.

With everyone assembled and well fed on the Thursday night, the next morning we were scheduled to set off early by boat for the beginning of the first stage.

Striking out like vikings we headed across the sea to the start of the 127.7 km opening stage.

Including a series of punchy hills the day’s route climbed away from the port of Tau to skirt the coast before heading inland.

Rolling through picturesque and surprisingly green countryside we encountered very little traffic besides the Haute Route’s own motorcade of support vehicles.

With a total of 2,134 metres climbing scattered throughout the day, having hit the furthest point of Hjelmeland we turned back on ourselves.

Splitting into different groups depending on how much faith each rider felt in their legs, I managed to hang on with the faster bunch as we raced alongside the glass flat Øvre Tysdalsvatnet lake.

With any local cars now taking the tunnel recently cut straight into the mountain, we had the run of the old road’s abandoned twin lanes for the lake’s entire 12 kilometre length.

I was feeling both happy and slightly awestruck by the scenery when the last climb back along the coast slapped me down and I found myself sprinting alone for the last 15 kilometres to reach the ferry.

Not that missing it would have meant anything more than a well catered half hour wait for the next one, but hopping on just as they were pulling up the ramp added an element of extra excitement to the end of the first day.

Part of the Haute Route’s attraction is that all the logistics are taken care of, leaving you free to enjoy the riding.

The team will be there at the roadside with bottles and snacks; if your bike is broken, they’ll fix it. If you want to throw in the towel, they’ll sweep you up. If your legs are sore, they’ll provide a massage.

Along with this they’ll also make sure you’re well fed and watered each day, including taking you out to some very good restaurants.

However, as nice as all that is it doesn’t quite trump the sense of camaraderie created by assembling a group of people who are all doing what they love.

Each journey home ended with an informal debrief among the riders, while back at the hotel there was time to relax by yourself before reassembling for food and drinks in town.

Waking early on Saturday for the second day’s riding the chartered ferry headed away from the dock and into weather that promised to be every bit as rugged as the day's proposed route.

Despite this riders packed the forward decks to take in the views. Straight out of the harbour civilisation was quickly left far behind.

The Lysefjorden fjord runs in a long sliver from the sea deep into the landscape. A major tourist attraction in its own right, early in the morning we had it entirely to ourselves.

It’s hemmed in by walls of rock up to a kilometre high and its dark and cold waters are home to seals which flanked the boat.

At one point we passed below the famous Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock) although it was difficult to see high up in the mist.

Once disembarked at the far end of the Lysefjorden we quickly found ourselves riding through an empty tunnel hacked straight into the mountainside.

A unique and slightly eerie experience soon we emerged onto a climb that traversed up into the interior. Tough but with a steady 10% gradient, it took around an hour to summit and provided most of the day's 2,200 metres of uphill.

In clear weather the views at the top would have been amazing. Even in the mist the jumbled mass of exposed rock proved a spectacular place to be. Exactly what you’d hope from a trip this far north.

Norway is a wild place and up high the weather was every bit as untamed as the scenery, yet being caught in such rugged terrain was inspiring enough that I never found myself thinking about the showers back at the hotel.

This was helped by the support from the Haute Route team, who pitched up to provide food and deliveries of warm clothing at the top of the climb.

With the rest of the stage largely running downhill, I joined with some local riders who formed a phalanx to batter their way through the rain as we raced along empty roads across deserted valleys and up alongside the Frafjordheiane National Park.

Defrosted back at the hotel, few riders seemed keen to get an early night, despite the prospect of the following day’s final time trial.

So instead we made like sailors on shore leave and hit the waterfront bars. The next morning the effects of the previous evening were mitigated by the restorative effects of pinning on a race number.

Allowing riders to head home on the Sunday evening, a short time trial rounds off the trip.

Stomping around the outskirts of Stavanger a host of marshals help keep the riders on track while they race the last few kilometres of their Norwegian expedition.

Back in time for work on the Monday the Maserati Haute Route was an amazing introduction to riding in Norway that covered more kilometres by land and sea than you’d imagine possible.

With 550 pre-registrations for the 2018 edition coming in within days of the event being announced the inaugural running looks set to be well attended.

To find out more information and pre-register for your place on the event please visit: hauteroute.org/events/norway_2018

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