WOW Cyclothon: All Women - All Class!
WOW Cyclothon is a relay bike race around Iceland held close to the summer solstice in June
of each year and one of the biggest ultra-cycling races in the world.
WOW Cyclothon is a relay bike race around Iceland held close to the summer solstice in June of each year. The race of 2015 broke all previous records for a number of participants and made WOW Cyclothon one of the biggest ultra-cycling races in the world.
Cyclists competed in three categories, solo riders, A-category (4 person team relay) and B-category (10 person team relay) which could be all male, all female and mixed. The female competition was especially fierce this year as the race has never seen such a high percentage of female participants, proving once and for all that bicycle races are for everyone. Team HFR / Renault had a great race and was the first all women’s B-category team to reach the finish line.
Knowing your Strength
Team HFR / Renault was exceptionally well sponsored with two brand new yellow Renault vehicles that took them around Iceland. The team was formed after someone asked the question, “Shouldn’t the Reykjavik Cycling Club (HFR) women have a team in WOW Cyclothon?” and so three HFR women’s teams emerged. “This just goes to show how many quality female cyclists there are in the club, the HFR women winning both the A and B categories for all female teams,” the members of HFR / Renault say.
Six cyclists from the HFR / Renault team had participated in the WOW Cyclothon before, all with winning A-category female teams over the years. They all train with HFR and take part in competitive street racing and say that before the race they knew the strengths of their team as well as its weaknesses. “We also had María Sæmundsdóttir as our driver and this was her second victory in the race,” they say, adding that being a driver for a WOW Cyclothon team can be even harder than being a cyclist as the drivers hold a lot of responsibility.
Planning is Key
The members of HFR / Renault agree that training specially for the race was unnecessary but there were other things that needed their attention before hitting the Ring Road. “We were lucky to have Jórunn Jónsdóttir, the most powerful team leader ever. She saw to it that everything was in order before we started the race.” They also met before the race to create their race strategy. “Margrét, our Excel genius, put together a plan for changeovers, sleeping and vehicle arrangements; we had two cars so we had to have two drivers. This document was only a guideline of course, as there will always be surprises in a race like this where you have to change your plans and adapt, choosing the strongest cyclist for a particular situation. We wanted to go the whole distance together as one team so we didn’t split up into two groups like many B teams do in this race,” they say.
A Great Adventure
The team never publicly announced its plan to win the women’s B category but they all agree that it was their goal. “We were confident and not winning was never an option. We also had a time goal, we wanted to finish as close to 40 hours as possible. But of course, we also wanted to have fun and come home without injuries,” they say.
Speaking of injuries, did the HFR / Renault team have any problems during the race? “Problems? You mean adventures! It was pretty smooth sailing actually and we came home with a lot of great memories. Our favorite one is when Guðbjörg suddenly decided to start her modelling career and was going to pose on top of a road sign. Rather clumsily she fell off and then rolled down a hill causing several of us to pee ourselves laughing. We had to change our pants and everything!” They all agree that the atmosphere onboard their vehicles was great. “We were in great spirits the entire time and were ready to enjoy the race.”
Teamwork and Competition
HFR / Renault worked with mixed and all male teams from Advania, Sana, Síminn and later also with Team Landsbankinn. “We were personally in hard competition with Team Kría, another all women’s B category team. They beat us during the first changeover in Hvalfjörður so we had to put all our efforts into catching up with them. The race was on between us until after the Holtavörðuheiði heath when we finally put a wide enough gap between us and we managed to keep them well behind us the rest of the race.”
“The teams we were working with never had a hard agreement about working together throughout the race so all of us had to stay alert and be ready for attacks. At the Öxi mountain road, the gaps between teams became wider but Guðbjörg put herself into mad gear and swooshed down Öxi to catch up. We caught up with Team Sana and Síminn in Berufjörður and with them drove up the pace to catch up with Team Advania and then Landsbankinn but by then Sana and Síminn got left behind. Despite this great teamwork all teams had to be wary and by Kleifarvatn, close to the finish line, Team Landsbankinn and Advania made an attack we weren’t quite ready for, wanting to beat us to the finish line. We got left behind but still we reached the finish line smiling from ear to ear, blissfully happy after 42 hours and 45 minutes on the road.”
Members of the yellow HFR / Renault team agree that the whole trip was a blast. “Being outside, cycling and having fun in the Icelandic nature, day or night, competing, enjoying life and spending over 40 hours in this great company, what could be more amazing than that?”
Ride through the midnight sun in the most exceptional ultra-cycling race in the world, 1,358 km around Iceland, during the summer solstice in June.
Go to WOW Cyclothon’s home page for more information and registration for next year’s race and follow the competition on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more information and photos.
Photos: Kristinn Magnússon