Sweden’s gravel calendar starts in March with the Dirty Halland: A 165 kilometre gravel ride, organised by Team CYKLAMERA. We rode the 2022 edition, and it was a day filled with sun, gravel and climbs: a success formula for a first-class gravel event.
The organisers create a brand new route each year, and this year’s ride was fast and scenic. The start was in Steninge, a lovely little coastal town located 20 kilometres northwest of Halmstad. From a logistics point of view we opted to rent a car for the day. Like real Swedes we drove a (rented) Volvo station car to Steninge. With our 3T Exploro gravel bikes stacked in the trunk
Grusfest for every type of rider
On the road we already spotted some gravel bikes on cars with bike carriers, a telling sign that we were in for a big group ride. No one counted, but the organisers estimated that over 200 riders started, divided in three categories: Muddy (20 km/h), Dirty (24 km/h) and Dusty (28 km/h). We optimistically categorised ourselves in the Dirty group.
At the start line we reconnected with friends that we met over the last two years of grus grinding all over the country. We started the ride with a peloton of about 75 riders. A short bit of tarmac, and then the first gravel section of the day. As in every group ride, the pace was high from the get go. Combine that with a bumpy gravel surface and the water bottles started shooting off bikes and onto the road.
Post-COVID gravel cycling
We chose to let the big group go and ride at our own pace. Two weeks before the event we both tested positive for COVID, so we weren’t in the best shape to begin with. This also explains why you mainly see Sabina in most of the pictures, and no big groups of cyclists. The fun thing about an event with so many participants, is that you almost always catch up with someone, or they will catch up with you.
The 2022 Dirty Halland route
The Dirty Halland 2021 went through a lot of dense forests, whereas the 2020 route reminded us a bit of Skåne. Rolling hills, open fields, and agricultural lands. But way less populated than our Southern province. The route included typical Swedish scenery, with needle leaf trees, icey blue lakes and rocky ‘grusväger’.
One of the prettiest sections starts at the 65 kilometer mark. We crossed a national road and then a long gravel section began. Team Cyklamera made a Strava segment of this section. It’s 9 kilometres in length, but don’t start too hard along the lake. The segment includes two small but tough climbs in Yttra Bergs Naturreservat.
We also loved the section on the Ätranbaneleden, between Ullared and Fegen. The trail goes over old railway embankments. Not exactly an easy rolling bike lane, but this challenging double-track gravel road is the reason why you bring a gravel bike and not a road bike.
Resupply at the fika stop
Team CYKLAMERA made sure that bonking wasn’t an option by including an amazing bakery halfway on the route. Vallsäters Skafferi, after 84 kilometres in Ullared, was the perfect place for a fika break with coffee and pastries. Ullared is also home to Gekås, which for us makes it one of the weirdest places in Sweden. Gekås is a super store with a shopping area of over 30.000 square metres. People from all over the country come here to shop in bulk. The area even includes a bungalow park, a camping area and Sweden’s biggest parking lot.
Finishing 160 km
Halfway through the Dirty Halland gravel ride the finish still felt very far away, especially with the headwind that played a small, but still a present part. Our physical condition had taken a noticeable hit from COVID. But as soon as we turned southwards, our spirits got a pick up from the tailwind and we reached the finish in what felt like no-time. We might not be very fast, but we can steadily ride very far – which happens to be exactly what we’re training for!
Back in Steninge, we were welcomed by Robin and Gustavo from Team CYKLAMERA with an ice cream followed by a big meal. Big thanks to everyone on the team for organising this amazing ride. By the way, if you rode the Dirty Halland this year and are missing a glove, we handed it over to the organisation. And if you lost a banana because it fell out of your pocket, sorry but we ate it.
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