I was looking very much forward to riding the 1350 km long self supported bike packing event Denmark Across this year. Two months before, I broke two ribs in a crash and got some nerve damage, but was feeling up to the task though my training had been on a minimum. The weather forecast was looking good, no rain and some fairly high degrees, so I was debating whether to leave my sleeping bag and rain gear at home. That changed when we got close to departure, so eventualley I brought both, which turned out to be a very wise decision. Packing for this event is straight forward, as access to food and clean water along the route is plenty. It´s surprising how little you can do with for a week on the bike.
Day one started in Dragør, close to Copenhagen. Casper Ortvald, the organizer and route planner of this amazing journey, was sick, so he did not show up for the departure. We were four riders leaving the small harbour this sunny morning, going southbound along the coast of Sjælland in a slow but steady pace. The first day is the only one that is predertimed in terms of lenght. After 166 km there is a shared camp at a shelter close to the beach. The individual time stops when you arrive, and starts again the next morning 7 o´clock. After that the race is open. This days route is a mix of single track, beach, gravel and paved roads. Some stretches, especially around Stevns, has some breathtaking views, and also has the first single track that rolls along the coast, only a few meters from the sea. A feature that is repeated several times on the entire route. I was feeling pretty good, going in my own pace, I got a rainshower and my first and only puncture on the trip just after Køge. I run tubeless, but the hole was too big for the sealent to cope with, so I used a Tubeless Tire Repair plug to sort it out. I also had the first real experience with my partly homemade aero bar, that really makes paved and gravel road riding a lot more relaxed, and gives the opportunity to use some different pressure points on the butt than upright riding permits.
I arrived at the campsite around 6 pm as the first rider. I pitched my tent and ate the dinner I had bought previously, and had a dip in the ocean. Very refreshing after a long day in the saddle. Around dusk I figured I would probably be the only one reaching the camp, so I went to sleep.
Next morning I was still the only participant at the site, I had a quick breakfast, a yoghurt drink and some musli, broke down my camp and jumped into the still damp cycling clothes. These couple of minutes, putting on the clammy shorts and shirt and waiting for them to warm up just a little bit from the body warmth, is the only part of these trips that I will probably never get used to or appreciate just a tiny bit. The route went along the beautiful Præstø Fjord on single track and dirt roads. A couple of early bird joggers cheered med as I rolled by them, and Præstø offered a much needed cafe au lait in the sun.
Møn had a all new route to offer this year, going all the way to Møns Klint which offered a little bit of hike a bike along the rolling coast line, and some breathtaking views down at the blue clear water from the single track high above. A stretch of beach was covered quite fast in the mixture of sand and seaweed that indicated that the beach might almost vanish during high tide. A long haul, or at least it feels like that, on paved road in strong headwind led me to the first of a total of four ferrys on the route from Bogø to Stubbekøbing on Falster.
Falster is a favourite on the route, the stretch along the coast on single tracks and gravel roads is incomparable.
The southernmost part of the route is just south of Gedser, a selfie is required at this point to be uploaded to the events Facebook page. As dusk was approaching, I checked my Shelter app to find a spot for the night and found a shelter at Bruserup Harbour, just one kilometre off course. It turned out to be a nice spot a few meters from the sea with nice and clean toilets at the harbour. I pitched my tent and went to sleep with another 199 kilometres covered.
The rest of Falster was covered in a couple of hours. On a small road I encountered numerous of young pheasants in big flocks, running around confused and flying here and there in the early morning sun.
Lolland seems a little boring in terms of terrain for cycling, and a strong headwind made it even less pleasent. I like the area around Maribo for its lakes and woods, and not at least for my very good friend Nils that has just moved there. Just outside Maribo open air museum he waited for me at a bench with a thermo of hot coffee and a cozy chat.
I had the time tables for all the ferrys on a sheet of paper in my backpack, but decided to race as fast as possible to the ferry terminal in Tårs and not waste time by checking it. As I approached the ticket booth I could see the last car being swallowed by the ferry. I quickly purchased a ticket and raced aboard. I had just entered the deck when the bow door was closed, and as the ferry maneuvred towards sea heading for Langeland I strapped my bike securely against the wall.
Langeland is very special to me. A couple of years ago I published a book about the island. I spend a lot of time photographing the different aspects of living on a small island, touring the island mainly in my car, but finished the project by riding the coastline as a bikepacking trip, directly on the beach as much as possible. I felt like wrapping up the project this way. Crossing the island makes me relive a lot of the experiences I had during that project.
Fyn had some new sections this year, all to the positive side. Especially the area around Arreskov Sø is beautiful and fun to ride as well. I was riding in the dense forest along Nørresø, when I heard a loud noise just above me. I looked up but the treetops were too dense to see what it was. I had a clear idea about what it was, and soon there was a clearing in the treetops, and a flock of cranes were hovering just above me.
Around dusk I began looking for a campsite and was lucky to pass by one within very short time. As the light slowly went into darkness I pitched my tent. Soon it started raining and I went to sleep to the sound of raindrops against the tent fabric.
I was looking forward to the Als where Gendarmstien begins winding along the coast. The ferry from Bøjden was leaving when I arrived, so I had to wait for an hour. The sun was shining bright, so I covered my bike in cycle clothing for drying. The waiting room was empty, so I did some stretch exercises for my back.
Gendarmstien covers the stretch from just before Høruphav all the way to Padborg. And the DA route follows it most of the way. It´s a mix of singletrack, beach and gravel with some breathtaking wievs along the way. At one point the trail is leaving the stony beach and traversing back to a gravel road by a staircase. But the staircase is gone and some workers are in the process of building a new one. A ladder has replaced the staircase and carrying the bike in one hand and trying to keep the balance I manage to climp it. Halfway I hand my camera to one of the guys and ask him to take a picture of me while I stagger towards the top. As I continue the wind has picked up, coming from west, right in my face. As I reach Padborg I decide to have dinner at a truck stop and head north towards Åbenrå. From here the route partly follows Hærvejen through plantations and residential areas. In Kliplev my attention is drawn towards the local community hall that has no windows or doors, the inside is torn apart, the banquet hall has no floor left and building waste has been gathered in a pile in the middle of the room. I hope it´s been torn apart for renovation and not extermination. A lot of these small towns loose their local gathering places like shops and schools, which is very sad I think.
Around dusk I am lucky regarding a camp site again. I check my Shelter app and it turns out there is one in a forest that I am about to enter just south of Åbenrå. 50 meters from the route I find a shelter and camp site, pitch my tent and call my wife for an update.
Next morning I take a selfie which gives an insight in my look, probably as 80-year old. The last three days has definately left its mark.
Soon I find myself trying to find the route on a local mtb trail which is one way only. The route on my gps guides me in the wrong direction. The event is still young and the route is constantly developed, which is also obvious a little later when the trail I have to follow and a bridge crossing a river doesn´t exist, but that is just part of the experience. I report the route mistakes to Casper who takes it very seriously, so I am confident they will be solved for next years event.
I stop by a small local church to fill my drinking bladder. Until now the route has been heading north, but soon starts following Kongeåen towards vest and the everlasting strong headwind. Just after leaving the paved road I have a chat with two men, each of them sitting in a boat having their lunch. This is their workplace every year for two months during the summer. The boats has been build with large cutting devices to cut the grass in the river to prevent it from being completely overgrown. The trail itself is overgrown by grass and is pretty heavy to pedal through. It seems that I am the only one using the trail today, as I don’t meet a single hiker. At some sections the route traverses to a gravel or paved road and back again along the river.
”Roads occationallay flooded”, says the sign as I reach the last kilometres before Vadehavet, the southern part of Vesterhavet. There´s a long haul behind the dike to Esbjerg, the path is easy to ride and I relax in a the aero bar at good speed. Before Vejers Strand the route include the local mtb trail, a fun change of pace. Soon after my rear tire has lost a lot of its pressure. It turns out that it´s the repair I made on the first day that is leaking. I rip out the repair plug, install a new one and pump up the tire. Soon after I reach the beach at Vejers, take the required selfie and upload it to the events Facebook page. The sun has set and I decide to take a night in a hut at the commercial campsite. I wash my cycling clothes in the sink in the bathroom, unpack the tent so it can dry and climb into bed. Around midnight I wake up, my stomach is in rebellion, run to the bathroom and empties my belly. Maybe, after all, the burger I had for dinner wasn´t as delicious as it tasted.
Next morning I wake up, check on my clothes hanging to dry, I can still wring out water. I make a the only possible decision to put it on and hope it will dry from my body heat during the day.
I jump on the bike, the wind is quite strong ……. and coming straight from south. Soon I find myself in a state of wholehearted joy as I am blown northbound in a mix of dirtroads, singletrack through plantations and a state of the art cycling path, winding its way along the coast. Soon I reach Hvide Sande, have a quick lunch, and continues my joyride.
In Thyborøn I have to catch a ferry to Agger and one of my favourite sections through Thy Nationalpark. I have time for a quick meal so I drop into a pizza restaurant and palce my order. It turns out that they have no beef, so I decide for chicken, the fridge is empty, sorry no soft drinks left, the electrics is out in the bathroom and when I have to pay the cardmachine is out of order, cash only. I continue with the pizza tray on the handlebar. Soon a strong wind almost rips the tray off my bike. I manage to catch it but the lid has opened and a couple of slices escapes the tray. I reach the ferry that is nesting in the harbour ready for departure. I eat what is left of the pizza and soon I can board the ferry and head for Agger.
Thy Nationalpark is beautiful in the light of the setting sun and with the wind still coming from the south it´s easy to enjoy the nature. I look for the wolves that are spotted in the area but have no luck. Last year I spend the night in a lifeboat station that has been transformed to a dormitory. I reach it a little too early to spend the night there, but decide to stay anyway. I have decided that I will aim to reach Grenen, the northernmost part of Denmark and the end of the route, the next day. It´s approximately 240 kilometres, so it´s doable.
Next morning I wake up to rain drumming on the roof, put on my rain jacket, jump on the bike and realize that the wind has turned 180 degress and is blowing straight into my face. The decision last night to stop was done in tailwind and a clear sky, now I wish I had continued a little further. The grass and vegetation is wet and my shoes are soaked immediately, and the sand that covers a lot of the trail is wet in the surface, resulting in a mixture of wet and dry sand that is spayed from the tires to the drivetrain. The squeaking sound of sand and metal is soon bothering me, but there is nothing I can do about it. Happily I have used chain oil for dry conditions so the sand is not sticking too much to the moving parts.
At Klim Strand the first forcefull rainstorm hits me. My rainjacket can´t withstand the heavy downpour and I feel drops of water against my stomach. From here it is allowed to ride the rest of the way on the beach. I have decided to try this option but the beach is much more soft and heavy to ride than usually, probably because of the downpour. I take a rest at a café at Slettestrand to evaluate what to do. I decide to continue on the beach as far as possible. Soon I get another rainstorm and the flat and wide beach gets flooded by the downpour that continues. At Nørre Lyngby I decide to continue on the route inland. I find a pizza restaurant and order a pizza. I stay on the mat at the door, my clothes soaking wet and my shoes sandy and muddy. The owner tries to persuade med to sit at a table but I insist not to soak his neat and clean floor and furniture.
I continue, the rain has stopped for a short notice, but the roads and trails are partly flooded. I am wet to the skin but don´t mind it anymore. Some sandy section are easier to hike than bike. A trail going from Rubjerg Knude is fun to ride and I find myself cheering in the dusk. For the last hours I have been the only one on the trails though lots of, mostly german, parked campers verify that there are lots of tourists in the area.
The sign shows 27 kilometres to Skagen, a little longer that I thought. The beam from the flashlight on my helmet creates a tunnel of light in the complete darkness that is hypnotizing me. I look at my gps to check if I am on course and suddenly I wake up as the bike rattle around in the side of the road. For a brief moment I have fallen asleep on the bike.
I pass through Skagen and soon I am on the beach, hiking the last hundred meters to Grenen, the end of the trip and after 20 hours on the bike that day. I take the required selfie but can´t upload it to Facebook as the battery in my phone has run out. In Skagen I find the commercial campsite. It´s 2.30 am and no one is at work at this time. I pitch my tent and longs for a shower but the bathrooms are locked. Only one room is open, a small kitchen for preparing fish, with a waterhose on a cold water tap. I disconnect the hose and connect it to a tap outside and wash my bicycle. Afterwards I reconnect the hose inside and take a bath. Not the official use of the room, but it works for me.
Next morning I have to figure out how to return to Copenhagen. The train is discontinued on a 100 kilometres stretch due to bridge renovation. I call my wife who finds GoMore on the internet, a forum for car sharing, and soon I have a ride from Ålborg in the afternoon. In Ålborg I ask at a bike shop if I can leave my bike while I do some shopping. The guy is thrilled, he also do some bike packing himself, and ask if he can take a picture of my bike for his Instagram. When I return the bike is waiting for me in a stand in the showroom.
After a couple of hours at the train station in Ålborg, I am installed in the backseat of a Kia heading for Copenhagen.
I completed the events 1350 kilometres in the seven days that I had planned for. The last day was a little tougher than I had wished for, but I am extremely happy that I did not scratch. I have developed a state of mind where I can continue no matter how much it hurts in my body, and how tired I am. I know how to switch it on, but I also know that I have to be cautious not to do it too early in the race. It would probably result in a breakdown sooner or later. I kind of exclude all negative thoughts that also seems to exclude the feeling of tiredness and pain. Furthermore, I get very focused on the very close surroundings, the trail, the vegetation, and unconsciously do not think about the kilometres and terrain that still has to be covered. I create a bubble around me. I actually like this state of mind, it detaches me from everything that has nothing to do with the immediate moment I am in. But this is the first time I have actually fallen asleep on the bike, which I find a little scary.