2017 road cycling world championships were held in Bergen, Norway. At the end of summer, not in winter. The host nation, along with the UK, is among the countries to have the biggest surge in enthusiasm for cycling over the past 10 years. However, Norway also has an intriguing side to its newly-acquired passion for cycling. Bergen, like the capital Oslo, is located at a latitude of 60 degrees north – the same as… Alaska. Tens of thousands of cyclists therefore have to deal with an element that has a bigger impact than elsewhere – the bitter winter weather.
So how do Norwegian cyclists cope? “It’s a real challenge, acknowledges Oyvinf Aas, from the National Cycling Association, Syklistene. From December to March, the country is covered by layers of snow. But it’s not impossible to go out for a ride in such wintry conditions. The hard-core cyclists rides mountain biking, on bikes that are fully equipped to ride over the snow. And some roads on the coast remain clear, even when temperatures are low.”
However, snow is not the only problem; there’s also the darkness. In Oslo, during December and January, the daylight lasts from 10 in the morning until 3 o’clock in the afternoon, when it’s dark once again. However, Thor Hushovd, the road cycling world champion in 2010 and a winner of 10 stages of the Tour de France, reckons these difficulties actually give Norwegian cyclists a psychological advantage. “ Our outdoor, above all nordic skiing, culture makes us philosophical about the weather, he explains. We know there’s no point worrying about any rain or snow we might have to deal with – if we want to train and make any real progress. And once you reach a certain level in the sport, you know that you can always head south to the training bases around the Mediterranean or elsewhere. ” In fact, specialised Norwegian travel agencies are now arranging foreign trips for growing numbers of the country’s cycling fans. That said, champion riders such as Edvald Boasson Hagen or Lars Petter Nordhaug still prefer to spend more of their time in Oslo than in Spain or Tuscany. In winter, they enjoy skiing on the iconic Holmenkollen hill that overlooks the city. They are cyclists, but first and foremost they are Norwegians.