Destroyed by winds and pesky rain

Wednesday, 20 March 2013.

rob schaller In 2005 I had the unique opportunity to participate in the the Melfar 24 Hour Bicycle Challenge held in Middlefart.
This is to be the "sister" event to the National 24 Hour Challenge and in February of 2005 I was made an offer to participate in this event with the entry fee waived and transportation to and from the airport in . Additionally, I was given accomodations with a host family who were also club members of the Baghjulet cycling club (www.baghjulet.dk) that runs the Melfar 24 Hour event.
As they say, "getting there is half the fun" certainly applied to this trip with respect to my bicycle. As a passenger, my travels to went smoothly, however, the longer I waited in for my bike the more uneasy I felt. After an hour in the airport, I filed a lost luggage claim and then departed for the 200 Km trip to the host family (Bruno and Lotte Hausgaard) who live in the villeage of Snoghoj just a few Km from the start of the event.
I was on edge the day before the event because my bike had not been located by the airlines, every few hours we would call and get a different story and so late in the day we were making alternate arrangements for another bike for me to ride during the event. It would not be until , some eight hours before the start of the event, that I would be reunited with my bike again. We drove to a local airport in Bilund to pick up the bike.
Arriving back at Bruno and Lotte's place, I had to assemble the bike and make sure it was mechanically ready for tomorrow's event in a few hours.
It was a quick trip to the ride start but the weather did not look all that great - rain and temps in the mid 50's. Before the start, photos of each rider was taken and these photos were used in conjunction with the computer system used to track each rider's progress through the event.
Each rider would have a bar code scaned and their picture would come up on a computer screen as well as their current mileage and the E.T.A. for completition of the next lap. A half-hour before the start, it really rained hard but fortunately let up for the 8:00 AM start which was conducted by the town's mayor and approximately 60 riders took off for the 250 Km loop around the perimeter of the island of Fyn.
I would stay with the main group till the first control point where I would discover that most riders would actually stop and get off their bikes for food and drink, unlike the crazyness at the control points at the National 24 Hour Challenge.
This seemed really strange to me so I stopped very briefly and took off again while most of the riders stayed behind, eventually some of the groups would catch back up to me again. It was really neat riding through the small villages and actually seeing other non-competitors riding their bikes too!
One thing I found out quickly about is that it is very windy place, and appropriately so, has a lot of windmills for power generation.
The winds were so strong that I could see the trees bending in the wind and this took its toll on me as I am not a strong rider when it comes to headwind, give me hills any day! Eventually, I would ride solo on the grand loop around and I seemed to have no problem staying on the route, at least until I arrived in the town of .
I missed a left turned and spent the next twenty minutes or so trying to find someone who could help me back on course, I wish I had the GPS with me! Once back on course, I saw other riders and started chasing after them, and at one point, I almost went off course again chasing a group but they were on a different ride.
Making my way West back to the home base of Middlefart I would be destroyed by the strong West winds that *averaged* in the low 20 MPH range, and if that wasn't enough, I would experience these pesky waves of rain that would last long enough to get you wet, and then once I started to dry out, it would rain again!
Like the National 24 Hour Challenge, Melfar 24 Hour Challenge also had a similar day and night loop structure to it and so I started my day loops much later in the afternoon than I normally would have because of the additional 50 Km distance on the grand loop and the tough wind conditions that plagued me half way through the big loop.
The day loop was similar in distance to the one in Middleville and was about 35 Km in length and I would complete two trips on this circuit. At least the waves of rain had disappeared for the balance of the event but the winds continued even on the night loop.
A good part of the night loop around 12 Km long, was along the strait that seperates the island of from the mainland of ( ) and so this meant more wind due to open exposed areas.
Actually, this was my favorite part of the route as it was a fairly long stretch of road were you can see riders heading in both directions. Being this far North, sunset was around and the sun rose around !
the upper levels of the atmosphere never really got dark so the use of bike lights was minimal. Riding the National 24 Hour Challenge so many times got me conditioned to think that there was only two more hours of riding around sunrise but at the Melfar 24 Hour, I had another four hours to go, and on top of that, the winds picked up again with the rising sun. At this point in the event it really did not bother me as I got into my own riding zone and I was focused on finishing up the last few hours by staying on the bike.
One difference between the Melfar event and the National 24 Hour challenge is that they had a short 5 Km loop that opened up the last two hours of the event so you could minimize the risk of being caught on the longer 12 Km loop when the event ended at 8:00 AM, like the National 24 Hour Challenge, only fully completed loops count towards total mileage.
I guess one could still got caught on the 5 Km loop at the end of the event but the loss is not as great. It was around when I would do this short 5 Km circuit. Despite the weather and getting lost on the big loop, I somehow managed to get in over 600 Km which is still some 35 Km below my 15 year average at the National 24 Hour Challenge.
The day after the Melfar 24 Hour I visited city hall and met the mayor of Middlefart and enjoy some tea and coffee cake and have some good conversation.
I would like to thank Leo Jensen, Bruno and Lotte Hausgaard, and the entire Baghjulet cycling club for their warm hospitality while visiting .
It was the experience of a lifetime and I look forward to another visit! Perhaps riding tandem on the Melfar 24 Hour challenge for better balast into the wind?
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