North dimension

The 2017 race is scheduled for August 10 to 13.

Some 120 riders compete in the four-day conquest of the Norwegian Far North, sometimes sprinting across the polar circle.

The Arctic Race of Norway is the world’s northernmost bike race. It has transcended picturesque stereotypes to become a high-level sports event and the showpiece of a little-known region.

You need to be slightly mad to organize a cycle race in northern Norway, where even the summer reminds the foolhardy and the optimistic that “circle” and “polar” come together here. Or perhaps you simply have to look around to appreciate the superb roads, steep mountain passes and straight lines ideal for sprint finishes, as well as a population that has a discreet attachment to the bicycle and was quick to develop a passion for the event.

Unbridled enthusiasm

Launched five years ago, the race passes through beautiful wild landscapes: skies you can lose yourself in, large forests, unspoiled tundra, dozens of scattered, more or less deserted islands, glaciers in a hundred hues of white, and majestic fjords. The roads, skirting the coast at sea level, before rising to offer tough, exhausting stage finishes amid snow-capped mountains, are as beautiful as they are demanding for the ridersand also for the spectators, who are lining the roads in growing numbers. Bundled up, they often clutch flags, which they wave frenetically. They also sport fun outfits, attempting to beat improbable world records, showcasing traditions and regional costumes, camping and feasting in a mood of communal cheer. They know how to warm up the atmosphere even though the temperature sometimes barely rises above 10 degrees Celsius in August. Nothing deters them and, as in the most famous races, the fans’ passion can best be measured at the top of a mountain pass. Despite the cold and the rain lashing their faces, the spectators remain loyal, singing and encouraging their riders. Although the Arctic Race of Norway is professional and competitive, a good-natured spirit reigns among competitors. There are few races of this stature where the athletes horse around before the start, or compete on a climb for the surprising prize of 500 kg of salmon, the Norwegian specialty.

Peaceful horizons

Peaceful horizons After the riders have gone past, tranquility returns. The rhythm slows and amateur cyclists occupy the roads again, following the bike paths away from the major highways and island-hopping via ferryboats. Wherever they go, they can find welcoming spots to put up their tents and, when they need a nap, can lean against the red timber houses that dot the region. Between June and August, the days get longer and longer, and when the sun is reflected on the sea, the landscapes are bathed in a golden light that is worth as much as any medal.

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