By Teemu Virtanen
Tomorrow is the day when many of the Visma Ski Classics pro teams and their athletes start their racing season. Some may ask whether it’s too early for skiing as there are no signs of snow in the vicinity of the long distance battlefield, but we don’t need the magic of winter to have a full-blown skiing experience. Klarälvsloppet is a 90 km roller-ski race starting from Uddeholm and finishing in the idyllic city of Karlstad in Sweden.
The race is certainly one of the longest, or maybe even the longest, roller-ski race in the world, and what makes this event second to none is the fact that there is a dedicated bike road from Uddeholm to the border of the city of Karlstad. I tested the course yesterday, and to my amazement it was something that I haven’t seen before. And believe me, I have seen many things in my adventurous life. Never have I been able to roller-ski on a road that goes through forests, fields, farm lands, towns and some wonderous sights to see, and it seemed never-ending.
When I started in Uddeholm, the weather was a bit on the rainy side, but the day turned out to be extremely beautiful with the sun embracing me with its warmth and bringing me comfort on my long journey through the Swedish countryside. The first part of the course went through some forests where I was able to proceed solo without anyone in sight. I saw the first buildings about an hour into my exercise, and the first town came along when I had managed to leave about 60 km behind me. Then, the last 30 km introduced me to the attractive Swedish urban environment, although with the specific small town feeling that literally, and positively, grabbed me by the throat.
So, I really have to admit that this particular course is the best roller-ski road I’ve ever been on, and I am certain that the participants tomorrow are in for a wonderful treat. For me, it felt like I was doing Vasaloppet on roller-skis by myself. But what is this race besides the fourth Visma Ski Classics Challengers event of the Season X. The event’s website describes the race as follows:
The Klarälvsbanan trail cuts right through the Värmland countryside following the course of the river – a ninety-kilometre asphalted nature trail. This is Sweden’s longest roller ski race – a challenge for recreational and elite athletes alike. And a perfect warm-up for anyone looking ahead to the winter races.
Well said, and as I am sitting at the finish area and watching the bike race unfold while writing this piece, I have to agree that this is a perfect setting for anyone who loves sports. The sun is shining, the atmosphere is cozy and welcoming and I see a lot of happy people around me. This is truly an event that can grow to be much more than just a weekend of sport festivities.
The idea of Klarälvsloppet initiated when Glenn Olsson, a former cross-country skier, who walked away from the sport due to some health issues and left behind the world he loved so much, decided to make his dream come true. He became a driving force in the Rally Sweden and achieved great things with the brand. But he never lost his love for skiing, and as the time went by, he realized that his passion was still burning inside of him, and he decided to do something about his craving for skiing. And that's how Klarälvsloppet came about.
“I got this idea about 10 years ago,” Glenn says with a reminiscent tone in his voice. “It took me a couple of years to execute it, and I talked to Tommy Höglund from Vasaloppet about it, and he was involved at the beginning as well. Our race is now a Vasaloppet seeding race. What really makes our race so unique is that we have a 90 km track exclusively for roller-skiing and biking, and it benefits the whole region. I don’t think there’s anything like this anywhere in the world. I’m so happy to have a great cooperation with Visma Ski Classics and it’s fantastic that we can be part of the Challengers series. But by being an eternal dreamer, my vision is even bolder. I really want our event to be part of the Pro Tour in the years to come. This race could open the Pro Tour season even if we’re talking about a roller-ski race here. Who knows what happens in the future!”
Indeed, the future tends to be mysterious and roller-skiing is certainly becoming more than just a summer training method for skiers. We have witnessed many exciting battles and drama on roller-ski races this summer and fall, and tomorrow’s race will certainly be no exception to the rule.
Finally, let’s have a word about Karlstad as it is the central place of the event. As I am an enthusiastic coffee drinker, it delights me to tell you that the great Swedish coffee brand Löfbergs, or formely known as Löfbergs Lila, comes from the city. Karlstad is the capital of Värmland County with a population of about 90,000 people counting the wider municipality. It is the 21st biggest municipality in Sweden and it is often associated with sunshine and its symbol is a smiling sun. It is said to be the sunniest city in Sweden, and today is a solid proof of the statement. Karlstad is built on the river delta of the country’s longest river, Klarälv, and it runs into Sweden’s largest lake Vänern.I mentioned the rally before, but the city is also known for its ice hockey team Färjestad BK that has won several Swedish Championships.
So, the next time you plan to visit Sweden, you may want to put Karlstad in your travel itinerary and come and enjoy the Swedish sunshine. And if your vacation trip happens to be at the end of September, you can take your roller-skis with you and join the fun of Klarälvsloppet. I guarantee that you will not be disappointed. You can get into the mood by following our live race coverage on Facebook and PLAY.