Vai al contenuto Vai alla navigazione
finland-cover-desktop.jpg
FINDING FINLAND

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS

I sit at home in my sauna on a bright, blood moon-lit night, reflecting fondly upon my visit to Lahti a few short months ago. It is true, the Finns invented the sauna; it is an integral part of their culture and lifestyle, and inadvertently, has become a part of mine as well.

When the surprising opportunity arose to ride the FNLD GRVL route and spend a week getting familiar with the city of Lahti and the Päijänne Tavastia region, and getting to do so with F1 driver Valtteri Bottas, how could I possibly say no?

My years racing cyclocross in Europe were exclusively spent in the dead of winter on the muddy, sandy and windy parcours of the low countries. I lived in Belgium in my youth and yet had never been north of the Netherlands, so flying into Helsinki and seeing everyone wearing less than heavy winter parkas was both a treat and a type of culture shock for me!

In Helsinki we rented an appropriately European diesel station wagon and drove the easy hour north to Lahti, quickly built our bikes and joined Kalle, Sami and the SBT GRVL crew for a few easy hours to shake the flight out of our legs.
finland-1-desktop.jpg
finland-3-desktop.jpg
finland-2-desktop.jpg
finland-4-desktop.jpg
finland-5-desktop.jpg

FINNISH FLAIR

Kalle, with the authority of a military commander, made sure everyone understood the route, its features, and kept all of the riders together. Sami, our local guide and tireless leader, led the group through the surrounding hillside, his decades spent in the saddle certainly overcome any deficit age may bestow. Cantilever brakes on steel cyclocross bikes for hardmen indeed.

Finish culture is notoriously reserved, even stoic; Finns are not going to try to impress you. And that is also how the riding presents itself: you will not encounter boisterous hour-long mountain climbs nor the braggartry, sweeping descents that come with them. What Finland’s Lake Country offers, however, are endless kilometers of flawless dirt and gravel roads, almost completely void of traffic, allowing you to absorb yourself into the boreal landscape.
finland-6-desktop.jpg
finland-8-desktop.jpg
finland-7-desktop.jpg
finland-9-desktop.jpg
finland-10-desktop.jpg

RELENTLESSLY ROLLING

This is not to say the riding is easy: the region is filled with steep punchy climbs and relentless rollers resultant from millennia of glacial activity drawn across the land. You feel as if you are riding through a painting; around every turn is a stunning Nordic field with a quaint and beautiful house, firewood stacked neatly by its side. It’s easy to imagine spending the summer sitting lazily on the porch before cozying down through a long winter.
finland-11-desktop.jpg
finland-12-desktop.jpg
finland-13-desktop.jpg
finland-14-desktop.jpg
finland-15-desktop.jpg

GREEN LAHTI

Back in Lahti, a city of about 120,000 people, we discover a variety of excellent restaurants and world-class coffee. As a vegan cyclist for close to 3 decades, I am very familiar with the challenge of finding healthy food options while traveling internationally. Lahti has been named a European Green Capital city and the sustainability-minded Finns have embraced vegan and vegetarian living. We even found a farmer's market and a completely vegan pizza joint!
finland-16-desktop.jpg
finland-17-desktop.jpg
finland-18-desktop.jpg
finland-19-desktop.jpg
finland-20-desktop.jpg
finland-21-desktop.jpg
finland-22-desktop.jpg

FNLD GRVL RECON

We pushed off the next morning from the Lahti Sports Complex to begin our recon of the 177km FNLD GRVL course. The massively imposing ski jump structures give way to over 170 kilometers of Nordic ski trails and precipitous terrain which also double in the summer as a world of gravel double track and mountain bike trails.

We rolled together over the steep hills, which challenged our ability to remain a cohesive group, and spent the day riding hard, sharing pulls, conversing, and getting to know our Finnish hosts and the other Americans and Europeans. We enjoyed a surprise Kahiwa coffee stop in the woods and truly just reveled in the unique topography and sheer beauty of the experience.

I knew it would be a long day out but completely underestimated the toll the punchy nature of the riding would take on my legs. After 6 hours, I was cracked: the fast course with its repeated staccato climbs suits me and I was enjoying it so much, I blew up with no warning. We rolled back into the sports complex completely spent and hungry to do it again.
finland-23-desktop.jpg
finland-24-desktop.jpg
finland-25-desktop.jpg
finland-26-desktop.jpg
finland-27-desktop.jpg
finland-28-desktop.jpg
finland-29-desktop.jpg

JUST KEEP SWIMMING

In the warm afternoon of our post-ride we wandered through town to discover a lake hidden by trees where we ate snacks, swam, watched kids jump from the diving platform and enjoyed a serene afternoon together. That simple, easy communion was the perfect contrast to the demanding riding we had been putting ourselves through that week.
finland-30-desktop.jpg
finland-31-desktop.jpg
finland-32-desktop.jpg
finland-33-desktop.jpg
finland-34-desktop.jpg
finland-35-desktop.jpg

I'LL BE BACK

After a week spent riding around Lahti and savoring the sublimely unobtrusive experience, I found myself with a non-stop smile on my face. I can speak to why Finns have the reputation as “the world’s happiest people”. The riding is hard and fast, the living is slow and easy. That is a matter of fact and is perfectly Finnish.

Finland might not yet be at the top of your list of must-go European cycling destinations but it soon will be. I hope to see you in Suomi on July 10th for FNLD GRVL. Until then…
finland-36-desktop.jpg
finland-37-desktop.jpg
finland-38-desktop.jpg
finland-39-desktop.jpg
finland-40-desktop.jpg
finland-41-desktop.jpg
FOOTNOTES
We'll be heading back to Lahti for FNLD GRVL on June 10, 2023. We're expecting registration to sell out this week, so be sure to come join us! https://www.fnldgrvl.com/
You can compare a maximum of 5 items at once. Please Remove at least one product before adding a new one.