North Cape 4000:
Into the unknown
Published: March 2023
When Viggo Vea reached out to us and bought a Juno frameset early in 2022, we noticed he was an ultra cyclist, but didn’t give it much more thought. We like to keep an eye out on the frames we sell to see how they turn out when built and how they are used, but we didn’t really see much of it until he was on his way to Italy to take part in the North Cape 4000 – an unsupported ultra distance race from Italy to the north cape. Our interest grew day by day as Viggo was pedaling relentlessly through Europe. We became “dotwatchers” and were checking for his updates several times a day as he was impressing everyone with a pace, stamina and humor few can match.
The following is a recap of his own words, translated to English by us. Part 1 of 2.
Day 1 and 2
I line up close to the front and like in any other sportive, we get fired up by a funny speaker. The difference being that all the bikes got bags and the cyclists that have their loved ones present get extra long hugs. It’s evident what kind of trip we’re heading out for.
We’re off and it’s full gas. I join some sort of lead group but realize I need to find a more sustainable pace. Riders fly by all the time, but after half an hour a group forms and it flows nicely. Sometimes a weekend warrior joins to pull at the front, but after a while they get tired and head back to where they came from.
After 105 km we reach Merano, which happens to have a McDonalds, so I stop for lunch. When I leave things seem to have calmed down and people have realized that they can’t maintain the intensity of the first stint. We start climbing and suddenly we’re in Austria, in a town called Schlanders (144 km). Tirol is beautiful with loads of ski resorts, and I keep going until the highest point of the whole course – 1540 masl. It flattens out alongside a beautiful lake before diving down to Nauders (195 km) where I’m able to stack up with baguettes at a supermarket. No problem carrying weight when it’s only downhill, right?
After the stop it’s up again by a few hundred meters of elevation. I get caught by Alexander and his partner Katharina and he offers to take my picture at the top. We talk a little bit before he says “bye”. I try to hang on, but they are very quick and seem to have no plans of being passed by a chubby music school teacher.
For a brief moment I’m in Switzerland, and upon returning to Austria it starts to get dark. In Pfunds (225km) I see a kebab house and think to myself that dinner would be nice. They also got a toilet, so even though it takes time to stop, it’ll do.
As night falls I start riding with two other guys. An Englishman I met in Nauders and Steven Mao Pong from Singapore. We take turns going in all kinds of wrong directions, but the miles fly by and at 300 km there’s a steep climb that will take us to Germany. It starts in Telfs at 640 masl and finishes at about 1300. An open McDonalds in Telfs is taken advantage of and the Englishman tells us it’s his birthday tomorrow. He turns 60 and Mr. Pong is impressed, but also not looking forward to the 10% grade climb filled with hairpins.
It’s tough and I start the slowest, but I’m also the only one planning to keep going through the night. It’s harder than anticipated, but after a while I pass Pong who is struggling with cramps. In the distance I can see the birthday boy. Turns out they’re not so fast either. We get cheered on by a taxi and eventually we reach the top. The Englishman rolls out his sleeping bag. According to the book it’s basically downhill all the way to Munich and checkpoint 1 – but still 120 km. I feed myself with Snickers and keep the wheels rolling. It’s properly farmland now and next to a farm in the middle of the road I see drunk men in lederhosen that can barely stand up. It’s Saturday night I guess.
At dawn there’s several “postcard moments” as I get closer to checkpoint 1.
Entering Munich the route takes me through beautiful parks. The city looks a bit rough from the night before, but I eventually reach the checkpoint. Not open so no stamp. But I take a picture instead and find another McDonalds, the third so far.
I change route on my GPS and at 07:30 I’m heading out of the city. The first 50 km is tough so I stop at a gas station for some sandwiches and ice cream. On the way out I’m greeted by a woman calling me by my name. She’s following the tracking and got a friend that is in the race. She tells me I’m in 25th place. I think that’s a bit surprising since I don’t feel fast, but it gives me a little extra energy. Positive things!
The rest of the day is a struggle and the temperature creeps up between 32 and 35 degrees celsius. A lot of farmland and I stop a lot even though there is not much to stop for. There’s a fourth McDonalds I stop at and later in the day as I see another one – the first one I don’t pay a visit.
Every time I get off the bike I struggle to walk straight. I’m a little dizzy. I’d planned to do 700 km to reach a certain ferry in Rostock, but surely that’s not possibly now?
As the day is coming to an end I find a hotel in a town called Amberg. It turns out the hotel is 4 km off the course, but I get there. Funny concept where the hotel is a former prison. “Here is the key to your cell” the woman tells me and I unlock an iron door to get into my tiny cell. I wash my clothes, knock over my bike and manage to get to bed before 22:00.
I fall asleep like a rock.
The first leg of the NC4K is over and I’m 640 km into the race.
You've just read part 1 of 2. Stay tuned for the final episode.