Before starting the 1358-kilometre WOW Cyclothon around Iceland Tuesday afternoon, Svava Dögg Guðmundsdóttir was more relaxed and humble than I am when I start my daily five-kilometre cyclothon in to the Grapevine office.
The WOW Cyclothon is the largest and longest road race in Iceland. Held annually in June, the cyclothon takes riders around the circumference of the island. The cyclists, teams and individuals, must pedal relentlessly to reach the finish line in the allotted 84 hours.
Svava decided to fly solo for this race. No team. Just her and her bike. “It makes me feel really good actually. I feel nothing but good,” she remarked less than an hour before starting the journey across Iceland’s lunar landscape. “I’m solo in person too, so I decided to compete solo as well. What is more, I don’t know many people who like to cycle,” she added. “Hopefully I can do this in 74 hours”
Svava has cycled since she was a little girl, more seriously beginning in 2013. Her preparations for the race intensified over the last two months: “Just cycling and cycling and cycling.”
Beside training, Svava had to find herself drivers to carry her equipment and support her on the long and difficult journey. “Also I had to buy appropriate clothing and food that is good for my stomach,” she recalled.
This is Svava’s first time taking part in any kind of cycling competition. She’s always had the desire to ride her bike all the way around the country, she said, “but I never had time. So I saw an advertisement of this competition where it was asked: ‘Do you want to cycle around the Iceland in only three days?’ I was like, ‘Of course!’”
As our interview draws to a close, Svava reveals her mindset towards the impending endurance challenge. “I’m happy to go. When I finish this race I will shave my hair.” Sensing my amazement, she explains: “Yeah, I’ve done this many times before. I want to do it. It’s not a challenge for me.”
Svava and her three team members—Jón Eggert, her crazy cyclist friend; Art, her photojournalist friend; and Sóley, her loving sister—woke up yesterday after sleeping for just an hour and a half. “It was hard, really hard to get up from the bed in the van, but Svava decided to do it,” Art says.
“It’s a bit dramatic—this type of crisis when you just can’t wake up—your body and mind don’t want to serve you. But yeah, she will cycle again,” he adds.
Today, after the murderous crossing over mountains, they are finally in Akureyri. Art affirms: “Svava said she wants to go even further.”