It’s been a good year, full of new experiences and moments with special people. I have learned more about cycling in one year than I have since I started in competitive mountain biking in 2011, and I have met people full of experience. Sharing a hotel room with the National Champion of Luxembourg, being on the same start line as the current World Champions, receiving the first Icelandic UCI license are only a few of the outstanding moments of the year.
2015 will be remembered as the year of firsts.
I started the year with the same goals as in the past years: national titles on top followed by popular wins in the biggest Icelandic races. One thing that stood out was a plan to compete in 1 or 2 mountain bike races outside Iceland.
In the yearly training trip in Tenerife, in the start of February I was presented by a very good friend, Birgir Már Ragnarsson, an opportunity to take a leap of faith into professional cycling. I will be grateful for his help for years to come. Call professional cycling what you want, be it a presence in a pro team or a title in the phone book, but to me it is very simple: this is my primary job, my lifestyle and my passion, and I get paid to do it.
Soon my plans changed and before I knew it I was with my girlfriend in the USA to participate in 2 rounds of the US Pro Cup cross-country series. My first time as an Elite rider, I had to find a way to earn a license in order to be able to race at such a high level. Iceland was not a part of the UCI, cycling’s international governing body, so there was no such thing as an Icelandic UCI license at the time, so after a lot of research I found a way in. My victory in the Cat 1 category of the Sea Otter cross-country race in 2014 had unlocked an upgrade to a professional license in the USA, meaning I could have a license despite not being a US citizen. This was the key to being able to carry out my plans of racing at the Elite level.
My first race could be described as both a disaster, and a great start, depending on who is talking. Starting in the very back of a cross country race is the fate of any racer with no UCI points in their account, and is probably one of the hardest experiences in the sport. The first few hundred meters are raced at 200% intensity, and being in the back means a lot of fighting and rubbing elbows, only to find that after a corner or two, the course narrows into a single track with few possibilities for taking over other riders. This is something to get used to, and prevents many riders from reaching higher places when the race is finished.
But this is part of the game, and I love it. The hardest races are the best races, and I’m not a person who enjoys an easy win.
After a successful summer, I stood up with 8 UCI elite races on my record, in 5 countries, reaching the top 20 in one of them, and the pleasure to be able to say I’ve raced with World Champions and Olympic Champions.
But what were the firsts, previously mentioned?
- I’m the first elite male professional cyclist from Iceland. This was a big change for me, to change my priorities and lifestyle choices, and taking the risks involved. Cycling is my job today, and it’s what I will do for as long as I can, because who would not want to call their passion their job?
- I participated in my first professional race, as noted above. Racing in Bonelli Park, Los Angeles was a great experience, and one I will not forget. I look forward to better performances, but there is something special about the first time doing anything.
- I beat another pro cyclist. One of the highlights of the year was the opportunity to race against high level professional riders like Sören Nissen and Louis Wolf at the Blue Lagoon Challenge in my home country. After having to give up on the chase after Sören rode to victory, I enjoyed sprinting against Louis in the final 200 meters for 2nd place overall. I look forward to racing with both of them again in 2016.
- In October I won a cyclocross race in Iceland. What’s special about the race was the fact that the victory gave me the first title of Icelandic National Cyclocross Champion. I love cyclocross as a supporting discipline to mountain biking, and will continue to pursue it next winter.
- I was the first Icelandic elite rider in a European Championship, in cyclocross to be exact. I’m very proud to race under the banner of Iceland, and being able to present my country’s increasing presence at international cycling events. This is only the beginning, next up is a UCI World Championship.
- Perhaps the only first not planned, I received my first serious cycling injury, when I was hit by a moving motorcycle in November. The accident was a near fatal one, with life threatening head injuries resulting in a dangerous operation carried out by the staff of Erasmus MC in Rotterdam. I will be thankful for their professional skills for the rest of my life.
What is an adventure like this without help and support from others? In a word: impossible.
I have been helped along the way by so many people, and every single one of them has my thanks. It is a fact that I would not be where I am today without equipment, nutritional and financial support from my sponsors, they deserve more than recognition and a logo on my jersey.
Kria Cycles has been there from day one. Thanks to two of my best friends, David and Emil, every year I’m supported by the top end bikes from Specialized, along with their supporting equipment like shoes and life-saving helmets.
Novator are one of the biggest reasons I’m able to call this my day job. They help me support myself between races, and during races. Without them my daily life would not be the same.
Lauf Forks have a strong relationship with me, since I have been a test rider for their leaf spring lightweight cross country fork from the beginning, and continue to be a supported rider and a source of feedback for their development.
Hreysti have been supplying me with their energy drinks, gels and bars, as well as nutrition supplements and weightlifting supplies. They are great guys, and friendly every day.
Iron Viking have helped my recovery with their Compressport products for a few years now, and are a big part of my training and racing progress as a rider.
WOW air get me places, kind of a necessary part of racing as an elite rider, with races all over Europe and America. They have made a difference in my planning, enabling me to go places previously out of reach.
Garmin Iceland make sure I know what I’m doing when I’m on my bike, and have made sure I’ve found remote race locations in other countries more than once.
But it is not all about money or equipment. Every time someone tells me they are following my adventure and are positive about my accomplishments, every time someone says they are proud to know I’m racing for Iceland in other countries, every time someone asks me about cycling, allowing me to share my knowledge and experience, I feel incredibly fortunate. Having people to share my experiences with, and going through a great time of my life with friends and family, is what makes it great.
The future is bright
My plans for 2016 seemed to be derailed, and possibly destroyed by my injuries in November. My recovery was helped by what some would call determination, and others denial, but there is no denying the importance of mental capacity when dealing with an event that could have ended my life.
3 World Cups, 2 World Championships and 3 European Championships are big goals for any cyclist, and they are what keeps me going. There is no reason to aim low when presented with a second chance in life, so why not go big?
Accompanying the big races, my calendar lists over 30 UCI cross country races, in a 6 month racing season. It will be tough at some times, and pure pleasure at others, but one thing is certain. These years of cycling will be an experience I will remember for the rest of my life, one that did not slip away from me, but a real chance of living out my dream.