It‘s been a great year. Starting on square one in January, having been released from the hospital just days before Christmas, I was still in a grey area, not fully recoved, and anything could have happened. My recovery was amazingly quick after coming so close to death, let‘s call it a mixture of luck and top quality medical assistance, with a hint of fighting spirit. My year started when I got back on the bike. Sure, I was happy to be back home with friends and family, but my mind was in a dark place and me being who I am, I needed a goal. I needed a mission.
My mission was a 5 week training camp on Tenerife. Armed with my road bike I went from being dropped in climbs by people I‘ve never had trouble with, to long rides at speeds I hadn‘t seen for months at the time. It was a period of healing for both my mind and body, and I felt that despite some lingering mental problems, I was ready to get back into professional cycling.
I raced in 10 countries this season, from the USA to Switzerland to the Czech Republic. Of course Iceland featured some of my regular goals such as national championships, but my mind has been set on racing in Europe and beyond for a while, and while I love racing on home soil, my aspirations lie elsewhere.
Starting my international season in Italy in March, I already had a good feeling for the season, but still had some reservations due to an extremely difficult winter, and reduced training volume in the past months. A fun-packed trip to California for a couple of US Cup races, Sea Otter Classic included, showed me some progress with a nice top 50 at a UCI HC race. The low point of my season would be a trip with my favorite teammate Gústaf to the European Cross Country Championships in Sweden, May. I had gotten a bad skin infection caused by insect bites on my leg, and the pain combined with strong antibiotics threw my racing form in the trash for weeks. The Euro champs was my first ever DNF, and I felt like I was hitting rock bottom. After a 4 week buildup period I had a strong performance at one of the biggest races in Iceland, the Blue Lagoon Challenge. Coming in 3rd after one of the strongest marathon racers in the world, Soren Nissen, yet beating the European Eliminator Champion Emil Linde, was a big sign of my form getting better. Part of my training period was joining an amazing group of guys as Team Skoda, for the WOW Cyclothon, a relay road race around Iceland. I had a great experience with good friends, feeling a mental boost for the rest of the season.
The rest of the season included 5 weeks of the biggest goals of the season, all in a row. Starting with the UCI marathon World Championships, followed by the UCI XCO World Championships and then a UCI XCO World Cup, along with the Icelandic marathon National Championships and the Icelandic XCO National Championships. A tough period of racing, to say the least. The marathon Worlds, in Laissac, France, is something I still count as the most difficult race I‘ve ever done, due to the technical course, heat, incredibly high level, and total race length. Still it was my best result, relatively, with finishing 75h out of almost 150 riders. It was an amazing trip, and I‘ll never forget it as my first ever World Championship race. In Nove Mesto, at the XCO Worlds I encountered a very difficult course, and a much more competitive environment. I‘m happy I managed to stay out of Nino Schurter‘s way when he passed me on the 5th lap, moments after he made his winning move. This was a race I was glad just to finish, and I learned so much from it. The World Cup in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, was a very similar experience, although made much more friendly with the help of Christian Helmig and Hanna Klein, my room mates during the racing week. I was the first Icelandic individual to participate in all of these events, and I‘m very proud to have raced for my home country in such big events.
A double national championship victory, both for marathon and XCO, was a relief for me, to be honest. I don‘t feel much pressure when racing in Iceland, as I‘m surrounded by friends and family, but racing for the national title always puts me under stress, no matter how many I win. To have the jersey for one more year means a lot to me, and I look forward to putting it on again when I start my 2017 season.
30 flights and 94 nights at various hotels later I‘m thankful for so many things. The support of my girlfriend, Iðunn, is by far the most important thing in my life right now, and having friends and family who happily listen to me going on about this race and that bike component, is more helpful than they realize. But trying to make it in the world of professional cycling isn‘t free. In fact, it‘s quite an expensive sport for the individual, and I‘m not just talking about putting everything in life on hold, like studies or work, while I‘m at it. I‘ve been lucky to be in the position of being in the spotlight in Icelandic cycling for a while, and it‘s gotten me invaluable help from companies, organizations and individuals.
When I signed a deal with Novator, an investment firm founded by an Icelandic investor and entrepreneur, Björgólfur Thor Björgólfsson, it was the first and most important step into making cycling my profession and future career. Without their help I wouldn‘t be able to travel the world for training and racing my bike, and I thank them for believing in me, and for a unique opportunity to become Iceland‘s first full time pro cyclist. I‘m also supported by a group of individuals who‘s passion for cycling and vision of my potentials as an athlete have helped me along the way and made sure I can go through every month of training and racing without worry.
I can only count one brand of bicycles I‘ve used since I started racing in 2011: Specialized. When I made a deal with my long time friends Emil and David at Kria Cycles 5 years ago, it was the beginning of an amazing journey. I‘ve learned a lot, encountered obstacles and grown as a person and as an athlete, and been an important factor in representing Specialized in Iceland, and I plan to keep it that way. Lauf forks showed their faith in me by awarding me with a custom painted Lauf TR 29 in Icelandic colors, representing my 5 national titles in mountain biking. Hreysti have kept me going with energy products from Science in Sport, WOW air are an incredibly important part of all my traveling plans throughout the year, and Garmin Iceland provide some of the necessary training equipment I use on every ride. Compressport Iceland have helped me with my recovery with their products, also useful for the occasional run when preparing for cyclocross. This year‘s addition of Saffran, an Icelandic chain of healthy and delicious food, has been a surprisingly big one. Being part of their marketing material is an honor, and getting nutritional support from them in every flavor imaginable is simply amazing.
I‘m feeling better today, after a long season, than I did when I was at my best in 2015. Next year is going to be an exciting one, with big goals such as the Small Nations Games, and trying out different World Cup races as well as mountain bike marathon racing. I keep going over the same thing in my head when training these days: if I had such a great summer after a horrible winter, what will next year be like after a great winter?