The Škoda documentary Unmapping Sweden where six brave riders take upon the daunting task of covering the 2,250 km distance between Kiruna in the north to Smygehuk in the south, will give you a hint or two. So, are you ready to join them on this treacherous journey? Are you ready to get in their shoes for about 40 minutes and feel what it’s like to ride more than 2,250 kilometres in under 12 days?
Before the race
The event tests the will of the gravel riders. It’s more than a race – it’s a social experiment. Naturally, not just anyone could have been chosen to participate. Out of 1,800 applicants, only six made the cut – Kajsa, Maja, Mattias, Amir, Andreas and Marie. Still, before they went on this long and tiresome journey, they were put through some extensive physical and mental tests. Such distances may seem a piece of cake on paper but once on the road, every kilometre puts another nail in your muscles and cracks another tiny fracture in your psyche. Thus, such a long journey requires professional help.
All participants were highly prepared for the tour. They had phenomenal mileage in their records so far but nothing quite as demanding as a 2,250 km with 20,000 m of elevation. Thus, Škoda provided them with a highly intensive training camp before they went on the journey.
The race itself is nothing short of a dream route. It goes through some of Sweden’s most beautiful areas, filled with wildlife, natural beauty, and, unfortunately for the competitors, a lot of mosquitos. The route starts in Kiruna in the North of Sweden. It stretches down 2,250 kilometres right to Smygehuk. Along the way, all riders covered over 20,000 meters of elevation. The kicker – this had to be done in fewer than 12 days. So, simple math shows that the riders had to cover more than 200 kilometres per day. Along the way, they had to be self-sufficient. That means everything they need must be on their bike – food, sleeping gear, clothing. So, guess how heavy the bikes became?
Looking at the faces of the participants at the start is nothing short of heartwarming. Either they did not realize what was coming or they were still full of adrenaline from starting this epic journey. Their energy is simply contagious, and watching the documentary, one can’t help but feel part of the Škoda team as well. The first doubt occurs when the participants measure their bike weight: 20-22 kg. That may sound light but carrying such a load for 12 days straight for more than 200 km a day is nothing short of torture, as the heroes were about to find out.
The first day was nothing but enjoyment. Jokes, laughter and good times followed the participants. This, unfortunately, was short lived.
The most interesting part of the entire documentary is how the participants live on their bikes. Their whole routine – how they sleep, how they protect themselves from the mosquitos, and how they eat is represented as if you are there. The high morale is quickly drowned by the first storm, which rapidly turns into a hail and thunderstorm.
This starts the mental and physical slippery slope of decline. The hunger, the pain, the sleeplessness, the fatigue. All is captured with brilliance. And if you are not crying by the end of the second part, you must be made of steel.
By the end of the documentary, you will cry, laugh, and feel anger and remorse along with the participants. You will feel their pain, their hunger, their exhaustion and their anguish. You will tearfully welcome unexpected support and restore your faith in humanity. You will, once again, feel a part of a community, a part of something bigger. But most importantly, at the very end, down at the Baltic Sea shore, you will celebrate along with the finishers and the entire Škoda team that made it happen.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey”, but in Unmapping Sweden, it’s about both. It’s about the riders who beat the odds, the anguish, the weather, all their mental barriers and managed to conquer not only the Swedish wilderness but themselves along the way.
Join the heroes on their way and watch the entire thrilling documentary. It’s an adventure you wouldn’t want to miss.