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Ulrice-ce-ce-hamn: Autumn Roller Skiing
As I orientated myself, having just got off the airport bus in Borås, a guy double pole-kicked past on the other side of the road. Roller skiing, now there was an idea.
Someone was obviously trying to tell me something because in the hostel I found a pair of unwashed roller skis and poles at the bottom of one of my bags that I’d obviously missed when unpacking after a previous holiday. Ah well, skiing it was then!
I was in south Sweden on my way to the cycle track hub based at Ulricehamn to try its suitability for roller skiing. Discovered by a MCCSC member during a cycling holiday last year I was promised long smooth tracks of car free tarmac. That and it being in Sweden was enough to convince me.
But first Borås. Located at the end of one of 3 cycle tracks leading out of Ulriceham, it is the interchange between the Göteborg airport and Ulricehamn buses, and also having cycle tracks it seemed an ideal stop off for a couple of days. I was on holiday, not training, after all.
To my delight it was possible to ski directly from the hostel door. So the next day, after an hour or so of warm-up ‘slaloming’ around pitches in ‘Sweden's largest city camping site’ (where the hostel is co-located) I set off to explore the skiability of the main cycle track.
Apart from a few rough patches it was smooth enough, certainly to skate comfortably. However, despite being off road (i.e wide shared pavement) it's not recommended for beginners due to its undulating nature that means there are some downhill sections that don't have suitable run out due to roads crossing at the bottom. And despite urban Swedish car drivers having the amazing habit of stopping at the merest hint of someone trying to cross the road this is not the time to test the theory in extemis! Also, although not overly crowded, being an urban cycle track a certain amount of technique agility is required to fit in!
After a successful morning's ski across the city, to where the skiable cycle track by the Göteborg road started to peter out, and back, I had a long lunch then set off on a slightly different route to find the Borås end of the Ulricehamn cycle track.
The route across town was, at times rough, but from the bus station (where you'd probably stop if coming from Ulricehamn) it was fine. However, one roller was making a concerning amount of noise.
On closer inspection I discovered I'd lost a wheel nut! There was a bit of history that meant this was not as unexpected as you might expect, so don't all start worrying and checking your rollers! Nonetheless it was annoying and potentially ski holiday curtailing. So after a dejected walk back, intently scanning the pavement on the off chance of spotting the escapee nut, I went to the local Stadium sports shop for assistance. After kindly locating a suitable replacement nut and a handful of spares, all for free, the shop assistant mentioned there were roller training loops near the Borås end of the Ulricehamn cycle track.
The next day I set off to find these loops. After skating part way up what would be an excellent training hill past slightly bemused locals and some weaving through streets I found the circuit, part of a outdoor sports complex.
There were 2 roller loops, one 1km long and the other 5km. Additionally there were longer forest jogging loops (possibly skiable in the winter). I set off on the 1km loop, and straight away knew I was in the right place because instead of a bicycle there was a roller skier painted on the track! The loop was easy, but did give me a look at the last section of the 5km loop where they join. The hill I looked up impressed me! The 5km track was my first look at a proper training/ racing roller ski circuit and with the addition of people walking dogs required some downhill walking - particularly that last hill that started with an innocent looking gradual descent that continuously turned a blind corner. After the undulating and long inclines and short sharp descents I'm sure that last descent is really appreciated in a race, but spotting a dog bounding in front of me as I rounded a corner near the speed of sound was an experience I was quite willing to miss on this holiday! Incidentally the track was clearly marked ‘one way’!
To calm down I made my way to the Ulricehamn cycle track and skied to Gånghester. Not the most scenic of tracks at this stage, since it runs parallel to the main road to Tranemo. A crash barrier protects the traffic from you but road chippings on the track mean it's not ideal for speed skiing. However it appears the track leaves the road after Gånghester.
Following lunch at the sign posted Gånghester café I set off back to Borås to pack in readiness for Ulricehamn.
The day after arriving in Ulricehamn I headed south, along the shores of Åsunden and Sämsjön to Mänstad. Essentially flat (being an ex-railway route) the good quality tarmac meant the track was fast and skiing carefree without worrying about hitting stones or tree roots. So as the scenery flashed past I re-aquainted myself with right hand skate 3 before just playing around with skate 2, 3, no pole skate and standing on one leg. Also with the natural rattling of my rollers it was easy to imagine travelling by train along this route!
Cycle traffic was low and, remembering to stay on the right, passed with no problem (or abuse about lack of snow!).
Just as 11's approached so did Vegby (indicated by the kilometre markings on the track). At the nearby, sign-posted, cafe I had a drink and ice cream on the balcony overlooking Sämsjön. I then set off for the out and back leg to Månstad, passing through deciduous forest - this was the only time I encountered leaves on the track (!). Apart from being the end of the tarmaced cycle track Månstad itself seemed to only consist of 2 picnic tables and a notice board! Back at Vegby I had lunch at the cafe before returning to Ulricehamn.
Monday I headed north to Trädet. This time the track passed through the countryside, a mixture of (coniferous) forest and farm fields. Again around 11 a suitable eatery was approached, this time at Bildsberg. Although, again, sign-posted it appeared to be just a petrol station with small supermarket by a pond with a fountain (still very pleasant in the hot sunshine).
Trädet was a suitable distance away to provide an out and back leg before lunch (the track actually continues for another 20km to Falköping). It was on this leg that I discovered that Swedish dogs are just as aggressive to my rollers as they are in England - with one dog in Trädet even trying to attack them whilst I wasn't wearing them!
Back in Bildsberg I spotted that the cafe was actually behind the petrol station, and what a cafe! A collection of river islands with picnic tables, linked by foot bridges (plus plenty of room indoors if raining)!
Finally dragging myself away I headed back Ulricehamn! Being rather grateful I had shades on because in Timmele I found I was covered in small dead flies I'd picked up skiing through the cow fields!
That evening I visited the cross country skiing loipe behind Ulricehamn, used for running at this time of year. Apart from being up a hill behind the town they are in easy walking distance (there are also downhill slopes only 2km away).
Unfortunately it was a raining my last day in Ulricehamn so I didn't explore the Borås track (west), perhaps next time! I might also have to think about a winter visit to try out the loipe!
Although Borås is certainly worth a visit, Ulricehamn is the place to go for roller skiing with tracks of 22km, 42km and 45km. However, it is flat terrain, the only hill work being the climb to the cross country ski tracks (and it's a tough hill!), so more for a holiday than race training.
author: Alistair Brown
This article is copyright of the Author and Manchester Cross-Country Ski Club.
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