Sep 17 2015

Call for participation: Vatternrundan 2016

Vätternrunden, ‘The Swedish Adventure’

(By Mark Crowther)

Vätternrundan 300km (Road-bike-Sportive) 17-18th of June 2016!

_DSC3499Vätternrundan takes place in June every year. Over 23 000 riders register and we always look forward to a great (Road) bike fest. Participants from all over the world come to Motala to take part in this unique ride that is part of The Swedish Classic series.

The first Vätternrundan took place in 1966 with just over 300 riders, and since then the ride has grown into a ‘must do’ for riders worldwide. The pressure and demand to get an entry is always sky high and the ride is popular for many reasons. 2015 was the 50th event, (Ed. believe it or not 3 chaps have completed every single one!!. Oh and the course record was broken last year with the Bianchi team completing the 300km’s in 6hrs 30 ish. But its NOT a race! )

Lake Vättern with its breath taking scenery is the setting the riders enjoy around the whole circuit. Although it is a recreational bike ride, the challenge is great and you need to be well prepared. Accomplishing 300 km on a bike around the beautiful Lake Vättern with start and finish in Motala is something to be proud of. Will we see you in Motala?

2014….Atyrau Outdoors Swedish Invasion

Around this time last year the possibility of entering a group from Atyrau Outdoors was just a crazy idea. Intrepid Reporter (Yours Truly, Mark C) entered the event for the first time in 2013, completing the route as a solo entry in just over 12 hours- so it IS possible for normal mortals! The big question was asked, resulting in a brave group of 5 ready to tackle the 2014 Vätternrunden with a whole winter to train, plan…and get cold feet.

Go or No Go?

The biggest challenge was to secure entry. Each year the event sells out in record time (and I mean minutes!). Many entries are block booked by established cycling clubs, so how was little “Atyrau Outdoors” going to get a ‘cleat in the pedal’? Well, one little known fact is that Veterans, repeat riders and foreign entries do get priority. SO.. we formed a group and set up to press the button on the first seconds of the entry registration. Amazingly we got the entry! With a start time or 0006 , ‘Crikey..thats the middle of the night!’ was the immediate reaction.. No worries.. this is summer in Sweden, and it just doesn’t get (very) dark for (very)long.


Winter training in Atyrau is not difficult especially for those committed to the unique ice riding experience come wind/snow and -20degC temps, its fun, (really!) Combining the ice rides with a good indoor program on the trainer or in the spin class the riders hit the spring trails in great condition and spent a few weeks ahead of the event training on the Peshnoy road for ‘Roadie’ skills, drafting, calls, signals etc.


image001The annoying forced summer ‘exodus’ for work permits actually worked out quite well for those affected. The team arrived as planned in Sweden on the Wednesday before the event (Held over Friday/Saturday). We based the group in the beautiful town of Orebro (here) and managed a gentle trial on a local 50k training route. Spectacular countryside and real trees, with the group posting a time several minutes better than Marks solo PB. (Ed. ‘Grrr’), just showing the power advantage of group riding!

Nathaniel’s bike delivery disappointment was fixed by an excellent rental facility at Gustavsvik ( ). Bikes were all racked or stowed and we set off in a single vehicle to the start early Friday evening.

The Ride

300k’s is a very long way in anybody’s book. That said, setting off in groups of 50 every two minutes, you do get the feeling that you are never isolated. Constantly passing (and occasionally being passed!-yes really!)

image002The kilometers seem to melt away and the focus is firmly kept on the next intended rest stop. Vatternrunden arrange 9 formal food/drink stops, from which we selected 4, intending to spend a max of 15 minutes at each. Best laid plans however never work and the stops were much longer, so room for improvement next year. That said the early pace was very comfortable if rather quick! This proved to be the undoing of our aspirations to get the group in under 12 hours at the finish. The first 100km to Jonkoping saw the group racing hard to beat the summer cold. Unexpected temps of 5 degC came as a big surprise and forced the pace.





The 150k West coast push North, even with a partial tail wind started to take its toll and our vow to stay together as a group was questioned on more than one occasion. But stay together we did and crossed the line in 13 hours 13 minute to medals, applause and a carnival atmosphere in wonderful Motala…. Much re-hydration followed!image003



image004A very sensible rule states that entrants to Vetternrunden are not allowed to drive for 6 hours after finishing. Very kind volunteers in our support vehicles did the job and we were back in sunny Orebro by Tea-time… After a (very) long sleep, options were open for return trips home via excellent rail and bus links or stop overs in Stockholm and other NW European delights. All that remained was to start planning for 2016.


This is a great event, and with some commitment to some regular training is entirely possible for the average Atyrau Cyclist! Depending on demand we will try to set up groups for sub 10, 12+ or ‘just lets finish’ pace.

The “INTEREST TO PARTICIPATE” registration has opened. This registration is mandatory in order to confirm the participation for the event itself. As we intend to ride as a group, please send an email to Mark Crowther for the group code you will need at the time of registration of interest. You will also receive instructions on how to register your interest. Please make sure you do this as soon as possible and latest before 30-October 2015.


Go to available in Swedish/English and others (even American!) have a good read, if you would like to consider joining us drop Mark an email and register for the group when he sends you the code. It doesn’t cost anything to register interest and you can opt to take updates/info etc by mail/facebook etc, and opt out at any time up to the point when payment (1350 Skr or approx 150 EUR) is due approx November 9th. That’s all you need to do until ACTUAL RACE REGISTRATION which is scheduled this year for 7pm (Swedish time) (2300-Atyrau) on 4th November 2015.

Once the initial panic for entry is completed on November 4th we will know if we are in (or not) and the ungodly hour we have been given to start.

All instructions are in the Vatternrunden website, but once the expression of interest has been made and the group membership set, we will hold a meeting to discuss options on accommodation, logistics etc.



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Sep 08 2015

Story on first Centurion in 2010

A walk down memory lane revealed this nice story that was written in honour of those first brave souls, attempting the first Centurion ride in Atyrau back in 2010, and thereafter starting to organize Atyrauoutdoors.

Centurion 2010 story2 more weekends to go to this years Centurion, with a very nice new track laid out for you!

So go prepare!


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Sep 06 2015

Message from Cyclist Kamil McLelland on theTourdeStan

Hello Atyrauoutdoors riders,

My name is Kamil McClelland and I am a British medical student and this summer I shall be cycling with three friends across Central Asia from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan to Atyrau. We shall be arriving in Atyrau at some point between 15th – 18th September and was wondering whether any members of your cycling club would like to join us for some or all of the way from the Uzbek border near Beyneu to Atyrau. Alternatively, you could join us for our cycle into Atyrau or meet with us when we arrive in the city and show us where to go in town. This would be the perfect ending to our trip across Central Asia. You contact me at this email address if you are interested.

We hope to cross into Kazakhstan on the 10th September and then have a rest day in Beyneu on the 12th. From there, we were planning on average a bit over 100km a day to arrive in Atyrau on the evening of the 16th so we can have the 17th as a rest day in Atyrau. However, if the distance was greater than we have anticipated, of course we would need to change things.
All the best and I look forward to hearing from you,

Myself and three friends have spent the last five weeks cycling across Central Asia from Bishkek and we are now in Khiva, Uzbekistan. We shall be crossing into Kazakhstan around 8th September with the aim of arriving in Atyrau on 15-17th September.

Cycling the Silk Road 2015


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Sep 01 2015

2015 Centurion Final Announcement

Welcome to the final announcement of the sixth edition of the Annual Atyrau Centurion Ride!

The highlight of the Atyrau Outdoors biking season will take place on Saturday September 19th. Hopefully you’ve started picking up the riding since the previous announcement of the dates as we’re up in less than three weeks!


Centurion 2014 finishers posing

Centurion 2014 finishers posing at Dostyk


The Centurion will be postponed with one week to Saturday September 26th in case of unfavourable (wet) weather.

If you joined the Atyrau Outdoors community recently, have moved to Atyrau during the past 12 months, or for any other reason have never heard of the annual Centurion ride, here are the principles:


Participation to the Centurion requires that you are a regular Atyrau bike rider. Although the Centurion should (and will) be a significant physical and mental challenge, every participant should be able to complete this distance in a comfortable and healthy way. Considering the Atyrau B*&%$ch Wind Factor (=strong winds) and potential for sandy surfaces, a 100 km ride is very demanding and we don’t want to push anybody over his / her limits. We’re not trying to put people off, but it is unfair if an entire group has to wait for one un-prepared rider.
Just like in previous years, we plan to take on the Centurion in two groups – an A and B group, which should cater for riders with varying abilities. We want to take off and stay with these groups for social and logistics reasons. Riding as part of a group makes a huge difference for all participants, especially once we get to the pointy end of the ride, in those final, hard 30-40 km.

Bike Prep

You do yourself and your fellow riders a big favour – prepare your bike well and take enough spares.
Make sure you start the 2015 Centurion with a clean, lubed and thoroughly inspected bike, and make sure your chain, tyres and tubes are in good shape. One spare tube is not enough, this just gets you home. Take 2, or better still 3 with you. We now have riders with 26”, 27.5” and 29” wheels, so don’t rely on others to have the right size spares for you. Consider strong tie-wraps for ripped tyres or, better still, even bring a spare, as well as a spare mech hanger. (yes it has happened, they do break in Atyrau)
Bring plenty of food and drink. Water – around 4-5 litres, roughly one for every hour. Bananas, nuts dried fruits, gels, bars – just bring lots of it !

Also don’t forget to bring a cell phone, some cash, and an ID (passport), in case you get stopped by police.


The Centurion route has been set out and tested. We will combine and link the Eastern banks of the Ural river with the Northern part of the Wetlands, including some tracks that have only recently been explored. Route direction is yet to be decided but will likely depend on wind direction.

The route can be downloaded here and can be directly uploaded to your Garmin GPS as a course.

The Starting point will be in front of Old RiverClub on the boulevard at the big satellite dish (near the pedestrian bridge over the Ural).

We will start riding at 07:30. So this is NOT 8 o’clock starting time as otherwise normal during this time of the year!

Please arrive at 07:15 as we will take some group pictures while we’re still fresh.

The Finish point will be at TCO Dostyk village, where refreshments and a BBQ will be waiting, including the possibility of a swimming pool dip. Finish time for the A group is estimated around 13:00, the B group should finish between 14:00-15:00.

Stops & Speed

Although we all love biking, we want to avoid the Centurion taking up the whole day. This means both the A and B group will try to maintain a steady pace and limit the number of planned stops, which should bring us all back in time for the afternoon BBQ. Exact speed, stop locations and number of stops for both groups will depend on the circumstances of the day – wind strength and direction, temperature, road conditions, group size, mechanical issues. A rough guide for the A group will be a steady pace of 22-24 km/hr, around 3 planned 10 minute stops, resulting in a return to Dostyk around 1pm. The B group will maintain a slower pace, so will take 1-2 hours longer to complete the ride. Make sure you place yourself in the right group, to avoid the rest of the group having to wait for 20 minutes every 10 km while you are struggling to catch up…

Early exits

As in previous years, the route will have one or two early exit points, which allows for an early return home for those who can’t complete the entire loop. See the track provided. Note: the 2015 route will have fewer early exit opportunities compared to previous years, so even with early exit points this will still likely to be a long ride.


Supporters are welcome for those who make it back alive: Family members and friends of riders are welcome to join at Dostyk to hear us brag about this remarkable milestone, smell our suffering and to join in with a BBQ! Young supporters are most welcome as well, and if brave enough, can opt to go for a swim.
We will share the costs of the BBQ, which is estimated at around 3000-4000 KZT per adult and half that for children. Costs to be settled in Cash with Jeroen Brantjes (cloggies[at] at the end of the ride. When participant numbers are known, we will know the exact costs per person.


Atyrau Outdoors is not associated with any professional, overarching riding organisation. Not in the Republic of Kazakhstan, not anywhere else. It simply consists of a bunch of very enthusiastic and possibly fanatic riders. This means if you join us for the Centurion, you are in it on your own account. Don’t finger point if you don’t make it, break your bike, have to take off work for recovery, can’t breastfeed because of dehydration, or whatever else you may not like.

And hence this very extensive description!

Now don’t despair. We will give each other a little supportive nudge when someone is falling to shambles!


So you made it to here. Still interested?

Then register with us! This is mandatory and required for logistical purposes. Register for riding A group here or B group here, who (including family names please) and how many people will join at Dostyk afterwards and who will indulge in the BBQ.

And as always:

Ride with the winds, not against them !

Your cohort scouts,

Jeroen Brantjes, Aarnoud Hoekstra

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Jul 28 2015

2015 Centurion Dates announcement

Dear Atyrau Outdoors bikers,

Dates for a 2015 Centurion bike ride have been selected.

  • Saturday 19 September 2015: Primary date for the 2015 Centurion
  • Saturday 26 September 2015: Fallback date if foul weather or other adversaries on first date

Mark them down in your calendars and continue riding and training for this 6th organized Centurion, this year dubbed as “the Banana Tour”.

A further announcement, disclosing the details of the 2015 Centurion, will follow shortly.

Keep riding, ride strong!

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