Photo by Katherine Tallmadge
Swedish Embassy Volunteers
Swedish Embassy Volunteers

The House of Sweden on March 19th when it hosted WABA's Vasa Ride (Photo by: Katherine Tallmadge) The House of Sweden on March 19th when it hosted WABA's Vasa Ride

On Sunday, March 19, the House of Sweden hosted the Washington Area Bicyclists Association for their 15th annual Vasa Ride. This lively WABA tribute to the renownd annual 90 K Swedish Vasaloppet Cross Country Ski Race, uses bicycles instead.

Sunday's bike ride, though, was a kinder and gentler version of the Swedish ski race, which is a tribute to the founding of a free Sweden. The first Swedish "Vasaloppet" was carried out in 1521 by Gustav Eriksson when he led occupation forces in an uprising against Danish rule from the town, Salen. This resulted in Eriksson, better known as Gustav Vasa, becoming a free Sweden's first King and Vasaloppet's namesake. But it wasn't until 1922 that this endurance race was established and held its first run, also starting in Salen, with 136 skiiers, and took 7 hours, 32 minutes and 49 seconds in sleet and snow for the victor. 

Nick Russo, WABA Events Coordinator; Ben Wokas, WABA Membership Coordinator; Renee Moore, Vision Zero Community (Photo by: Katherine Tallmadge) Nick Russo, WABA Events Coordinator; Ben Wokas, WABA Membership Coordinator; Renee Moore, Vision Zero Community

This year's March 4, 2017 Vasaloppet registered 15,800 participants from 43 nations, and is the largest and longest ski race in the world. The winner, Norwegian John Kristian Dahl, won the race after 4 hours and 8 minutes.

Several years ago, the Swedish Embassy and WABA got together to create the annual Vasa Ride, with bikes, since D.C. doesn't usually have enough snow for a 90 km cross country ski race. The Vasa Ride has four levels of riders who choose to ride for either 59, 31, 16 or 8 miles. On March 29, the House of Sweden, as usual, was a beautiful, light-filled respite from the cold, long ride. The Swedes generously provided the home base and refreshments, including the traditional "Blueberry Soup," though the American bikers' consumption paled in comparison to almost a liter drunk by each skiier in the real Vasaloppet. 

Per Danielson, Air Force Attache of the Swedish Embassy (Photo by: Katherine Tallmadge) Per Danielson, Air Force Attache of the Swedish Embassy

"The blueberry soup was warm and filling after the cold 30 mile ride, and it tastes better than I thought it would," said Robert Bernstein, a WABA member who came from Ellicott City, Maryland.

The Swedish Embassy's Air Force Attache, Per Danielson, coordinated the Swedish Embassy's hosting his second year in a row. Danielson was a Swedish exchange student living in Richmond thirty years ago. And with this former exchange student leading, current Swedish exchange student volunteers served blueberry soup at Sunday's event.

WABA Member, Robert Bernstein, from Ellicott City, Maryland (Photo by: Katherine Tallmadge) WABA Member, Robert Bernstein, from Ellicott City, Maryland

"It's often the first ride of the year for Washington area cyclists, and is a fundraiser for WABA," said Nick Russo, WABA's Events Coordinator. WABA's mission is "to create a healthy, more livable region by promoting bicycling for fun, fitness, and affordable transportation; advocating for better bicycling conditions and transportation choices for a healthier environment; and educating children, adults, and motorists about safe bicycling,"

Swedish exchange students served Blueberry Soup to the bicyclers: Julia Larsson, Stefan Hansen, Jakob Gustafsson, Angelica Lindqvist, Frida Garvill (Photo by: Katherine Tallmadge) Swedish exchange students served Blueberry Soup to the bicyclers: Julia Larsson, Stefan Hansen, Jakob Gustafsson, Angelica Lindqvist, Frida Garvill