Five Mins – Joakim Ljunggren
If there’s one thing Joakim Ljunggren likes it’s a tough race. And at this year’s Novemberkåsan – Sweden’s oldest and hardest enduro event – that’s exactly what the Bel Ray Husqvarna Enduro Factory Team rider got. Taking an early lead aboard his Husqvarna FE 250, Joakim maintained his place at the front of the race to claim a fifth Novemberkåsan win.
Enduro21 caught up with Joakim after the race to find out more about Sweden’s oldest and hardest event…
Joakim, what is it that makes Novemberkåsan such a popular event in Sweden?
Joakim Ljunggren: “The event has been running since 1915, so it has so much history. It’s massively famous in Sweden and although it doesn’t have the biggest entry it’s a real race – it separates the men from the boys. This year there was something like 20,000 spectators in the forests. It is a like a big party. People make camps, have fires, eat and drink beer, and enjoy the racing. The race moves around Sweden, being organised by different clubs. It’s a very special race in Sweden.”
It’s known for being a seriously tough race. What makes it so hard?
JL: “Many things make it hard. It’s a long race with little rest. One third of the race is in daylight, but two thirds are at night. Riding in the dark just makes things harder. The terrain is mud, rocks, ruts – the hardest type of terrain. The special tests are really long as well. This year we rode 350km during the race. When you’re cold, wet, and tired riding for such a long time is really difficult. But that’s what makes the race so special.”
Riding offroad at night seems to be popular in Scandinavia, why is that?
JL: “In the winter it’s dark at 3.30pm, so if you want to ride after work you have to ride with lights. It’s normal here in Sweden. If you have good lights it’s not as bad as you think. But it still makes the race harder. Trying to look for good lines in the mud holes isn’t easy in the day, at night it’s even harder. It’s hard to know exactly how deep the ruts are. I use lights on my helmet and bike, which worked great this year.”
You seemingly dominated the race to claim your fifth win, did everything go as planned?
JL: “The race went really well, but not perfectly. I switched to a 250 four stroke for the first time, which was great, but the race was as hard as ever. It’s a two-part race. In the morning we race from 9.00am to around 1.30pm. I was a little nervous before the start but pushed really hard during the first special test and won by two minutes. I felt good then, and controlled my speed. The night race started really badly. I got stuck in a mud hole and buried my bike – it was covered up to the seat. It took five of us to get it out and I lost about two minutes. But I got out, which I don’t think I would have done if it weren’t for the spectators that helped me. After that I was a little too cautious – looking a little too much. But on the final special test I pushed hard and got the win, which is great.”
How was racing on a 250f?
JL: “It was really cool. Every other year I have raced on a 300cc two-stroke or a 450cc four-stroke. Having less power wasn’t a problem. But having a lighter bike worked out great. I had more energy at the end of the race. Riding a different bike is really good fun – I’m really enjoying it. Even in such a hard race it was amazing.”
Spiked tyres were allowed, but the weather didn’t seem to be too cold and frozen?
JL: “The organisers decided three days before the race that we could use spiked tyres. Temperatures were around freezing, but not too cold. The conditions were perfect – wet and muddy. When the ground freezes it’s actually easier in some ways. There was lots of mud this year, which makes for the best racing at Novemberkåsan.”
The atmosphere out on the forests looks amazing. What’s it like racing in the dead of night with thousands of spectators cheering you on?
JL: “It is amazing, and what makes the event so special. When things go well it really is such a cool feeling when you have so many spectators cheering you on and pointing you lines. For many of them it’s a big party, so it’s like riding through a party in the forest. The spectators are what make the race so special”
It’s a long way off but will you be back at Novemberkåsan next year?
JL: “Definitely. It’s a race I love. In a few years the event will celebrate it’s 100th birthday, which will be a very special occasion.”