Photo: 68 Degrees North – Norwegian Qualifier at Harstad 2022

Photography & Words by Dan Griffiths.

On the sheltered, eastern slopes of the Hinnøya Island in Norway, overlooking the Vågsfjord, you will find Harstad with its colourful centre of Art Nouveau, traditional wooden Scandi and modernity.

The idea of the Harstad Bike Park was created in 2015 by Harstad Cycling Club to create a safe, progressive space for cycling enthusiasts. HCK members worked closely with the local municipality and began more than a two-and-a-half-year process of regulating the area to create a modern bike park in an area of 330.000 m2.

In 2019, HCK partnered with Velosolutions Scandinavia to build the first two asphalt pump tracks – to date, the northernmost Velosolutions Pump Tracks in the world above the Arctic Circle. The project was a huge success; up to a hundred children can be seen on both tracks daily. The trails are used for local training and various international competitions that are held regularly.
In 2020, HCK challenged Velosolutions Scandinavia with the task of creating a unique, modern bike park. Thereby marking the next project phase of Harstad Bike Park – starting with the creation of 7 new bike trails – from Green for families and beginners to Black for experienced athletes – and ending with innovative Freestyle and Skills Bike Parks. With the donated funding, Harstad Cycling Club could carry out the planned construction in 2021 with a total value of over 2.3 million euros.
In 2022, the final touches were made to the existing areas, complemented by various infrastructure elements. Harstad Cycling club managed to raise funds for building a two-floor service house in Harstad Bike Park with a café, meeting rooms, wardrobe, 24/7 restrooms, garage and a bike mechanic room. 2022 also saw the Red Bull UCI Pump Track World Championships host its first Norwegian Qualifier at the brand new Harstad Sykkelpark, just one day after opening.
Norway is renowned for its eyewatering landscapes.
Incomparable to any terrain we’ve seen on the World Champs circuit, the fjords were an incredible sight.
The Norwegian round of the championship brought us to Harstad – what was the northernmost Viking power centre in Norway.
Harstad sees some incredible weather, and sunsets like this are relatively standard.
There’s a vast mountain bike community in Harstad, and it’s not surprising, given the scope of riding potential in the region.
You can ride out along the endless fjords.
Or right up in the mountainous backcountry.
You can even head down to the coast if heights aren’t your thing.
Surrounded by white beaches, for a moment, we had to make sure we’d actually ended up in Norway and not the Bahamas.
Hosting the pump track world championships this weekend was the newly opened Harstad Sykkelpark.
These are just a few of the hardworking figures behind it all. On the left is Arve Jørgensen – one of the guys who first found the area Harstad Sykkelpark was built on. Together with others, he began digging trails by hand way before the bike park was planned out. In the centre is Bjørn Tore Woll – leader of the board at Harstad Cykleclub. And right, is Stian Evensen – the project leader of Harstad Bike Park.
The opening day saw over five hundred kids line up to race one of many great tracks, crafted by Velosolutions Scandinavia.
Anders Røkenes, one of the founders of the Harstad enduro scene, shreds the red line.
The bike park has it all, from green right the way through to black trails.
The new trails are a sight for sore eyes.
Velosolutions trail designer Reinis Prieditis puts his new work to the test.
Trains of all ages, kids through to adults, can be seen shredding from dawn till dusk.
A few curious riders enjoyed a city tour the day before the qualifier.
It didn’t take long for them to find the sea.
Sculptures along the harbour made for great rider entertainment.
A full BMX crew this time around.
Next stop, Harstad Sykkelpark.
It’s race time.
It was a good week for weather, but the heavens opened on Saturday morning – the track drains well, though, and practice continued as usual.
Our favourite South African timekeeper, Syd from Moto Sheets, was in Harstad to track things down to the millisecond.
We also bumped into a familiar Viking, Brage Vastavik.
He didn’t participate in the qualifier but brought his familiar style.
Last year’s World Champion, Eddy Clerte, came all the way from France for a shot at victory. After a third-place finish in Genk, Belgium, he was eager to take the win. He arrived on Friday for some warm-up laps, getting to grips with the Harstad Bike Park x Velosolutions course dialled in.
Norwegian BMX Racing and Pump Track Champion Annika Pettersen was present and one of the women to watch out for.
Post-practice saw the regular rider briefing – led by the owner of Velosolutions Scandinavia, Johan Lindstrom.
Afterwards, the new number boards were handed over, and with Eddy Clerte qualifying first, he took the number one plate.
Before the knockout rounds began, there was a celebratory rider rollout of the top 32.
By this point, the fans have grasped the top riders and know just who to chase down for the signing sessions.
A few moments later, the knockout rounds are underway.
Norwegian Sebastian Aslaksrud battled Reines Prieditis in the small final and came out on top.
Nerves were high for the final, particularly for this guy carrying the rainbow stripes. He had a lot of pressure on his shoulders.
Annika Pettersen nailed a solid run in the finals, finishing with a time of 29.712s.
Sabina Košárková put slightly under two seconds into Annika in the big final, claiming her the win and a ticket to the World Final in Chile.
Annika Pettersen and Sabina Košárková battled it out in the big final, and the girl from the Czech Republic came out on top.
Håkon Fredrik Leinebø put up a hell of a battle, but would it be enough?
Not if this man had something to say about it. He came here determined to win, and that’s just what he did this weekend.
Victory for World Champion Eddy Clerte.
A time of 25.139 in the final put Eddy an entire two seconds faster than second place.
A warm embrace for his competitor, Håkon Fredrik Leinebø.
Your women’s top 4 – Linda Butkus, Anja Jacobs, Annika Pettersen, and Sabina Košárková.
Your men’s top 4 – Reines Prieditis, Sebastian Aslaksrud, Håkon Fredrik Leinebø, and Eddy Clerte.
Sabina Košárková and Eddy Clerte – the fastest of the day.
Until next time!