Six hours on a bike around a freezing forest course sounds like torture. And it’s even worse when you consider that the four separate special tests are each ridden four times. That’s four laps of the course and 16, yes sixteen, special tests to ride!
So whilst the top riders are out in the woods on a long check, we take the opportunity to get ahead of them and drive up to the ‘motocross’ test to see some high-speed action.
Located at the local motorsports complex, the test doesn’t appear to use any of the facility’s MX track itself - not that you can really tell what’s under all that snow. Instead, we’re told, it loops around a rallycross circuit before running out into the land on the perimeter and back towards the start. In contrast to the rutted forest tracks of the other tests, this one’s a little more open and gives riders the chance to let it hang out and really open up the bikes down the long straights. However, rutted berms have formed on many of the tight turns and there are even sections where they’re battling through deep snow mid-corner.
Naturally, the quick riders make it look very easy. There seems to be a huge amount of grip even when you can hear the studded tyres scraping across the icy ground, and as the bikes slam into berms, or the snow piled high at the edge of the track, powdery roost is thrown high, hanging in the air like dust rather than splattering the scenery.
Back in the paddock Joakim’s in for refuelling and looks calm and relaxed. ‘The course isn’t technically hard’, he reports, ‘just physical. You’re sat down all the time.’ Meanwhile team boss and Husaberg originator Thomas Gustavsson gives the bike a thorough check-over, removing ice built up around the wheels and chassis with a plastic scraper and de-icer fluid, before blowing loose snow off with compressed air. With plenty of time to spare, Joakim heads out for his last runs through the enduro and extreme tests.
Despite a trip over the bars whilst trying to double a log section on the extreme test Joakim still dominates the race. Almost five minutes separate him and second-placed Niklas Gustafsson on an E1-class Honda. The closest 450 is Björne Carlsson’s KX-F, some seven-and-a-half minutes back in fifth overall.
As the top three riders in each category collect their trophies and slip ‘n’ slither their way onto the podium snowmobiles scoot past carrying bikes abandoned out on the course. The cold’s setting in and I realise I can no longer feel my feet. Thankfully, this being Sweden, a sauna is never too far away…