A Recap of the 2023 Arna Westfjords Way Challenge

The second annual Arna Westfjords Way Challenge (WFWC) finished in Ísafjörður on July 2, 2023, after five days of grueling and unforgettable ultra-endurance bikepacking through the Westfjords of Iceland. Over 70 riders from 20 countries gathered on June 28th to take on this ultimate test of strength and endurance. 38 riders finished the entire route after cycling a total 956 kilometers (594 miles) around the Westfjords Way in four stages, all under the 24-hour arctic sun.

For five days, participants faced the unpredictable Icelandic weather, winding fjords, challenging mountain passes, and were encouraged by the camaraderie of a global cycling community and the warm hospitality of the Westfjords. The race format of the Arna WFWC encourages riders to embrace cultural connection by requiring stops at cafes, museums, hot pots, and nature highlights, where race time is paused, allowing riders to immerse themselves in the local culture and create lasting connections with one another.

Race Highlights

Stage 1 kicked off with riders battling headwinds and cruising tailwinds, enduring a morning of rain and wind before the weather cleared up for lunch stops and hot pot soaks.

The rugged Icelandic terrain put bikes to the test all week, resulting in ride-ending mechanicals for some participants that continued on through the remaining stages. Loose rocks and challenging gravel sections added an additional layer of difficulty to the already demanding course, and the full spectrum of Icelandic weather was on display for the remainder of the race.

All the riders showcased determination, with many overcoming their mechanical challenges and continuing their journey, or DNF’s that continued on the final stage of the race. Supported by a truly unique community, the race offered an opportunity for everyone to ride the route their way, and to seek out whatever they were looking for when taking on the challenge.

Arctic Fish Midnight Special

In addition to the Arna Westfjords Way Challenge, this year introduced the Arctic Fish Midnight Special, a single-stage gravel race that brought 19 additional riders to join the final leg of the challenge from Patreksfjörður to Ísafjörður. This new addition brought even more excitement to the event, with fresh legs joining for the final stage and finisher’s party.

A Fitting Finish

After an intense week of battling the elements, pushing their limits, and deepening cultural connections – the riders celebrated their accomplishments at Hotel Ísafjörður. The awards ceremony honored the top finishers in the men’s and women’s categories for both the Arna WFWC and the Arctic Fish Midnight Special.

Arna Westfjords Way Challenge Results

Men’s Podium:
1st Place – Arnþór Gústavsson
2nd Place – Sviatoslav Gudzenko
3rd Place – Thomas Skov Jensen
Women’s Podium:
1st Place – Weronika Szalas
2nd Place – Íris Ósk Hjaltadóttir
3rd Place – Nicole Sin Quee

Arctic Fish Midnight Special Results

Men’s Podium:
1st Place – Ingvar Ómarsson
2nd Place – Hafsteinn Geirsson
3rd Place – Ólafur Þór Magnússon & Gísli Halldórsson & Ármann Gylfason

Women’s Podium:
1st Place – Katrín Pálsdóttir
2nd Place – Elín Marta Eiríksdóttir
3rd Place – Anna Lilja Sævarsdóttir

Looking Forward

The Arna WFWC is more than just a race; it is an event that brings together the Westfjords region and international cycling community through cultural exchange. The overwhelming positive feedback from riders and the local community has inspired us to continue this tradition of connection and cooperation well into the future, so stay tuned for 2024 dates!

The success of the 2023 Arna Westfjords Way Challenge would not have been possible without the generous support of sponsors, including Arna, Arctic Fish, Icelandair, 66 North, Fjallakofinn, Hotel Ísafjörður, Borea Adventures, Kaffitar, Corsa, Visit Westfjords, Reiðhjólaverzlunin Berlin, Grainly Foods, and Uppbyggingarsjódur Vestfjarðda

For more information and updates about the Arna Westfjords Way Challenge, follow along with us at cyclingwestfjords.com, Facebook and Instagram.

The Arna Westfjords Way Challenge is Iceland’s first self-supported ultra-endurance stage cycling race. The event prioritizes cultural connection through Icelandic rider representation and required stops at natural and cultural points of interest to complete each stage. The race is also committed to holding space and providing opportunities for historically underrepresented communities in the outdoor industry including BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) and FWTN-B (femme, women, trans and non-binary riders). The race follows the mixed road and gravel route of the Westfjords Way for a total of 956 kilometers over 5 days.

*Photo credits belong to Ágúst G. Atlason and Axel Sigurðarson

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