Offroad Finnmark goal: To be first women to complete
Two female mountain bikers Naomi Freireich and Nienke Oostra have set their sights on being the first women’s pair to complete the OffRoad Finnmark, a Norwegian race that is described as being the toughest terrain-cycling race in the world.
What is the Offroad Finnmark?
Offroad Finnmark is a 700km stage race that takes place in Norway each July in a wilderness area of a Norwegian mountain plateau.
Riders must compete in pairs and to date no female pairs have managed to cross the finish line.
hanks to Norway’s summer when there are 24 hours of daylight riders can ride through the day and night.
At each checkpoint riders must make an obligatory stop for five minutes. Three additional stops require a stop of three hours each.
Curiously, or perhaps poignantly, the event website states: “Riders in the race are exceptionally vigorous amateurs – and the prototype participant is a man of approximately 40 years of age in prime condition.”
Naomi and Neinke to race Offroad Finnmark
Naomi and Neinke met at the Engadin stage race early this year and have become firm friends.
Naomi, 42, of Edinburgh, is no stranger to endurance mountain bike races. Earlier this year she rode to her second Strathpuffer 24 victory and she is the UK 24-hour MTB champion, among other racing successes.
Yet only seven weeks ago she broke her ankle and is still in the process of recovery.
Naomi said: “I came off my bike on, of all places, a cycle path. Fortunately I was riding slowly as I was going around a corner but I hit something slippery and crashed to the ground. My ankle is recovering well though.”
Neinke, 41, also now living in Edinburgh, is a former pro XTerra athlete, who has many racing achievements to her name.
She has shown her determination in many races including a 10-day stage race in the Himalayas when she ended up with concussion on the second day but still finished.
Both women will need to face up to numerous challenges, both mental and physical, in the Offroad Finnmark.
Naomi said: “By all accounts the race will test us to our limits, especially given that no other female pair has ever completed it.
“To start with there is the navigating, which will not be easy while mountain biking and in place that we do not know.
“We have to reach certain checkpoints, like an adventure race and while there will be trails and paths for some sections of the race, other areas will be without paths and that will be hard going. There are a lot of rivers and streams to cross, too.
“We will be sleep deprived as we get into the race, which will no doubt hamper our skills at navigation and riding the technical sections. We have been told it is very technical in places.
“Plus we will need to work as a team. We cycle a lot together just now and we get on well but in a race you have to work together in very difficult situations. I am much more of a solo competitor normally so Neinke and I will have to learn to work together.”
Why enter the race?
There are a number of reasons as to why the pair is motivated to enter the race. Naomi said: “The fact that no women have finished the race makes me want to try to be the first. We are both advocates that women are as capable as men.
“There is also the ridiculous notion of pushing ourselves to see how much we can take.
“Also there is no other race like this one. It’s a very niche mountain bike stage race and I like to try different races.”
Naomi seems pretty sure they will finish. She said: “Hopefully, we will get to the finish line. Yes,I think we will because we are both pretty stubborn. I believe we will cope with the distance and endurance required despite the lack of sleep.
“We are hardy because we ride in all sorts of conditions in Scotland and we are used to dealing with the elements.
“We are good technical riders as well and I think this will be a big help. I think that we will be able to support each other to get through this endurance race and pull together to finish.”