It has been a strange season for me so far. Where I started with incredible motivation racing almost every weekend through April and May, soaking up all the improvements with a huge grin on my face. To things turning quite quickly when I deleted a race off my calendar for reasons I won’t go into; the Off-road Finnmark in Norway scheduled at the beginning of August. I had been eyeing up the Off-road Finnmark for a few years not being able to race it due to injury. It was my goal race for 2018 and the main reason I was really motivated to overcome my back injury and create speed in my legs again. To have an attempt at becoming the first women’s team to ever complete the distance. The decision not to race Finnmark hurt where it hurt most and I felt lost without it, not exactly knowing what to aim for.
In June I was invited by the lovely organisers Phil Evans and Corinne Smith to race a 5 day stage race Rumble in the Jungle in Sri Lanka. It was an amazing opportunity and I jumped at it, with lots of familiar faces on the start list this was going to be a great adventure.
The days in Sri Lanka were filled with incredible beauty; From navigating thick jungle, climbing into the high mountains, passing breath taking waterfalls, to taking in the friendly supporting and beautiful smiles of the Sri Lankan locals whilst descending through working thee plantations and navigating exhilarating down hill trails. The organisation was second to none and as a group of riders we had become a tight knit as more and more stories started to unfold. Spare parts changed hands between riders to fix broken bikes and everyone made sure we were all on that start line the next day in the best possible way. Laughter curing the wounded bodies and empathy taking away any doubts of being able to continue.
Nothing could have prepared us for what ended up unfolding. Nothing could have prevented the tragedy which told the story of day 4. Where in a split second nothing would ever be the same again. Where we were brutally reminded of how precious life really was and that this could have happened to any of us, at any point in time. A freak accident with devastating consequences. A freak accident resulting in the death of one of Nepal’s National MTB legends; Narayan Gopal Maharjan. Putting a brutally sad ending to the 4th edition of The Rumble In The Jungle in Sri Lanka.
The sad experiences in Sri Lanka had made things even more unclear. Not really know where to go from here. My struggle with injury in the last couple years and the determination needed to get even a smidge of my old strength back started to fade. I had always been a veterinarian and an athlete and did not feel quite myself without either one of them. But I equally struggled to successfully combine the two and started to wonder if the pressures I put myself under was worth it.
The one big adventure left set in stone on my calendar was The Ride The Dolomites. 900kms of riding through the Dolomites in 6 days, where Maan Klomp and I were leaders for the StrongHer team. As I was riding my bike without any direction or intention post Sri Lanka, a few things started to become clear in my head. The attraction of going to the Dolomites for StrongHer was being able to help and support the other team riders together with Maan. A completely different role to racing for myself, I would be there to offer advise, guidance and inspiration to hopefully give everyone an amazing experience whilst completing a challenge they could be proud of. Racing for me has always been about the places the bike has taken me and the people I have met along the way. To be able to use my race experiences to help others on their journey really started to excite me. To be able to be strong enough during The Ride in order to support team riders in need meant I had to be really strong myself heading into the event. This suddenly felt like an awesome motivation which had nothing to with my own goals but with helping other people achieve theirs. Inspiring me to suck it up, get on my bike and get back at it.
With the best Summer Scotland has ever had, I had no excuses really, and I needed to put a stop to my self pity. With life’s endless curve balls this was sometimes easier said then done. But I have never been after easy. And I needed to remember that, this path I was on, was my choice, that these were my dreams and it was me who wanted to keep chasing. Time to eat a rock and toughen up!
“we know what we are, but know not what we may be”
About Nienke Oostra
Nienke Oostra is a fierce competitor with big dreams. She started cycling late in life as until her early thirties she let her veterinary career lead her all over the world until her dream of becoming an elite athlete took over. Her goal for upcoming season is to qualify for the UCI MTB Marathon MTB World championship’s again and better her ranking from last year. And after 2 bad triathlon seasons she wants to feel good again and have fun again.
In May of this year, myself and Naomi Freireich set off on an adventure to a remote part of Scotland's west coast. Having raced t...Read more
O how blissfully uncomplicated life was when you could just grab your bike and ride together, without thinking of anything else, having a...Read more