Muscat: Both international and Omani bikers had to beat the heat in the fourth and last stage of the TransHajar Race on Thursday as they cycled across 88.6 kilometres around the plains and hills of the Quriyat area. Omani rider Mashari Najeeb Al Kalili, who finished third, said Thursday’s race was “very fast” but “easier” because of the track mostly being flat.
Al Kalili thanked his Omani Army team for organising a successful race. Semi-professional bikers from abroad praised the race as a unique experience and one which inspired some to visit Oman again. Christian Rosvig Hogh, from Denmark, who was the winner of the day, said: “This is so beautiful down here in the mountains. I’ve never experienced anything as beautiful as this. I think I’ll be back next year and maybe I’ll take my family for a holiday,” he said.
And yet, the heat was a challenge for Hogh. “Today’s race was flat, but hot, not like any of the previous days. We come from Denmark where it is 0 degrees, so we really have to get used to the heat. The other stages have been so hard, with a lot of climbs. This one was easier, but when it’s so hot, nothing is easy.” His team mate Jacob Lykke Grann noted that the unique feature of the race is that it’s so remote.
“You go so far out in the mountains; you’re far from everything and you often cycle alone. That makes it hard to keep motivated, with no one around. It’s extreme,” he said. John Hancock, from the United Kingdom, said the race has inspired him to come back to Oman and do some mountain biking for leisure as well. “It’s fantastic. I’ve never seen this kind of terrain with the wadis (valleys) and the villages perched in between. Amazing, it’d be great to come back.” Young Riders The four-day event also saw the participation of an enthusiastic group of Omani youth. Majid Al Yahja’i, a 12-year-old, said with a proud smile that the race today had inspired him to resolve to compete in more races.
“It was a tough race and I thought I could not complete it. But, thankfully, I completed it and it was nice to participate. I am sure I’ll compete in other races and I’ll be the best Omani rider, Almighty willing,” he said. Having practiced the sport for three years, he hopes to become the member of a club and get even better. Encouraging Omani youth to start enjoying mountain biking as a sport is one of the aims of the TransHajar Race, said Mark Lennon, head of Physical Education at the Al Sahwa School in Shatti Al Qurm. “The sooner we can expose Omani students to this, the greater chance we have that they’ll participate in the future.”
Lennon said they had selected 30 students between the ages of 12 and 16, while about 100 students had shown interest. “It’s great to see that it’s a 12 -year-old finish first,” he said, adding that the school wanted to expand the students’ interests and channelise it away from traditional sports, such as football. “An international cycling event such as this is a really good way to show that sports are international and that Oman can be represented internationally. Hopefully this inspires them to aim for more,” he said. He added that Omani youth will be encouraged to join a cycling club, in cooperation with the Oman Cycling Association (OCA).
“Cycling is one of the best ways to stay fit and healthy. We’ve got an amazing natural environment here, especially for mountain biking. If you marry these things together, it cannot really fail,” he stated. Lennon added that in the future, more schools will be involved in the race as part of a junior TransHajar Race. Rob Gardner, leader of the TransHajar Race, told the Times of Oman that involving local schools would encourage more local residents to compete in the race.
“This edition was very small, with around 25 participants, but next year, we’re going for 200. The guys who have taken part in the race are already saying they want to come back next year, even though it has been very hard,” he noted. Gardner added that after discussions with the OCA, the next edition was tentatively planned to be held on January 27, 2017.