More than 15 thousand bikers competed in the 17th annual “Birkebeinerrittet”, that kicked off this past weekend.
The 59 mile race, from Rena to Lillehammer, was extremely challenging this year due to stormy weather and heavy rain, which made the trail muddy and awfully slippery.
But despite the tough conditions most riders were able to complete the fully booked race, which is said to be the world’s largest cross country bicycle race.
The women’s elite class was won by Norway’s Gunn-Rita Dahle Fesjå, who finished in 3 hours and 27 minutes. Swiss Andreas Kugler won the men’s elite class. He finished the race in 3 hours and 2 minutes.
The historic event of the rescue of Haakon Haakonsson is honored in Norway by three annual sporting events; a run, a mountain bike race and a cross-country ski race, Birkebeinerrennet.
Common for the bike and ski events is the requirement of carrying a heavy backpack weighing 7.7 lb. as a remembrance of the child the Birkebeiners had to carry on their journey. The bike and ski events start in Rena and all three events finish at Lillehammer.
There are also sister cross-country ski races held in Hayward, U.S; the American Birkebeiner, and in Edmonton, Canada.
In Norway, the first race took place in 1932.
Read more about the races on: Birkebeiner.no