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HOW I BECAME A RACER

The world fades into a blur on the edges of my goggles as I race my snowmobile along a narrow track leading through the woods. One more tight corner and a swamp opens in front of me. Eyes searching for the next green sign, I hit the throttle and the sled plunges forwards. Shivers run up my sweaty back under the armor. I’m one with the sled, and we are flying. Everything that I need is in this moment. This feeling is the reason I race.

Sprint is a rapid-paced form of racing where the track is only about 5 kilometers long. The season 2021 ended in victory of ladies’ class in Finnish championships. Photo: Harri Junnila

I got into snowmobiling six years ago. I had just moved to northern Lapland and decided to try some local stuff. I rented a snowmobile for a day, and what was supposed to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience turned out to be a life-changing one. Despite not knowing much about the sport nor the rides, I bought a snowmobile and started learning. I rode my Lynx Xtrim on the trails and in the backcountry, slowly getting the hang of it and enjoying every moment. I felt child-like joy, learning new things and experiencing nature in a new way. The sled turned my days into adventure.

After a couple of winters, I noticed that riding was no longer purely about leisure. The thrill of speed had hooked me. I started playing with the idea of giving racing a go. Having ridden only crossover models, I dreamt about buying a race sled. In February 2019, I got my own Lynx Rave RE and in no time, I had signed up for my first enduro race. Once in a lifetime, I thought, I’ve got to give it a go.

An enduro race consists of 2 or more special stages, adding up to a minimum of 70 kilometers in total. The race requires speed, endurance, and tight focus; the racer must keep to the narrow and winding track marked in the backcountry with green signs. The minute I set out on the racetrack, I was in love. It was an unforgettable experience to race through the snowy wilderness and dive into the moment like never before. I felt so alive. A place on the podium was a surprising bonus for the great day, and I knew I would have to return to the racetracks.

Preparing for the racing season 2021 in Finnish Lapland.

I started planning a season of enduro racing for the upcoming winter, but before long, another exciting opportunity presented itself. A Finnish team was preparing for the Cain’s Quest 2020, the toughest snowmobile endurance race in the world, and the all-woman team, which was to be the first in the history of the race, had a spot open. The race was held in Labrador, Canada, and required the racers to navigate their way through the Labrador wilderness in pairs, riding more than 3000 kilometers in less than a week’s time. I had to laugh at myself for even thinking about it – being so new to the sport, how could I put myself at the starting line with some of the toughest racers in the world?

I knew myself well enough to know I couldn’t say no to such an opportunity. I would dedicate a year of my life to prepare for the race that demanded extreme endurance, determination, navigation and mechanical skills, problem-solving abilities, and most of all, mental toughness to put up with the pain and sleep deprivation that crept into the body after a few days of hardcore racing. My partner Henna Riekkoniemi and I worked hard for our goal, and when the time came, we were ready – racing felt great! We, however, stumbled upon several mechanical issues and were forced to scratch after 2000 kilometers due to an engine failure. The true nature of this extreme race is shown in the statistics: only 13 teams of the 48 who started the race made it to the finish line. The disappointment was huge, but we knew we could stand proud. If anything, not meeting our goals left a question hanging in the air – maybe one more race?

In 2021 it was time for the first full season of racing in Finland. I raced through the complete series of the Finnish championships in snowmobile sprints and gained the top spot on the podium in the ladies’ class at the end of it. The rapid-paced sprints, where the track is only about 5 kilometers long, left me looking forward to the enduro races with longer distances to cover and enjoy, but the Covid-19 situation cut the season short.

Winter 2020 in Labrador, Canada together with my riding partner Henna Riekkoniemi. Participating in Cain’s Quest endurance race was an immemorial adventure. Maybe some day again? Photo: Mikko Vainionpää

My eyes are now set for the future, and I’m looking forward to the upcoming season. I’m hoping to tackle the complete series of the Finnish championships in enduro and wish to continue enjoying the full versatility of snowmobiling. I challenged myself last spring and even participated in a snowcross race, only to discover it requires a whole heap of different skills as well as the right kind of sled! It would be fun to practice on the snowcross tracks with the right equipment one day. Snowmobiling offers endless opportunities to challenge oneself and have fun!

Snowmobiling has become a lifestyle, and it’s on my mind throughout the year, even though the racing season is short. Like in any competitive sport, an athlete has to train and prepare for the season all year round. In the summer, I keep active by running, mountain biking, and training at the gym. Snowmobiling is a physical sport – you need your whole body, not just the throttle thumb to race fast.

For me, racing is much more than hunting for trophies. Most of all, it’s about challenging myself and enjoying the opportunities that the races provide to put my skills to the test and enjoy the ride. On the racetrack you’re allowed to let loose and see where it gets you. Racing forces you to seize the moment and enables you to test your limits in the sport that you love. The race days bring together people who all share your passion. Racing connects snowmobile lovers from around the country and even the world. It is awesome to be a part of this tribe.

Venla Jyrkinen is a passionate snowmobiler who enjoys the sport in all its forms. Long-distance rides, deep snow adventures, and picking up speed on trails and racetracks – she loves it all. Venla started snowmobiling in 2016 after moving up north to Inari in the Finnish Lapland. She has since been seen on enduro and sprint racetracks in Finland, and in 2020 she took part in the Cain’s Quest endurance race, held in Labrador, Canada. This spring, she took on a new kind of challenge and debuted in a vintage snowcross race together with nine other brave women.

Lynx Rave Enduro

Learn more about Venla's race sled.

Lynx Xterrain RE

Learn more about the sled that Venla was riding with in the Cain's Quest race.

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