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On top of the world: The Gunn-Rita Dahle diary 2005

Norwegian cross-country mountain bike racer Gunn-Rita Dahle is probably the best female rider this relatively young branch of the sport has ever seen. World champion in 2002 and 2004, Olympic champion in 2004 and unbeaten in the World Cup in 2003 and 2004, she has a breath-taking palmares.

Dahle says her success is due to an unrelenting focus - she describes herself as a '24-hour athlete' - and the constant support of her boyfriend and coach Kenneth Flesjå. Follow her exploits on Cyclingnews as she works to stay at the top of her game in 2005. Or, for more Gunn-Rita, see her personal website:

April 26, 2005 (posted May 2, 2005)

World Cup opening: second place

And thus our unbroken series of World Cup wins was punctured. Still, a second place at the World Cup series opener in Spa in Belgium this weekend was no disappointment for Kenneth and me, but many people are wondering what went wrong, since I didn't win. Our goal was to be among the three best this Sunday, and this we managed.

It's Tuesday here in Heubach where we're living at present, and I'm sitting here all alone in a quiet and peaceful apartment. I'm still a little tired after my mountain-biking efforts and everything else that happens during a weekend of World Cup racing. Very many people expected me to win this first race, but it didn't happen that way. Marie-Helene Premont from Canada was one notch sharper than me on Sunday, and I simply had to accept a second place. My Russian teammate from Multivan Merida Biking Team, Irina Kalentieva reeled in the third place for us.

I had a tough day on Sunday and realized early on in the race that my legs didn't have the necessary extra energy. The World Cup road race, Fleche Wallonne, which I had taken part in on the previous Wednesday, was still very evident in my legs. The race course at Spa was a tough one, technically demanding, with many steep climbs and energy-sapping terrain. Usually this would have been a very good sort of track for me, but not with completely lactic legs which were in a lot of pain on Sunday.

On the first laps Marie-Helene was able to gain a small distance to me as soon as the climbs started. This meant I had to descend like a madman to catch up with her on each descent. Towards the end of the race the distance became too great for me to overcome on the descents, and in the end I was beaten with 43 seconds. I have to admit that I'm a poor loser, even though I'm not really allowed to be disappointed with a second place in a World Cup race. I did a good race, but simply wasn't good enough to win it this time.

This year is the first time that we are following a program of World Cup races on-road as training and preparation for the World Cup off-road. The idea behind this set-up is that it's still so early in the season that we can't afford to decrease our number of hours training. These last weeks have been very tough physically, but this is an actual investment in everything that's due later in the season. I have to admit that I did expect to recover more quickly after the race on Wednesday, but I could have used a day or two more, and my muscles didn't have the necessary circulation and extra power on Sunday.

There was more than one jersey with the Norwegian flag on the race track on Sunday, both among the men and women. Lene Byberg did an impressive race and came in as number 14, which is her best result in a World Cup race ever. Håkon Austad did a fantastic race too, even though number 42 perhaps doesn't sound that impressive to some. Håkon started as number 160, meaning that he was standing way, way back in line at the start. Even when one is cycling very fast, it still takes time and effort to pass 130 riders, especially when most of the race course consists of singletrack and narrow passages both upwards and downwards. Håkon was right up at a 31st place after just two laps, but was unlucky and had a bad crash on a descent and fell far behind again. Even so he fought his way up to an officially accepted position and proved that he is in very good shape already.

New possibilities in Madrid

In a short two weeks there's a new duel going on in the World Cup, with Madrid as the battleground for the world elite in mountain biking this time. I'm now looking at a relaxing week of exercising and training during which rejuvenation and rest will be my main focus. I'll be taking part in an MTB Bundesliga race here in Heubach this coming Sunday, which will be a nice warm-up before flying to Madrid this Tuesday.

As I write, Kenneth is on an airplane on his way back to Norway and Trondheim where he's going to spend three days studying. The program for developing elite coaches, run by Olympiatoppen, has its last gathering this week, meaning a small plane trip for Kenneth. As mentioned, I'll be enjoying some relaxed days of training, and will receive my massage from the team's masseur, Oliver, while Kenneth is away.

Next time you hear from me we will hopefully have completed another World Cup race, and time will show what sort of experiences we get. I certainly am looking very much forward to it, and intend to be well prepared with loads of extra energy in my legs.

I spoke with my mother and sister on the telephone yesterday, and they were sitting outside in our garden at Tjensvoll eating shrimps in the hot sun. It sounds like summer has already arrived back home, and I therefore expect that every single two-wheeler available is having a busy time taking care of shopping, meeting friends, commuting to work, and having great experiences in the woods and outback. Have good bike trips, all of you.

Exercise stint of the week: It was great to take part in a World Cup race again….excitement, dueling, nerves, control, and a whole lot of painful yet satisfying effort. A completely gnarly experience, to put it bluntly.

Dinner of the week: Italian restaurant once again. This time it was in Spa with a tuna salad and Tagliatelle with salmon.

Suggestion of the week: If you've felt that feeling that summer is on its way during this last week, then it's definitely time for you to take a long distance trip on your bike in the woods. Bring your water bottle and stuff a little fruit in your pocket.


Translation: Crispen T.P. de Lange