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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 Flesj. 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: www.gunnrita.com

May 30, 2005

Action-packed weeks

We're constantly amazed at all the exciting experiences we have on our travels together with our bikes. Next to training and competing, there are always countless activities and experiences awaiting us. Some examples would be friendly get-togethers with sponsors and partners, photo-shoots in completely new settings, press conferences, enjoyable dinners, and meeting lots of exciting new people. I look upon it all as experiences for life and invaluable insights.

Last time you heard from me we were on our way home from the World Cup in Madrid, where we won and were celebrating the first victory of this season's World Cup. We were prepared for some hectic days at home in Norway, and that's exactly how it turned out. Hardly any quiet moments, and lots of fun activities! I'm going to have to do a chronological run-through of everything that's happened, in order to remember everything.

Good to be home again

We were back at home again in our little sitting-room at Tjensvoll a bit before midnight on Monday evening, after the race in Madrid. We were fetched by our manager, Roar, at the airport in order to do a bit of paperwork and other things that tend to pile up after six weeks' absence. Our two four-legged 'children' were naturally beside themselves with joy at seeing us back home again.

Tuesday started at about 8:00am, with unpacking of suitcases and starting up the first washing-machine load. From there the day continued with various jobs, zone-therapy, blood tests at the hospital, a meeting with the Sandnes Bank, a hair-cut at Bryne, trying out dresses at Gunn's Stil, and another meeting with Roar. On our way home again around 9:30pm we picked up some Chinese take-away to enjoy at home in the easy-chair before bedtime.

New contract with Shell Norway

On Wednesday we left home at 7:00 and made our way to the reception at Shell Norway at Risavika. There we were to meet all the employees on their way in to work, and motivate them to cycle to work. We ate breakfast together with everybody who had cycled to work that day, and later on in the day we had a lunch-time gathering in the canteen with many more employees. The day also included a meeting with the new cycling group here who we'll be working closely together with in the future. The day was rounded off by me signing a new four-year contract with Shell Norway, which lays a solid foundation for our work towards the Olympics in Beijing.

We closed off at Shell around two o'clock and went straight home to change into some cycling kit. We enjoyed three lovely hours in beautiful sunshine, and it did my body good after the previous day without any physical activity. An action packed day was then rounded up with a family gathering at a restaurant in the centre of Stavanger. It turned out to be a lively evening all together; the various ages of family members spanned from 2 months to over 70 years old, so everyone was there to enjoy themselves!

New sponsor

Thursday started with an easy jogging trip before our plane took off for Oslo. On the agenda for the day was a meeting with Coop Norway; Roar was also coming along on this trip. Naturally it wasn't our first meeting with Coop Norway, but today we would be signing a contract to work together for the next four years. The rest of the day was spent taking pictures in a studio with lots of lovely fruit and vegetables from Coop. It was nice being photographed together with my favourite food. I naturally ended up sampling a lot of it myself.

We rounded up the evening with a good dinner, which sort of served as a celebration of the day's activities. With both Shell Norway and Coop Norway as two personal sponsors for the next four years, we have a very good foundation for our work towards the Olympics in Beijing in 2008. It also gives us the scope to venture into new possibilities and challenges in areas we're not used to.

Friday morning started with a new round of photos with the bike and cycle kit at Skullerud, followed by some funny scenarios in front of the camera inside a huge Coop Mega food shop just nearby. In the evening we cycled out of Merida and Stian Sport's buildings at Ra together with many employees and fun-loving women. Maybe we can make a tradition out of this in the future; a gang of cyclists gets together on the day before the Norwegian Cup while we're at home in Norway..!

Norwegian Cup at Marikollen

On Saturday morning we were at Marikollen to take part in the first Norwegian Cup race of the season, and it ended up being a very enjoyable day. My legs felt anything but good as the starting gun went off, but they improved a little as time went. The day was enjoyable nonetheless, and we got to meet many friendly cyclists of all ages. And the good weather and a well-organized event made the day one to remember for very many people.

On Saturday afternoon we moved our luggage to a hotel at Gardermoen airport, where we had an appointment with a journalist from the magazine Scanorama at six that evening. Some really great days in Oslo were rounded up with a fantastic dinner together with our sponsor Falck Bicycle Registry.

Laureus World Sports Awards

By this time I reckon some of you are beginning to lose a bit of focus, so I won't include all that many details from this last week. On Sunday morning Kenneth and I got to do a relaxed two hour long-distance bike trip before leaving for Lisbon. We were met by glamour and festivities; certainly not daily happenings. This was all because of the Laureus World Sports Awards, for which I had been nominated in the category 'Alternative Sports', so we took the trip to Lisbon. I've got stories about masses of fun stuff from those two days in Portugal - however, I just promised to keep it short and sweet, but...

On Sunday evening we were invited to a sort of 'get-to-know-each-other' party, put on by the Italian fashion magazine Vogue. We didn't know what would meet us at the party, and only knew that we were to dress 'smart and casual'. I wore a gorgeous two-piece purple dress, made by my designer Gunn, and Kenneth wore a black suit with a matching shirt. To keep the account of this evening short, I'll just say that I did an unforgettable stunt upon first contact with the red carpet.

Around 100 photographers were present in order to catch a glimpse of the numerous Hollywood stars and various other celebrities going to the same party as us. Imagine Kenneth and me, hand-in-hand, with a somewhat stiff gait because of my high heels and reasonably unaccustomed apparel, on the red carpet, and all of a sudden a gust of wind blows my skirt upwards! The flashes practically exploded around us, and I certainly hope that my panties look good on film too!

This is the kind of thing that can happen when one has neither attended princess-school nor walked up a red carpet before. Still, it turned out to be a somewhat different evening and a new experience for us both. Monday evening we attended the grand ceremony for handing out the prizes, and it was a very exciting evening with lots of memories, even though I didn't get any prizes. For me it was great just being nominated, being present as a Norwegian athlete, and naturally also as an ambassador for mountain biking.

Wonderful days in Switzerland

On Tuesday morning we set off for Switzerland. We were fetched at the airport in Zurich by the pro team's physical therapist, Oliver, and drove with him to a small town called Hasliberg, where relaxed days surrounded by fantastic landscapes awaited us. We needed to get back on our feet again and recharge our batteries after some action-packed days here and there in the world. The following Sunday I took part in the Swiss Power Cup right where we were staying, with a feeling of power and control from start to finish. We started our trip from Hasliberg to Belgium on Sunday afternoon, stayed overnight on route, and arrived in Houffalize and the town of Nadrin on Monday afternoon, where we are now staying.

This Sunday is a World Cup race in Houffalize, the third of the season, which is considered a classic for mountain biking. We've had some relaxing days since we arrived, and I seem to be in very good shape. I raced against Kenneth on the actual race course today, and we had a sure winner today by the name of Dahle! So things seem all set for the race on Sunday. Kenneth doesn't particularly enjoy being left in the dirt by me, but when this happens he knows for sure that he's done his job as my coach and trainer to the max. Tomorrow we'll do some relaxed training on rollers and have a session in the pool. On Saturday we'll have a light race around the track again. I'll try to send you a short summary of Sunday's race on Monday. Make an effort to use any time you have available for physical activity, and enjoy the rest of your day.

[Gunn-Rita won the third World Cup round in Belgium on Sunday - Ed.]

Exercise stint of the week: Definitely today's race around the track here in Houffalize, which is one of my favourite race courses in the World Cup.

Dinner of the week: Every evening is a new breathtaking experience here at the hotel in the town of Nadrin. The dinners are simply the pinnacle of my day, because the food tastes just as heavenly every time. If you ever find yourself in Belgium, definitely drop by here.

Tip of the week: Sun and summertime seems to do something to mind and soul. So if you have time, make space for a trip out into nature, either with your walking boots or sneakers on, or on your bicycle.

Cyclist's greetings from Gunn-Rita,
Multivan Merida Biking Team.

[Translation: Crispen T. P. de Lange]