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Photo ©: Multivan Merida

On top of the world: The Gunn-Rita Dahle diary 2006

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, 2004 and 2005, Olympic champion in 2004 and rarely beaten in the World Cup in 2003, 2004 and 2005, 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 husband and coach Kenneth FlesjŚ. Follow her exploits on Cyclingnews as she works to stay at the top of her game in 2006. Or, for more Gunn-Rita, see her personal website:

Curacao, March 26, 2006

Heat and thorns in Curacao

Many things are different here on the Caribbean island of Curacao, but the biggest challenge for me is the heat and the high humidity. The World Cup race track doesn't include many climbs, but even so it's a tough course. We have one week to go until the opening of the world cup, and I'm very much looking forward to it!

The trip across went smoothly, and we received our luggage and bikes with no hitches. We're living in spacious and comfortable accommodation a few hundred metres from the stadium, right next to the start and finish area. We were a bit shocked when we got off the plane on Monday evening and felt the heavy heat in our faces, but we're beginning to get used to it now. You're constantly sweating here because of the high humidity, and you have to keep drinking water all the time.

Many things on this island are different from what we're used to. The beaches right next to the hotel are fantastic and there are lots of plants growing everywhere. Everything is brightly coloured; from flowery bushes, colourful parrots flying around us and the many green iguana lizards we've seen on our bike rides in the woods, to the houses which are all painted in every colour of the rainbow. The sea is also magnificent. It's simply wonderful to have my swimming training in the sea instead of having to do it in an indoor swimming pool.

We've eaten out at restaurants several evenings, but have made most of our food here in the apartment. In this way we get exactly what we want; we get the right size portions, and we're served when we want. We've had a few unwanted visits in our kitchen in the course of the past nights, and woken up to total chaos and mess everywhere. It's probably rats which have found their way in and had a real ball with our food. After this happened we were advised to close the hatches in the doors securely, and this morning we woke up to a clean kitchen without droppings and urine everywhere.

These aren't my favourite types of animal visitors, so I'm hoping they don't come back again. The funny thing was that they had tasted and moved every single item of food we had in the kitchen, except for my fish-powder. They had simply pushed that bag down from the cupboard so it landed untouched on the floor - nothing more.

Today we've been training on the race track, and I beat Kenneth - he doesn't particularly like being beaten, but is still quite satisfied even so. It means he's done his work well and that we've made the right adjustments to our programme before the race. I've taken some pictures from the race track which will be posted on our website if anyone would like to see what the track on the island looks like. I've punctured many times already, and always because of thorns from bushes or spikes from cactuses which are to be found strewn over the entire track. Yesterday, Kenneth found five thorns stuck in one and the same tyre after training.

It's time for bed over here, so you'll hear more from us next weekend. We'll do the world cup race on Saturday morning, so if I'm lucky I'll be able to send you a small update on the same day as the race. It will definitely be an exciting day, and I'm looking very much forward to it.

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

[Translation: Crispen T. P. de Lange]