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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: www.gunnrita.com

Madrid, May 18, 2006

Number three in Madrid

Gunn-Rita zips up, ready for the finish
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

It was an amazing experience for us to win the world cup race in Madrid. It's the third year running that we've taken first place at this race track, which has become a classic of sorts within mountain biking circles. We’ve entered an exciting and important phase of the 2006 season, with three world cup weekends in a row, so this result was a big positive.

After the race I was lying on my bed with my legs raised,with my pulse dropping as the adrenaline in my body gradually receded. I was still sweating after a very tough day on my bike in the scorching sun and temperatures well above 30 degrees centigrade. The first hours after crossing the finish line were spent talking to Norwegian and international press, plus the awards ceremony, warming down on the rollers, doping control, photos and writing my signature for all our Merida supporters here in Spain. I had a good massage and a delicious dinner together with the team.

The weekend before we took part in the Bundesliga at Heubach in the south of Germany, which was a demanding and exciting warm up before the World Cup race. We arrived in Madrid on Monday afternoon and the week was used for some rest, training and fine tuning with a focus on regaining energy. Through the past weeks my physical shape has been steadily improved, and we’ve received the feedback we’d been looking for on the race track, regarding both my feeling physically and my performance.

The race track on Sunday offered high speeds on hard-packed terrain. Patches of loose sand in the bends caused a measure of uncontrolled riding for most participants, plus short, steep climbs with sharp turns at the bottom of rapid descents made the race stressful and aggressive for those fighting for the lead.

I opened hard and was leading by 15 seconds after the first lap – not much of a comfort when I knew those who were chasing me were in top shape and just as set on winning as I was. The thought crossed my mind that I had perhaps opened a little too hard, but told myself that everybody else was probably feeling just the same as me.

Marie-Helene Premont
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

Canadian Marie-Helen Premont was close behind me through most of the race, and the distance back to her varied between 25 and 45 seconds at the most. Premont was unlucky with a puncture right after completing her fourth lap out of a total of five and lost lots of time in that way. Spanish rider Marga Fullana rode in to an undisputed second place in front of Russian Irina Kalentieva. Lene Byberg took a great sixth place today, and she was very satisfied with that.

Multivan Merida Biking Team can look back on yet another successful day with a great 13th place for my team mate Nina Göhl, along with two top positions for the men. Ralph Näf came in as number three, and Jose Hermida fought his way to a great fourth place. I get to keep the blue leader's jersey in the world cup and will have a new opportunity this weekend at Spa in Belgium to get more points in the battle for victory in this year’s world cup.

The Madrid podium
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

Tomorrow we fly directly to Belgium where rest, recovery and lots of sleep await me during the coming days. We are fairly familiar with the area round Spa from last year’s season, and we know that it’s a lovely area for training and restitution. As usual, after tough competitions we’re expecting a restless night with little sleep for me, but I’ll get to recover through the following days.

I wish you all a great 17th of May [Norway’s National Day] at home in Norway. Kenneth and I will be celebrating the day with a relaxed long distance bike ride, a slow-paced afternoon, maybe a parade-march around the hotel with a little Norwegian flag, plus a tasty dinner in a good Italian restaurant which we visited several times last year during the World Cup at Spa.

Cyclist’s greetings from Gunn-Rita and Kenneth
Multivan Merida Biking Team

www.gunnrita.com

[Translation: Crispen T. P. de Lange]