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On top of the world: The Gunn-Rita Dahle FlesjŚ diary 2007

Norwegian cross-country mountain bike racer Gunn-Rita Dahle FlesjŚ is probably the best female rider this relatively young branch of the sport has ever seen. World champion in 2002, 2004, 2005, and last year as well, plus Olympic champion in 2004, and rarely beaten in her reign as World Cup champion from 2003 - 2006, she has a breathtaking 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 continues her bid to stay number one in 2007. Or, for more Gunn-Rita, see her personal website: www.gunnrita.com

Index to all entries

May 12, 2007

Success at the Gunn-Rita Marathon

The first Gunn-Rita Marathon race in Italy turned out to be a very memorable occasion. The organization Pedali di Marca and all the volunteer workers combined forces to make a super happening. Elite cyclists from all over the world, along with enthusiastic amateurs, sponsors, the media, and the public contributed to a fantastic cycling festival in the beautiful town of Montebelluna.

Close to 2,200 cyclists participated in the race last Sunday at Montebelluna in the Treviso region. A good 1,500 cyclists completed the 75 kilometres that comprise the Gunn-Rita Marathon, while the rest of the cyclists contented themselves with a route of 45 kilometres. With both the start and the finish situated in the friendly town of Montebelluna, everything was set for an exciting bike festival for all ages.

The first two kilometres are ridden on asphalt. It's quite flat from the start, but then suddenly the track skyrockets. It's a good way to start, because it stretches the riders out a bit so that queuing is avoided when entering the first of the singletrack. If one is moderately used to riding off road, the whole track is a real blast to ride.

Much of the course is ridden on hard-packed trails which wind their way through the terrain, with a thicket of bushes and trees on either side of the trail. Parts of the track are like cycling through green tunnels. There are a lot of ups and downs, but without any very long and steep climbs or rocky descents. You have to concentrate all the time and focus on the track way ahead of you when cycling at high speed on the most demanding descents.

Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa
Photo ©: Rob Jones
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Some of the climbs are on gravel, and few are on asphalt. About 20 kilometres from the finish, one follows a long flat stretch along the banks of a large river. The final kilometres demand some extra power to get the speed up, and the final descent demands a measure of experience. Apart from that, the course is very manageable for practically anybody who finds off-road mountain biking to be fun, no matter what level they're at!

The expo-area was located on a large parking lot, but was well filled with cars and tents for the professional teams, plus sponsors and various manufacturers of bike products. There was entertainment and a packed programme beginning already on Saturday afternoon and continued on into the small hours. On Sunday morning, the elite cyclists started at the front, closely followed by the various other classes of cyclists. With bright sunshine and a good 25 degrees Centigrade, our pasta-party in town was a relaxing conclusion to an exciting weekend both on and off the bike.

If you're tempted by the idea of an action-packed extended weekend in the north of Italy next spring, maybe accompanied by your two-wheeler, then I can warmly recommend the Gunn-Rita Marathon festival. Fly to Venice on Friday evening, stay over night in the Montebelluna area, relax and shop in town on Saturday. Fill up your tanks with tasty Italian food and wine on Saturday evening, start the Gunn-Rita Marathon on Sunday morning, and enjoy the rest of the day at the countless restaurants in town. You can spend Monday morning in Venice before departure from the airport on Monday afternoon. There's your schedule, all set.

I wasn't the only Norwegian taking part in the race. Kenneth also started with the elite riders, a bit further back than me. He enjoyed himself to no end out on the tracks, as always, even though he was a bit unhappy when he arrived at the finish, many minutes behind me. He had one puncture to blame for this, and so I had the edge this time. Our manager, Roar, was also there. He came without his bike, but he was there along the track, pacing us and taking times. Our web-designer, Marton, and a friend of his had also come down together with Roar, and they got to test their off-roading abilities. Øyvind Ås from the Norwegian mountain bike magazine Terrengsykkel also took part in the race and happily confirmed that the track was utterly fantastic when he crossed the finish line.

It's time to hit the sack where we are now. I'm starting another race at 11:30 tomorrow morning here in the town of Heubach in Germany. It's another race in the Bundesliga, and many of the best female riders in the world will be taking part. I'm very excited and am looking very much forward.

Cyclist's greetings from Gunn-Rita and Kenneth
Multivan Merida Biking Team
www.gunnrita.com