I still enjoy the many hours on my bike, probably more than ever before, no matter where I am on earth. But the time on my bike is extra enjoyable in sun and warmth, after many weeks of autumn and winter conditions at home. I'm on the Canary Islands now, and the sun is just as baking hot as it was last time I was here.
I arrived on Saturday evening and am living in a hotel in Arguineguin, enjoying quiet days all alone. Or rather: I'm here together with almost half the Norwegian population which has also taken a break from the winter, just like me. Bjørnar, Kenneth and my mother will come here in a week's time and we'll all move into the apartment close by.
Both proud and disappointed
It's been hard to swallow the disappointment after a somewhat lax conclusion to the season of 2013. I succeeded in becoming world champion once again, and that was my main goal for the season. Even so, it was heavy for me to accept not being able to race when I was at my absolute peak fitness level for 2013.
I was in awesome shape in the last half of 2013, but managed to get sick one week before the cross country world championships in South Africa, and I've been struggling with it ever since. It all started with a small cold right before the BMC Cup in Basel exactly one week before the world championships. I wasn't taking any chances by taking part there, and travelled to Pietermaritzburg with a bad feeling.
The cold developed into an inflammation of the sinuses during the days before the world championships, but being a born optimist, I was sure things would turn out alright. I was in amazing shape, and a small cold wasn't going to ruin a good world championship result! I ended up in eighth place after battling a very painful body and a heavy feeling right from the start.
At home again, I was given penicillin because of pneumonia, which was a pretty natural result of doing a hard race with sickness in one's body. The World Cup finals at Hafjell two weeks after that gave me a small lift, when I ended on a good fifth place, but naturally not that healthy for a body that isn't quite well yet.
Wonderful to be home again
Since Hafjell, I've had trouble breathing freely and had constantly stuffed sinuses, as expected for not having allowed my body to fully recover from the sickness. Even so, I've been able to take part in exciting activities both at home and around the world.
Only three days after the World Cup finals, I travelled to China together with my Multivan Merida teammate, Jose Hermida. We experienced a lot and had some action packed days and unforgettable moments, of both the positive and negative kind. I believe we did a good job of promoting Merida and cycling in Asia.
In the beginning of October, I went for a long weekend to Warsaw, invited by the Polish Merida importer, and had some exciting days both on and off the bike. I've promised to return next year if there are more ladies at the starting line. Who is going to get on their bicycle starting now?
October is usually my "active" resting month, when my training is to be both varied and invigorating. Since I've been a bit sick and stuffed, I haven't quite done as much as usual. I had to cancel a promotional trip to Japan in November as I simply was not well enough to do the trip.
On the road to recovery
I had a quick visit to my doctor just before leaving, and received confirmation that things are definitely on the mend. I will probably have to meet a specialist when I come home again in order to run a complete test of my respiratory system, since I've been suffering from these problems for so long now.
I am sure that sun and warmth and dry air will work wonders for my health. I've said these past weeks that all three of us will benefit from having our "channels dried out" for a period, as Bjørnar and Kenneth have also been through their own sessions of phlegm and painful throats.
It's afternoon now here in this part of the world, and I'm going to slip on some jogging clothes for a light jog. Tomorrow it's high intensity cycling off-road, and I'm looking very much forward to it. I'm missing everybody at home, but console myself in the knowledge that the days will fly by, and before I know it, we'll be a complete TEAM again.
Good news for us girls
The latest piece of good news for us girls who like to ride a bike, is that the Cape Epic organization has made a good example by making the prize money the same for elite men and women in the coming season. That's a good enough reason to bring out one's bike now and set up a realistic training program and form clearly defined goals for 2014 (with or without racing). The main thing is that you use the bicycle you have, and seek out new challenges and experiences with your two-wheeler. My own goal is to take part in the Absa Cape Epic in 2015.
Cyclist's greetings from Gunn-Rita
Multivan Merida Biking Team
Translation by Crispen T.P. de Lange