I've taken part in three World Cup races so far this season and have gradually advanced each time. It felt good to get a fifth place at Val di Sole (Italy) two weekends ago. The guys won the team ranking - it was a great day for Merida. And now we're waiting for the marathon world championships.
We've moved a few kilometres northeast of Val di Sole, almost four hours drive from Kirchberg, close to Kitzbühel in Austria. No doubt a fantastic place in the winter time for those who like to ski and who love snow, but for us, who prefer our two-wheelers and cycling, the place is absolutely majestic. Kitzalpbike Marathon is taking place for the 18th time, and will organize the marathon world championship this year, on Saturday, June 29.
Kenneth and I have ridden the entire race track over two days, with lots of good help from cycling guides from the organization (www.bikeacademy.at). The world championship distance for elite class women is a total of 85 kilometres, and will cross three mountains and a total of 3700 metres of altitude.
Fantastic cycling terrain
Simply completing such a race is a huge accomplishment. But the nature here, the mountains, the whole area we've been cycling through these past days, is absolutely wonderful. I've cycled in a number of different countries the world over, but I honestly don't think there is anything that can compare with what we're experiencing on our bikes in this area.
If you live for tough challenges or need a new goal as a mountain biker, you should check out www.kitzalpbike.at. You can naturally choose one of the shorter alternatives of the race the first time you take part, but the region really is incredible for those who love long trips on a mountain bike in awe-inspiring nature.
No European championships
The European cross country championship took place in Bern, Switzerland, this past weekend. I decided to drop this championship as the marathon world championship is more important for me. I've won the European Championship two years running now and want to focus all my energy on the world championships this year.
My form has been steadily improving these past weeks, and my results at the World Cup race in Val di Sole gave a clear confirmation of this. It's good to be present here at Kirchberg already, in order to check out the track, experience the true mountain biking that this area has to offer, and have a few days of extra relaxation.
Cycling extravaganza at home
The weekend before leaving for Italy, both Kenneth and I took part in the Nordsjørittet (North Sea Race). Almost every second person in our region takes part in this marathon race, and we think it's fantastic to be a part of it. 12,500 starters are impressive. The race, going from Egersund to Sandnes, was quite an experience, and I got to meet many likeminded cyclists on the ride. The route is pretty flat all the way, mostly on gravel roads and a lot of asphalt, but in gorgeous nature right out by the coast. I got to train both speed and power during the race, which will come in useful later this season. It was a bit annoying to lose the final sprint to a Danish road racing cyclist, but it's not going to happen again.
We've had a close cooperation with our personal sponsor Aarbakke in the run-up to this year's Nordsjørittet, and we've had many interesting and instructional sessions together over the past months. Kenneth lined up at the start together with a big group of Aarbakke employees. The goal to complete the race in three hours and 15 minutes was a bit too tough, as we had a strong headwind from beginning to end this year. Luckily we'll have a new chance again next year! It's a good excuse to keep training hard.
As the summer comes to a close, we'll lay new plans for training and exercise for the employees at Aarbakke, with a slightly different focus and type of training. We want as many as at all possible actively involved in physical training, to get them in better physical shape, which in turn will lead to a better everyday life.
Finally summer, however...
We got to experience gorgeous summer weather during the last days in Italy last week. Here in Austria we've had extreme heat. It's been 32-35 degrees Centigrade in the shade these past days, and that's rather too hot for me. It's been utterly gorgeous on the mountaintops (1800-2000 metres above sea level), with only 20 degrees, but rather hot on the climb up...
Tomorrow we're having a day of rest, a light jog and a session on the bicycle rollers. Apart from that, a couple of hours of massage for lucky me. We are living well, with lots of delicious food, and I'm reading Jo Nesbo's latest book, "Police", so there won't be any chance of boredom tomorrow either.
I wish you all fantastic rides on your bikes in the time to come!
Cyclist's greetings from Gunn-Rita
Multivan Merida Biking Team
[Translation: Crispen T.P. de Lange]