It was an amazing experience to become European Champion again, and this time as the mother of little Bjørnar. This victory enters my collection as something completely unique, and is impossible to compare with any of my other achievements as a cyclist.
This year's European Marathon Championship found place in Estonia, just outside the town of Tartu. The start was at the small town of Ötepää, also known for its skiing facilities among the world's skiing elite, both in cross country and biathlon. The finish was located in Elva, totaling 89km.
The Tartu Rattamaraton took place for the 12th time and there were a good 5000 cyclists lined up at the start, including those doing the half distance. The track is reasonably flat, meaning there are no mountain passes to traverse, but there are still countless gulleys and bends on rapid terrain and loose shale and all at high speed. It was more like doing a long and demanding cyclocross race. It was a tough track, but in a totally different way than this year's World Championship track.
Men and women started at the same time and completed the same distance. I felt good and strong from beginning to end. It was wonderful to feel that I was 'flying' on my bike again. I maintained high speed and sprinted out of every bend and over every single hilltop in order to stay at the head of the pack for as long as possible.
It's not the climbs that decide whether a race is demanding or not; it's just as much the average speed, upwards or downwards. I've been taking part in races since 1995, and it's the variation of terrain in the races that makes our sport both exciting and very demanding.
Aggression and speed
This kind of a start suited me just fine, and much of the training I've been doing these past two months has been focused on exactly the kind of track that met me in this race.
I took part in this race once before, in 2006, so I knew was to expect. It was a large scale and very enjoyable event that I would be happy to take part in again, some day. This year I set the women's speed record for this route, which is fantastic in addition to winning the gold medal.
There probably aren't all that many who remember that I won my very first championship medal on a Merida bike back in 2002. I won the silver medal in the European Marathon Championship in Austria, on a magnesium frame from Merida. A whole lot of technological changes have happened since then!
Many deserved thanks
Kenneth and I would never have managed the achievement of becoming European Marathon champion, this time with a small baby boy at our side, without the help and support we've had from our parents and family. The confidence which Merida has shown in us has been very important in the efforts laid down this summer, plus the support from our local sponsors - many, many thanks to you all.
Extra thanks go to the Merida importer in Estonia, who has provided us with a lot of help towards an optimal preparation for the championships. We enjoyed a great week in the hotel at Ötepää together with my mother and father acting as babysitters, including both day and night shifts.
We celebrated the gold medal in a restaurant in Tallinn on Sunday evening together with the team and the Merida importer, Veloplus (Marko and Svenn), in Estonia. We arrived home again late yesterday afternoon, all three of us happy and satisfied, but very tired. Today we've had a relaxed day. Grandmother has watched over Bjørnar during the morning hours so we've been able to take a short bike ride.
It's good to get a bit of circulation going again in a pretty beaten up and stiff body. Now it's bed time here at home. Lukewarm milk will be served this evening, directly from the dairy, on the edge of the bed, and both mother and little boy will be bedding down at the same time tonight. Sleep works wonders for just about everything and should never be underestimated if one aims to perform at one's best, no matter what the arena.
Cyclist's greetings from Gunn-Rita, Kenneth and Bjørnar.
Multivan Merida Biking Team