I had a tough start to the first World Cup race in Pietermaritzburg. Then on the eve of a race in Nals, my two new Merida bikes were stolen from the hotel there. I took a fourth place on teammate Jose Hermida's bicycle.
As I write, I'm sitting in a hotel just by Innsbruck airport. I took a fourth place in the first Italian cup of the season in Nals, and it inspired me. I had a somewhat heavy start, but worked my way up on every lap.
I arrived in Nals on Thursday evening and was really looking forward to some good days in Southern Tyrol and the beautiful areas surrounding the little town of Nals. It's four years since Kenneth and I were here last, and I stayed at Hotell Wilma (as always) and took part in what has become a bit of a classic for many mountain bikers. The area is absolutely fantastic for both riding bikes and hiking on foot in the mountains.
Merida bikes stolen
I received the bad news early the morning of the race, that four of our bicycles had been stolen from the wine cellar of the hotel where they had been locked in. It wasn't supposed to be possible to get in there and also impossible to see that there were any bikes locked into the room. Even so, the thieves had managed to saw across the hinges of a fire door to get into the basement of the hotel, and had then broken open a special lock to get into a very impressive wine cellar (not a single bottle was missing after the night's raid).
My teammate, Jose Hermida, had brought his bike up to his room that night as he was heading out for an early morning pre-race ride. I was lucky and was able to borrow Jose's bike so that I could at least take part in the race and complete a very important session.
On the other hand, Hermida hardly got any warm-up before the men were to ride, but even so managed to get a third place. I believe he could have won today if he had been able to warm up properly.
Two other hotels in Nals were also broken into, and bikes had been stolen there too in the course of the night. No doubt professional thieves did this, so we simply have to increase security and possibly consider somehow chaining ourselves to the bikes while we sleep!
Hard start in South Africa
The start of the season in South Africa was rough in many ways. Many bad crashes and totally beaten up before the race started - not a good starting point. The training race the weekend before, on the same track as the World Cup race, was a slow-paced trip for me, and I was able to prepare myself well before the World Cup opening. I still had a brutal confrontation with both nerves and the level of the best girls. I missed out on a lot of interval training while I was sick in February and I had to suffer for it. I ended up in 19th place, almost six minutes behind the winner.
Next round of the World Cup is in Houffalize, Belgium in two weeks from now. I'm travelling home tomorrow and will have a race-free weekend at Easter. I'll complete a good week of training before holding a bit back before Belgium. I miss my boys now, so it's going to be great to have some days at home again before a new departure and new challenges on the bike.
Pirate party for Bjørnar
After the World Cup race in South Africa, we headed home to prepare a pirate party for Bjørnar. He turned three on the 22nd of March and we celebrated his birthday in true pirate style with the rest of the family - the whole package, and very fun.
Apart from that, the days have passed with lots of training, a course on riding technique for many hundreds of cyclists who will be taking part in this year's Nordsjøritt race, a bit of hairdressing at Frisørsenteret at Bryne (for Kenneth and Bjørnar-I have to wait on mine a bit), a total physical checkup at the Stavanger Sports Clinic after all the crashes in South Africa, and enjoyment at home with Bjørnar.
We won't be having a typical Norwegian Easter (cabin, skiing, cocoa, Kit-Kat, oranges) but we'll have some Easter fun in the garden with Bjørnar. We hope the weather gods will be good to us, as we are planning a good many hours on our bikes, with lots of essential help from the family watching our boy.
I wish you all a great and physically fit Easter.
Cyclist's greetings from Gunn-Rita
Multivan Merida Biking Team
[Translation: Crispen T.P. de Lange]