High intensity and lots of fun is part and parcel of mountain biking. Racing gives an extra kick of adrenaline. I can now look back on three demanding and challenging World Cup races in the first part of this year's season. And in one week from now, the Nordsjørittet race is starting with over 10,000 participants.
World Cup period
Last weekend, I did my third World Cup race in Offenburg, Germany, and ended up in 34th place - a totally acceptable result given my present condition. I started as number 80 and had to pass many cyclists if I wanted to advance at all. After the first half of the first round, I was number 29 in the queue of eager and fit women, and had to pay a bit at this time for my hard opening. Even so: it was a great day on my bike during which I got to train my top gears and my technical abilities on a very demanding race course.
These first three World Cup races have been very important for me in my preparations for the championships coming up in the end of June and the beginning of July. I'm still lacking a lot of power on climbs, especially the steepest ones, and I don't have any speed in my legs. I can improve my technical abilities a lot too, but I've become a lot better during these past weeks.
It's certainly been a new experience for me to start the races at the very back of the pack. Every meter is a fight, from beginning to end, and one never sort of gets to do one's own race. You can lose a lot of time compared to the ones at the front since you're often standing or cycling in a queue, especially on the first lap. To have any chance of advancing, you have to be quite a lot stronger and fitter than the others, and I'm missing a lot before I'll be able to say I'm back in my old shape again.
We (Kenneth and I) do actually have a plan behind now that I've completed these first races this year. And I've had a long time to prepare myself mentally for using the races as pure training. Not to give absolutely everything, and rather focus on the tasks at hand, plus having fun on my bike as I race. We've succeeded on this front, and can now look back on a successful period of positive responses regarding our present position, and what is necessary to prioritize of training and preparations for the coming four weeks leading up to Gunn-Rita Marathon and the European Championships.
Cycling at home
At home, the days go by, filled with this and that. Our little baby has now become a little boy of 14 months, running around from early morning until he falls exhausted into bed around 20:00 each evening. Bjørnar is a fascinating little boy to be around these days, as he wants to investigate everything. He says a lot, without us being able to understand much of what he says, and I'm simply happy from being around him.
Next to our daily bicycle-training, we've had two evenings running a course on cycling technique for women (a total of 200 women) in the run-up to the Nordsjørittet race. Last week, we had a theme evening about cycling, at the Mattress Master company (Madrassmesteren),where there were professionals from Power Bar Norway, the Sports Clinic (Idrettsklinikken), Stians-Sport and Steensland Sport.
There were good advice and tips for cyclists at all levels, plus everybody got to test out mattresses and pillows. Rest and quality sleep are important for good performance.
This year we were even able to be in Norway for the 17th of May (the Norwegian national day), and it was fantastic, especially for little Bjørnar. With his national costume on, a flag in his hand and all sorts of whistles in his pram, he fitted right into the parade at Bjørheimsbygd together with his grandfather, Birger.
Last weekend, we visited my parents in the village. It's not easy getting babysitters on the weekends, so my parents usually do the job then. This weekend it's Kenneth's mother who will help us so we get our training done according to plan. Tomorrow we're doing interval training with Kenneth's brother, Frode. It's guaranteed to be a good high speed stint for me, and that's what I need most of all, right now.
Nordsjørittet Race 2010
On Saturday, in one week, it's time for the great cycling event of the year in these parts. This year, a whopping 10,500 cyclists are taking part in the race, which starts in the town of Egersund. The finish is in the centre of Sandnes, where we live. The course is reasonably flat, but the few climbs along the route are tough enough when one has to cover a total of 92 kilometres. It's mostly gravel roads and asphalt, but also a few sections of off-road terrain too.
The first time I took part in Nordsjørittet, many years ago, there weren't more than 200 to 300 cyclists at the starting line. Now Nordsjørittet has become Norway's second largest cycling event, after the Birkerbeinerrittet race, which has close to 25,000 cyclists spread over two days.
It's been several years since I've been able to take part in Nordsjørittet because of travels and races abroad, but this year, both Kenneth and I are taking part. We're looking very much forward to this day on our bikes at home in our hometown of Sandnes. The interest for cycling has utterly exploded in this district these last years. It's great fun being a cyclist in these parts nowadays.
Now it's Friday evening, and I'm sitting in our living room writing a bit. We've finally got the first paintings on the walls after having lived here for over one and a half years. Now we're glad that we've spent time choosing the perfect paintings for our home. The artist is Elin Bekkeheien Nesvik and lives in these parts. She's made all of five paintings for us, which are now hanging in the first and second story of our house.
It's bed time for this lady here, as I haven't been sleeping too well these past days and can feel that I need a good night's sleep to be able to beat Kenneth in the intervals tomorrow. I'll post an update right after the Nordsjørittet race next Sunday. Have a great weekend of riding everyone.
Cyclist's greetings from Gunn-Rita, Kenneth and Bjørnar.
[Translation: Crispen T.P. de Lange]