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Gunn-Rita Dahle

Gunn-Rita, Bjørnar and Kenneth soak up some sun in Tenerife.

Time to reflect on a busy year

Gunn Rita Dahle Flesjå
December 17, 2009, 1:55 GMT,
December 17, 2009, 2:06 GMT

Babies and bikes can mix, even at the highest level!

The hours of the day have become shorter than ever since I became a mother, but increasingly exciting as well. We expected the summer of 2009 to be filled with quiet days at home, barbecuing and getting a tan in the garden. However, the gas barbecue is still standing unused outside while we're left with unforgettable memories from an active summer together with little Bjørnar.

Christmas and New Year are approaching rapidly, and we can look back on an action-packed summer and autumn, both on and off our bikes. I'm not quite ready to celebrate Christmas yet, but most of the presents have been seen to. We're still lacking Christmas baked goods and a Christmas tree but luckily we still have a few days left.

End of the season and our holiday

We closed off the season at Rock d'Azur in the second weekend of October, where we both rode the marathon and the XC distances. For us it was nothing but enjoyment, and extremely good technical training for me, as I haven't ridden much off-road this past year. It was also a great opportunity to do a little promotional work for Merida France. This in turn gave us the chance to spend time with some of the Merida riders and support team, something we've done far too little of this past season.

We had a few days of holiday after the race in the south of France together with my mother and father, who came with us to look after little Bjørnar. It's a beautiful area, both for tourists and cyclists, especially at that time of year.

In the last week of October we three travelled to Tenerife for a week of bathing, naturally without our bikes. It was our first holiday with little Bjørnar - a wonderful holiday, but a lot more busy than a holiday without a child. Early up and early to bed, and full speed all day long. Luckily Bjørnar sleeps a lot during the night and almost none at all during the day. The best part of the holiday for him was doubtlessly the outdoor pool at the hotel. He loves swimming, just like his mother.

Winter training

On November 1 we started up base training again, as we usually do, only on a somewhat reduced level compared to earlier years. I'm lacking part of a solid foundation to be capable of training at the same intensity and doing the same exercises that I've done in previous years through the autumn and winter. But if we do things right through this upcoming year, it's likely that we'll be able to do much the same winter training as before, when November 1, 2010 comes along.

The Swine Flu has spread its way through Norway this autumn, as it has done in other countries, and we weren't let off easily either. It caused a 14-day break in our training which was unfortunate for us, but it's always nice to comeplete something and get it finished! A good cooperation is, and always has been, an important element in our efforts, and we run the same system when sick too. All three of us fell ill at the same time, and we probably set a new world record by visiting the doctor's office a total of four times in one and the same week.

Now we're on the move again with training, and can look back on a reasonably good week of varied exercise. Kenneth and Bjørnar still struggle with a bit of phlegm and coughing, but it's nothing serious. We hope and believe that the two remaining weeks of 2009 will give us good days of training with hopefully 'kind' winter weather.

Wonderful experiences

Little Bjørnar will be nine months old two days before Christmas, so he is no longer a little baby. He's begun standing up while holding onto the table and all legs of the chairs, so there's a lot of stumbling and falling going on these days. He's got bruises on his forehead, and they say there are more on their way. It's a fun period.

He says 'Mamma' and 'Pappa' without understanding the meaning of the words. He's totally unafraid of anything, and therefore has no concept of possible consequences of his actions. Now it's no good putting him down on the floor for a second while one has a quick trip to the bathroom, or letting him sit in front of the television while I'm in the kitchen. One has to follow his every move during this period.

In many ways we can look back on a successful season. We won the Gunn-Rita Marathon in the end of June, only three months after Bjørnar was born. (This year the Gunn-Rita Marathon organised the Italian marathon championship, and will organise the European Marathon Championship in 2010 and the World Marathon Championship in 2011).

A few weeks later we both became Norwegian champions in XC, which our mother club, Sola Cycleklubb, organised. We were even able to take part in the Cup race in Bern, Switzerland, which we used purely as a training exercise on our way towards the World Marathon Championship in Graz. In the end of August the whole family took part in Birkebeinerrittet, something we had been longing to do after many seasons without being able to take part in that race.

Unforgettable European Championship gold medal

The greatest day in the season of 2009 was naturally when I got the European Championship gold medal in Estonia on the 20th of September. We put a ring around that date a few weeks before Bjørnar was born. Naturally, it was impossible to make a detailed racing schedule for us this year. Neither did we have any guarantees that I'd be back on my saddle quickly after Bjørnar was born.

Even so, we set ourselves the goal that if I was back on my bike again, the day of the European Championship would be the day I was in best shape this year.

We knew the championship track in Estonia well from previous races, and we knew very well what sort of training we needed to do beforehand for me in my situation, and regarding terrain and type of track. During the last two interval training stints we had before the championship, I experienced high speed and lots of power. After my massage the evening before the race, Kenneth said to me: "These legs are capable of winning tomorrow," and that's what happened.

It hasn't been easy getting back into good cycling shape again. It would be a lie to say things have gone smoothly and without pain. Being a mother involves a huge amount of effort, especially the first time round, so they say, something I've certainly experienced physically once in a while. The same goes for Kenneth in his role as a new father.

We've had weekends when we've simply had to refrain completely from exercise and training, and focus exclusively on rest and sleep. Getting up two or three times every night for over half a year, either to feed or comfort little Bjørnar, is very tough. From time to time I doubted whether I'd manage to get in shape for the European Championship as the summer passed, but once again we managed.

This year's European Championship gold has, and will always have, a special place amongst the greatest achievements on our bikes. We would never have managed it without all the help we've received from our family. Their efforts have been worth gold, quite literally.

So no matter what you, as a new mother, have set as a goal for yourself, don't underestimate the importance of receiving help. Rather ask for help once too often than once too seldom. Don't give up on your own dreams and goals, even if you become a mother. If you plan well and receive good help from those closest to you, you can achieve unbelievable things.

And now it's just about time to feed Bjørnar here at home again. Yes, he still receives breast milk, but I've luckily managed to reduce the milk production somewhat so I don't have to pump several times a day. He eats three times a day with porridge and dinner, but he still prefers milk from mother.

This turned out to be a long summary, so you'll be hearing from me again in a week, when you'll be able to read a little more about our Christmas preparations here at home, and how Bjørnar reacted during his first encounter with a Christmas tree. I'll post a few new pictures from our activities this autumn. The most important issue here at home now is sleep and what importance and focus it will have in our preparations for a new season.

A certain amount of physical exercise in the run-up to Christmas is very valuable. It gives you new energy, a great feeling and puts you in a good mood, and that's important when you have busy days and have to fit lots into every day.

Cyclist's greetings from Gunn-Rita, Kenneth and Bjørnar

Multivan Merida Biking Team

Gigantic wedding celebration

Cycling News
March 15, 2008, 0:00 GMT,
June 05, 2009, 23:53 BST

We've won many a gold medal on our bikes during the last seasons, but the greatest event was...

Norway, November 30, 2005

We've won many a gold medal on our bikes during the last seasons, but the greatest event was celebrated with a big wedding feast in Stavanger on the 15th of October. With lots of help from our families, led by Kenneth's older sister, Hege, we had an unforgettable wedding ceremony and feast. Three days of enjoyable wedding celebrations were rounded up with three fantastic weeks in Mexico.

As I write, we're sitting here at Lanzarote (Club La Santa). We've been here since Thursday for a photoshoot for PowerBar, who sponsors both me personally and my team (Multivan Merida Biking Team). We had a week at home in Stavanger after Mexico, days which were used for getting into a more normal routine, catching up on work, and struggling to overcome the jet-lag. The greatest contrast we experienced when we came home was bitter winds and bucket-loads of rain after three weeks of blue skies and temperatures above 30 degrees centigrade!

An unforgettable day

I can't quite manage to convey to you how fantastic our wedding was in writing, but I'll try to give you a small impression of what the day was like. We said our "yesses" to each other, loud and clear, in the Stavanger cathedral, one of Norway's most impressive medieval churches from the 1100's, during a very personal ceremony.

Straight after the wedding ceremony we had a short bike ride...on a three-wheeler which Kenneth had to pedal and I got to sit on like a lovely princess. The reception was held at the Radisson SAS Atlantic Hotel in the centre of Stavanger. There was never any doubt that our wedding was going to be a success. Everything was so well prepared and planned down to the smallest detail in an impressive setting.

We had many helpers on the big day, in addition to the unforgettable efforts of our family. Gunn's Stil was responsible for a fabulous wedding-dress (very much my style), plus beautifully tailored clothing for the closest family. My wedding flowers were done by Kolnes - Zwerg Flowers, who also decorated the church and wedding reception area with flowers. The flower decorations were a very important element, with a mixture and contrast between Norwegian heather and exotic orchids.

The wedding day started with many hours spent at Frisørsenteret at Bryne, where I, together with my mother, Brit, and my sister, Peggy, were made up and prepared like never before. It's almost a little weird how beautiful one can become when professionals do the job. I was reasonably nervous and could feel the tension building from the moment I woke up, after only a very few hours sleep that night.

I won't go into more detail on the actual reception, except to mention that the food tasted fantastic and was served in a very nice fashion to a large number of guests. Our toastmaster, Eivind, did a fantastic job, we got to listen to varied and interesting speeches, and the wedding cake, made by Kenneth's parents, looked and tasted fantastic. It had five layers! The renowned comic "Bøggvald" (Dag Schreiner) made a grand entry and made everybody laugh with plenty of hilarious jokes. The gift tables were amazing, the band that played for us got everybody out onto the dancefloor, and all the guests said they enjoyed themselves despite five solid hours of sitting at the tables.

Celebrations for three days

As I mentioned in the introduction, we celebrated the wedding for three continuous days. On Friday evening we had a sort of get-to-know-each-other party at a bar called "Halv-12" in the centre of Stavanger. We had a good 100 guests come to this party, where we were served good food and enjoyed good entertainment in cosy surroundings.

On Sunday morning after the wedding party, there were 18 of us left, so we set off for a trip to the Prekestolen, perched hundreds of metres above the Lyse fjord. Many of our foreign guests came along, and it turned out to be a memory for life for all of us. The weather gods provided us with sun and warmth for the whole weekend. The grand finale for us was sitting with our feet dangling over the edge of the ledge at Prekestolen on Sunday afternoon with a clear view to the very end of the Lyse fjord and the sun shining happily down on the mountains.

Wedding trip to Mexico

Our first week in Mexico consisted of some promotion work and an MTB race in the town of Pueble, a few hours drive from Mexico City. We were well taken care of by our Merida friends in Mexico throughout the week, and closed off the first week by taking part in the Popo Bike Festival. I would like to thank all our friends and Merida dealers in Mexico who really took good care of us and gave us very memorable days experiencing Mexican culture. Popo Bike turned out to be a bike experience we'd love to repeat, and we hope to be able to take part in it again.

The next two weeks were spent out by the coast on the south-west side of Mexico, far away from both bikes and people. We never got a chance to take a holiday after the bike season, so this was a very welcome break for both of us.

Exciting days

Our honeymoon is now over, and we're well underway with our winter training programme and everything else that's part of our lives. Our programme is intense for the next two weeks, but we prioritise training first. We get lots of good help from our manager, Roar, in dealing with sponsors and various requests that naturally pop up around this time of the year. We expect to be in the Stavanger area during the weeks leading up to Christmas, and we really need to settle down a bit at home after 250 days of travelling we've had during the season of 2005.

You'll all be hearing from us again in about a week. We'll be back in Stavanger this coming Thursday and expect that King Winter will be in evidence along the roads of the sunny coast. Our next project is to build a house together with our sponsor, KleppHus, and we're really looking forward to that.

Wishing you all a great week and good health,

Biker's greetings from Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå.

[Translation: Crispen T. P. de Lange]

Merry Christmas

Cycling News
February 16, 2008, 0:00 GMT,
June 05, 2009, 23:52 BST

And so the festive season is upon us again, and I'm full of expectations! We've decorated our living...

Norway, December 21, 2005

And so the festive season is upon us again, and I'm full of expectations! We've decorated our living room here at home and given it a cosy Christmassy atmosphere, and every evening we light the candles. Even though all the necessary errands and chores are finished, the true Christmas feeling isn't totally present yet, but it doesn't usually come before Christmas Eve anyway.

I've had a reasonably relaxed week regarding both exercise and other activities, mostly because of a tedious cold I've been struggling with. I guess the period after coming home from the holiday was a bit too tough, and my body always makes it clear in this way that it needs rest and time for recovery. I'm still a little stuffed in the nose and not quite clear in my head, but I'm already exercising again and my energy is on its way back.

All the Christmas shopping is out of the way, so now it's just to lean back in my easy-chair and look forward to cosy and relaxing days together with my closest family. Tomorrow evening we're going to the movies together with Kenneth's youngest brother and sister, Henriette and Nicolas, and we're really looking forward to that.

On Christmas Eve we'll be celebrating together with young and old at Lura with Kenneth's parents and it'll definitely be a lively evening for all of us. On Christmas Day we'll leave for my parents at Bjørheimsbygd where delicious Christmas food and hikes in the mountains await us.

The only Christmas get-together we're arranging in our home here is a Christmas porridge evening together with brothers and sisters between Christmas and New Year's Eve. Apart from that there'll be a lot of exercise according to the schedule, and most likely many enjoyable evenings in our little sitting-room here in Stavanger.

Christmas time means quite a few days off for most of us, some of which can be used for taking friends and family out for a trip somewhere. Use your legs, your jogging-shoes, your hiking boots, or wheel your bike out. Nothing but your own fantasy can decide how much excitement, fun and experience you have during these free days. A bit of extra exercise is no disadvantage either, as one is usually served a fair deal more delicious food than normal during these days.

I wish all our biking friends, supporters and sponsors a very merry and enjoyable Christmas. You'll all be hearing from me again on New Year's Eve, when I will include a few "goodies" from our food-menu and training-menu.

Christmas hugs from Gunn-Rita

[Translation: Crispen T. P. de Lange]

Training in Lanzarote

Cycling News
January 15, 2008, 0:00 GMT,
April 21, 2009, 11:57 BST

It's great being back at the office again! Our exercise schedule here on Lanzarote and at Club La...

Spain, January 16, 2006

It's great being back at the office again! Our exercise schedule here on Lanzarote and at Club La Santa is commencing as planned. We're enjoying these days of hard work, doing exactly what we're supposed to be doing in order to be well prepared for the upcoming season.

Monday evening has arrived here on this wonderful Spanish island, and we're enjoying a quiet break in the easy chair before leaving for dinner. I've had a day of restitution today, and my exercise has consisted of one hour on the bike-rollers early this morning, plus one hour of easy jogging this afternoon. In addition I've had a good hour of massage for my somewhat tired legs. Otherwise this has been a very quiet and enjoyable day with a few telephone calls and a bit of work on the computer.

We've been here for two weeks so far and have completed our training schedule as planned. It's very good for us to get away like this and focus completely on the training, having perfectly balanced days with exercise, stretching, restitution, massage, correct food, and rest. This is a perfect day at the office for me - and not only one day, but day after day and week after week. It's only in this way that we can lay a solid foundation for the season of 2006.

We're living in the apartment complex Club La Santa, where everything is set up for people who want to exercise from morning till evening. That goes for both young and old, and the array of available activities is impressive. For us, cycling comes foremost, in addition to some running and a little swimming next to it. But one can also play tennis and badminton, run on a track, play football, swim in a 50-metre pool, take part in spinning classes, lift weights in their large and up-to-date studio, take part in aerobics classes, wind-surf, and scuba-dive. There are probably many more activities than this too which I don't know about.

It's Spanish winter here on Lanzarote, and that means that the weather can change quickly, and can sometimes surprise you. The temperature is usually around 15-20 degrees, and we've had some wonderful sunny days, but also strong winds and rain. Even so, the opportunities for training here are much better than at home, so we're not complaining at all.

Luckily we still have one week left here, and we're happy about that. My legs and body are beginning to feel the results of all the exercise I've been doing, but we adjust the amounts every day so that we get maximal effectiveness. We expect to manage to do everything we've planned for the final week here too.

I hope all of you at home have the possibility and the imagination to make some changes in your exercise plans when the weather gods only have cold and wet weather to offer. One can still do a lot of good exercise if one's a little flexible during these uncomfortably chilly winter days in Norway.

A quite different challenge for me these days is to find a road-racing team which I can join so I can take part in some road-races through this season. These races have been a regular part of my set up for the last years, and we look upon them as an important part of the total results. New UCI rules make it a bit more complicated for me to represent a certain professional mountain bike team, at the same time as representing a completely different team when racing on road. We hope this problem will be solved in the course of the next two weeks so we can lay the final touch on the plans for the season.

You'll all hear from me again in a couple of weeks, and by then we'll have had a few days at home with somewhat different activities on the program, in addition to some relaxed days of training. I'm going for a trip to Sweden and Gothenburg, to take part in a huge bike-expo for Merida Sweden. It will be my first time at this expo with our neighbours, the Swedes, and it'll doubtlessly be an interesting and exciting experience. I'm also going to take part in the introduction of a completely new fruit-juice for Co-op in Norway, which will probably be fun. There will also be a competition sweepstakes where you can win a great Merida bicycle ?

I wish you all good luck with the winter exercise, and remember that it's you who decides what's good and bad weather for exercising during the winter. Remember that it's healthy and beneficial to drink lots of water all day long, whether you've got time for physical activities or not.

Cyclist's greetings from Gunn-Rita
Multivan Merida Biking Team.

[Translation: Crispen T. P. de Lange]

Plenty of action at home

Cycling News
January 15, 2008, 0:00 GMT,
April 21, 2009, 11:57 BST

It was a cold and uncomfortable transition, coming home to a Norwegian winter after three weeks on...

Norway, February 8, 2006

It was a cold and uncomfortable transition, coming home to a Norwegian winter after three weeks on Lanzarote. Even so, we've had full days both inside and outside since we came home, and naturally with a somewhat different focus from that which is usual for a heavy period of concerted training.

Sunday evening has arrived here at home and we're enjoying a quiet break in our little house at Tjensvoll. We've had a visit from our manager, Roar, to go through a few things before we leave the country again. There are many things to organise, deal with, talk about and plan before these next weeks start. We're leaving for Mallorca this coming Thursday, and we won't be back on Norwegian soil again before April 12.

Our final week on Lanzarote at Club La Santa went as planned regarding training, and our legs were good and stiff as expected when we left for Norway. We had a direct flight from Lanzarote via Bergen to Stavanger. I jumped off in Bergen to take part in a promo stint for Coop for a few days, and I also had an interesting day in Gothenburg at the bike-expo "On 2 Wheels" where I got to know more members of our Merida family in our neighbouring country amongst Swedish bike-fans.

Here at home I've been involved in various fashion work and meetings, a lot of exercise, many hours in my office, and a little haircut at FrisørSenteret at Bryne. I feel very privileged to have my own hairdresser who takes care of me every time I'm home for a spell. We've even been out to eat at a restaurant in Stavanger together with friends.

The happiest piece of news this week has been the final approval of the plans for our new house by the Sandnes municipality. It was a great joy for both us and KleppHus. So now it won't be long before the house starts to be built, and we're very excited about the whole process. KleppHus will naturally be guiding the whole procedure, but we'll be involving some other companies who have shown an interest in the project. Our manager, Roar, and his family, will also support us through the building process, as we don't normally have much time at home in Norway.

Yesterday we had the most awful ride of the whole winter so far, in sleet and snow, on icy roads and in strong winds. We had a few uncontrolled movements, landing us out in fields at times, but the trip went alright even so, and we didn't freeze. Both our bikes and ourselves were covered in wet snow and dirt from the roads when we got home, but this is all part of exercising during this season of the year. Kenneth has washed and sprayed down our Merida winter bikes today, so now they're shining clean for a new long distance trip on Wednesday. We're leaving for Oslo on Wednesday afternoon to take part in a few meetings, and then flying on to Mallorca on Thursday morning.

It's a bit complicated packing my suitcase this time, as we're passing through several countries and continents on our next trip. On Mallorca, together with the Philip Bike Team, we can expect both summer and a taste of winter weather. In the north of Italy we can also expect all sorts of weather. But in Curacao in the Caribbean towards the end of March, it will be hot!

On Saturday and Sunday we're having a press conference at the hotel Sol Elite Antillas on Mallorca, where we'll be living for the next three weeks, and media from all over Europe will be there, including several journalists and photographers from Norway. The days will doubtlessly be exciting and intense for all of us, and it'll be extra fun for us to meet colleagues from our pro team Multivan Merida Biking Team again. I expect I'll have lots to tell about already by next Sunday, what with the trip to Mallorca, meeting the team, new bikes, new clothing, etc. So I guess I'll write a short summary again in one week from now.

I wish you all happy days with exercise, healthy food and lots of energy at work. Tomorrow we'll be doing interval training on the rollers inside, in addition to a light restitution session in the afternoon. I'd like to share more details from our training sessions during our stay on Mallorca in the coming weeks, in order to give those of you who are interested a clearer picture of how Kenneth and I work together on a daily basis to be number one.

Cyclist's greetings from Gunn-Rita
Multivan Merida Biking Team

[Translation: Crispen T. P. de Lange]

First team gathering

Cycling News
January 15, 2008, 0:00 GMT,
April 21, 2009, 11:57 BST

The first gathering with my team, Multivan Merida Biking Team, has been exciting, action-packed and...

Majorca, Wednesday February 15, 2006

The first gathering with my team, Multivan Merida Biking Team, has been exciting, action-packed and fun. A training camp combined with media commitments always means a lot of interviews and photographs from morning till night. I still feel a child-like joy and excitement at getting a new bike, and also at being able to show the wonderful machine off together with the new uniform for the season.

We've already spent a week here at Magalluf on Majorca together with the team, journalists, photographers, team sponsors and Merida dealers from various countries in Europe. The last of the press and media left for home yesterday, so now we're expecting some quieter days during which exercise, rest and restitution will once again be in focus. We were a huge group of 75 people who went out to eat together on Saturday evening. We had a delicious meal together in the large city of Palma.

It's very nice to be here at Hotel Sol Antillas again, almost one year exactly since last time. Those of you who have stayed here before will know that the Philipps Bike Team ( resides in this hotel, and all cycling enthusiasts are catered for in every way. Kenneth and I have stayed here countless times in the course of the past five years, and we always enjoy ourselves when we're here. We'll be returning again in the end of September, but then we'll be here with Stians Sport and Merida dealers from Norway.

I've unfortunately got a sore throat and I'm feeling a little poorly, so I'm going to spend a relaxing day in my room. I started to feel the symptoms yesterday morning when I got up and decided to skip training. Things deteriorated through the day but aren't any worse today, so I hope I've managed to nip it in time and that I'll be back on my bike again tomorrow. I choose to look upon these slow days of illness as a valuable opportunity to charge up and rejuvenate my whole system, which will be a good help as we start preparing for the first race of the World Cup on April 2.

As I mentioned in opening, it's still just as great a thrill to receive a new bike, even after ten years as a professional mountain biker. What I really want is to have the bike right here with me, next to the bed... and it hurts just as much as ever to get the first scrapes on the new frame. This year's new team clothing looks great, and the whole team, cyclists, mechanics and everyone, seems very focused and well prepared for the new season.

I can't say I particularly like to lie here in my bed while Kenneth is out pedalling with the rest of the cyclists. I have many good books along with me and I naturally always have something to work on with my laptop, so I guess I'll survive this as well. After this weekend, the only ones left of the group will be Kenneth and me, so then we'll be able to take proper care of each other, complete every training day to the max, and enjoy good meals here at the hotel with some good Spanish red wine every so often. Through next week we're going to go into Palma, just the two of us, for a good dinner, and we're looking very much forward to that. It'll be a sort of delayed birthday celebration, as we didn't get time for much of that on my actual birthday.

We have a good two weeks left here on Majorca before we travel on to Italy, where the first races of the season will be starting up. I hope you all get to move about a bit and exercise as you'd planned. Remember that if you're going to get any form of continuity into your exercise, you have to make it part of your weekly routine, along with all the other activities and jobs you do. Good exercising and good health to all of you!

Cyclist's hug from Gunn-Rita,
Multivan Merida Biking Team

[Translation: Crispen T. P. de Lange]

Gunn-Rita Dahle

Norwegian cross-country mountain bike racer Gunn-Rita Dahle is probably the best female rider this relatively young branch of the sport has ever seen. World champion in 2002 and 2004, Olympic champion in 2004 and unbeaten in the World Cup in 2003 and 2004, she has a breath-taking palmares. Dahle says her success is due to an unrelenting focus - she describes herself as a '24-hour athlete' - and the constant support of her boyfriend and coach Kenneth Flesjå. Follow her exploits on Cyclingnews as she works to stay at the top of her game in 2005. Or, for more Gunn-Rita, see her personal website: