New bicycle, new uniform, new sponsors and new teammates. I really love these kinds of birthday presents, and that at an age of 40.
I am still on Majorca, but tomorrow will be my final day of training here before heading back to Norway. Today, I've done climbing intervals and we pushed very hard, so now I'm sitting here, somewhat numbed, with a comfortably worn out body.
Merida's annual press camp, the eighth in a row here on Majorca, was finished a good week and a half ago. This year's camp was the biggest yet and possibly the best executed to date. The focus on road racing with Lampre Merida naturally made it an even bigger occasion.
For the past 10 years, I've celebrated my birthday together with our large Merida family, and this year was no exception. Apparently, a 40th birthday is to be celebrated in grand style, and they sang and raised their glasses to me for many days. I haven't actually thought all that much about my age during the past few years, but it was a bit frightening to read that rather high number on all the countless text messages I received on my phone that day. I'm convinced that the best years lie ahead of me.
New Big Seven
I very much like the design of our new cycling uniforms, and they match the new bikes beautifully. The biggest piece of news this year is naturally the Merida Big Seven (size 27.5) which a few top riders got to use last year. This might become my new "machine" for the season of 2013, but I need a bit more time on it to be completely convinced that I really can ride faster on this compared to my Big Nine.
It is difficult to stop riding a bike that I now feel so at one with. I actually feel that I might be able to improve somewhat more on my Big Nine than I managed to achieve last year. I've only ridden that bike for one year, and it takes some time to really be able to exploit all the different aspects a bike offers. One possibility is to ride and grow to know them both, and allow the terrain and tracks to decide which one I use.
I simply jumped for joy when I received news from the team manager, Andreas Rottler, just before Christmas, that we will continue to be driving the VW Multivan vehicles for another two seasons. We’ve simply become spoilt having these cars for transporting masses of equipment and the whole family here and there across Europe. It's a big vehicle, yet very easy to drive, while also being very practical when there are many of us with lots of equipment to move here and there. A completely indispensable member of our team.
We've also got a whole lot of new and exciting parts in for the team this year, which is very pleasing. Amongst other things, we're now riding Rock Shox forks. Based on the rides I've had off road here on Majorca, I'm very satisfied. There’s a slightly different angle on the fork than the one we've been using the past years, and it’s always a bit strange on the first rides. Now it feels totally normal and the new Lockout system (open or locked), is fantastic.
So now we're riding the full package from SRAM, and that includes the new gear system for this year with only one chain ring at the front and 11 cogs at the back. I am probably looked upon as being somewhat "staid" when it comes to new equipment. I prefer to stick to what I know works properly from experience. I was definitely one of the very last to change to disc brakes! I wasn't particularly pleased when my granny ring was removed a few years ago either. I had been riding three chain rings up front since I started to ride a mountain bike in 1995, so it was very weird losing such a useful device on my bike. But now there is only one ring at the front of both my new Big Nine and Big Seven.
Another exciting new sponsor for the team is Winforce. This is a Swiss company which specializes in sports drinks and nutrition. The most important and most used product for us cyclists is naturally carbohydrate and protein powder, plus energy gel for use during training and competitions. My first impression of their products, after having used them all last month on Gran Canaria and now here on Majorca, is that they really work fast. They’re easily absorbed by the body and completely without any twinges in the stomach at all.
Prologo is our new saddle sponsor, and that's a very sensitive and important part of the bike. I've tested countless different saddles up through the years, and it’s been a long process finding a saddle that fits me properly. I've already tried out many from the product line that Prologo is offering, and I think I have now found the best one for me.
We will be five riders on the Multivan Merida Biking Team for 2013 and 2014. Apart from Jose [Hermida], Rudi [van Houts] and me, we have now been joined by two young and promising fellows: Swiss Thomas Litscher, who was the U23 world champion in 2011, and the reigning U23 world champion, Ondrej Cink, from the Czech Republic. In addition to exciting new riders, we also have a new physical therapist, Andi Berger, from Germany. Andi has many years of experience from our sport and knows everything about what our days are like.
I hope and believe that these new guys on the team will be able to learn something from us older riders, but I think that these two fellows can teach me a whole lot of new things too. Technical training is something one has to work on all the time in our sport, and in that respect Thomas and Ondrej will be important supports for me. Moreover, I believe that the way a young rider thinks, sees possibilities and tackles challenges, is different from the approach of those of us who have been riding for many years, and that opens new doors.
Our first gathering as a "new team" here on Majorca, has been exciting and action packed, and the atmosphere has been great. I'm excited and am looking very much forward to a new season, and believe that the "new" version of Team Merida will be noticed, both because of good results and a strong team spirit. The first race for the men is already taking place this week, in the Andalusia Bike Race in Spain. I'll be following the fellows via the Internet.
Home sweet home
Well, now I'm longing for home and am really missing my boys. Bjørnar had to go to the doctor yesterday as he's been very sick with a sinus and ear infection since Monday. The CRP values were still very high yesterday and he was immediately put on penicillin. I spoke to him and Kenneth on the telephone earlier today and they told me that they had slept well last night and that Bjørnar has almost no pain in his ears any more.
It's always extra hard being out travelling alone when Bjørnar is sick, but Kenneth has accumulated much experience of being at home alone with a sick child, so I console myself in that knowledge. I know Kenneth hasn’t slept much this last week, so I can imagine he's utterly worn out now.
Exciting days at hojme
The upcoming week at home is going to be busy in a good way. Monday is going to be one of those fixing-up days for all three of us. First we're going to the police station to get a new passport for Bjørnar. After that, our favourite boy is going to an ear, nose and throat specialist in Stavanger. While those two are at the doctor’s, I’m going to my osteopath, Camilla, at the Stavanger Sports Clinic. After that we’re driving to Bryne for a haircut for all three of us at Bryne Frisørsenter.
On Tuesday evening we’re off to Aarbakke where we’re doing "bicycle adjustments and exercise pep-talk." On Wednesday we’re going to Strand, my home village, where we’re going to visit Ryfylke Cycling Club and have a talk on cycling with the club members.
On Thursday I’m off to the beautician at Eliksir, and having an appointment with my kinesilogist, Otto. On Friday I have an appointment for a late lunch and coffee with my friend Brit and my sister May-Peggy, who has her birthday that day. I expect I'll have to have a trip via her shop, Lyst, to pick up some nice clothes.
I should probably have a big birthday celebration for family and friends now that I’m home again, but I think we’ll have a combined celebration with Bjørnar’s birthday in the end of March. And then a massive party in the autumn.
It’s dinner time here at Hotel Iberostar Playa de Muro, Alcudia, and dinner is always something to look forward to every day, for one who enjoys good food. If you’re thinking about travelling with your bike this year, I can warmly recommend this "cycling hotel" which we use for Merida's press camp.
Cyclist's greetings from Gunn-Rita
Multivan Merida Biking Team
[Translation: Crispen T.P. de Lange]