I had a good result at the Italian national series race in Nalles on Sunday. The World Cup opener in South Africa is next weekend. Things are getting serious again, and it's now that the most fun period starts. Intense excitement and competitive nerves are once again part and parcel of everyday life.
We've had a wonderful weekend in Nalles (Nals), in South Tyrol in Italy, and my third place was great. It was a fight from the beginning to the end, during which three women (Katrin Leumann, Eva Lechner and I) were slugging it out for the good positions throughout the four laps.
But then Alexandra Engen came like a bullet from behind on the last lap and joined the leading group. Katrin headed off halfway up the long climb on the final round and managed to stay ahead until the finish. I lost a sprint against Alexandra, and Eva came in number four. A worthy winner of the race today.
I've taken part in this race many times before, and I like the venue and the surroundings very much. The district is probably world renowned for its fruit, and also for its exceptional wine. We even had our family holiday in this area in 2007 - fantastic nature and interesting history. We always stay at the Hotel Wilma. If you're planning to have a holiday this summer with your bicycle, I can warmly recommend this region.
The lineup at the start in Nalles was very strong, both in the men's and women's elite class, and as expected, masses of juniors of both genders. The race at Nals is the season's first so-called "WC" race for juniors, and we've seen and trained together with many fit young people this weekend.
The juniors will no longer take part in World Cup races together with the elite class - that's new for this season. We will miss the young generation, but now I've at least enjoyed the opening race together with them, and it was good fun.
I never raced as a junior myself since I only started mountain biking when I was 22. Those who have grown up with the sport are lucky, and it really shows in their technical abilities.
Next stop: South Africa
On Monday night, the whole Multivan Merida Biking Team flew together to South Africa and Pietermaritzburg where the first World Cup race will be held on Sunday. I'm excited and somewhat unsure about my physical shape, even though I felt good today. No matter what, it's going to be wonderful to get going properly on a season again. The race track in South Africa is quite simply awesome. You can follow us live at www.redbull.tv.
On the drive to the Zürich Airport by car, our mechanic, Daniel, was at the wheel. Kenneth kept him company in the passenger seat, and I was dozing in the back seat. I have to try to lower my heart rate and level of excitement after a race. It's not easy. The adrenaline is still pumping hard and I never sleep well the night after a race.
Unforgettable days at home
We had a grand total of five days at home after our two-week spell on Lanzarote, and the days flew by, as usual. We had utterly fantastic spring weather at home, and we enjoyed it to the fullest with various activities in the garden, trips out with Bjørnar, and gorgeous rides in the woods and fields on our bikes.
It feels good to be on the go again with a new cycling season. Excitement and racing-nerves feel both good and bad, and it's a long-awaited sensation after a lengthy winter with lots of training. This feeling is simply going to be a wonderful source of energy in the days to come. A bit of excitement and trepidation is good for just about all of us, I think. I wish you and your closest a great and stimulating day.
Cyclist's greetings from Gunn-Rita
Multivan Merida Biking Team
[Translation: Crispen T.P. de Lange]