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Six riders comprise elite mountain bike squad
The Multivan Merida Biking Team announced its complete roster for 2014 including six mountain bike racers. New signing Julian Schelb joins Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå, Jose Hermida, Rudi van Houts, Thomas Litscher and Ondrej Cink.
Unlike going into the 2013 season, when the squad made major changes to its line-up, this year's team is staying mostly the same. 2013 was a successful year for the Multivan Merida squad, including winning a world championship title, another world championship medal, multiple national championships and a number of podium finishes. In the UCI's team ranking, the squad was second overall.
A year after signing previous U23 cross country world champions Thomas Litscher and Ondrej Cink, the signing of Schelb keeps alive the intention of bringing young talent onboard. Schelb earned the silver medal at the most recent U23 world championships. Still just 21, he will continue trace the under 23 category this season, with a focus on the goal of winning the world championship
Dahle Flesjå is one of the team's most consistent riders and the only woman. In 2013, she won the marathon world championships but did not make her goal another World Cup win, which would have made her the most winning rider of all time on the World Cup circuit. Nonetheless finishing on the podium in Vallnord, Val di Sole and Hafjell World Cups was still impressive. This year, Dahle Flesjå is especially looking forward to racing the cross country world championships in her home nation of Norway. Worlds will be contested in Hafjell. She's hoping to repeat her experience of becoming world champion at home; something she also did in 2005 with marathon Worlds.
Spain's Jose Hermida, another veteran of the team, helped Multivan Merida to win team classifications last year at the Albstadt and Val di Sole World Cups. The highlights of his season included a bronze medal at the cross country Worlds and finishing the season ranked sixth by the UCI.
In his first year with the team, 23-year-old Cink made a huge impression. Racing as a first year elite rider, he came close to winning his first World Cup in Andorra, leading for most of the race until caught by Nino Schurter. In front of a home crowd at the Nove Mesto, Czech World Cup, Cink finished sixth. After top 10 performances in Val di Sole, Hafjell and the European Championships, he also won the Czech national title.
Litscher started the season well and even made the podium at the Albstadt World Cup eliminator and the Nove Mesto World Cup cross country. Unfortunately Litscher's season came to a premature end due to serious saddle sore issues. These were addressed surgically, and Litscher intends to come back stronger than ever before.
For van Houts, 2013 was a frustrating season at times. He narrowly missed the podium at the Cape Epic, which he raced with Hermida. At the Dutch national championships, he was the obvious favourite, but the win slipped from his hands when he made a mistake on the final lap. August brought a forced break due to stomach issues, and he had to sit out Worlds. On the bright side, he scored his best-ever World Cup finish in Val di Sole, making the top 10 and he podiumed at two Bundesliga races.
Fabian Aust will continue in his second year as team manager. After highlighting the team's achievements of last year, he said of this season, "We are aiming for top results at world championships, European championships and at World Cup races for 2014 again. And, of course, we want to defend our status as one of the three strongest teams in the cross country World Cup."
Multivan Merida Biking Team for 2014
Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa
Rudi van Houts