The Multivan Merida Biking Team is about to kick off its competitive season. The focus is clearly on Norway's Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå, who had to quit racing last year in June for health reasons. Having recovered, the seven-time World champion and Athen's Olympic gold medal winner is back and ready to compete with the world's elite for the first time in Brescia.
Dahle Flesjå will be in Brescia for the first race of Italy's cross country series. Despite her long absence, many experts consider her as the odds-on favourite. At the same race, Austria's Robert Gehbauer, Dahle Flesjå's team-mate and former Junior World Champion is also scheduled to line up. On the other hand, Germany's Moritz Milatz will stay in Cyprus with his national team preparing for the season to come. He will make his season debut next Sunday at the Limassol round of the Sunshine Cup.
Two of the squad's other riders, Ralph Näf and José Hermida, have chosen to kick off the new season a bit later. Switzerland's Näf is planning to build on his form at a five-day road race in Croatia from March 12 to 16, while Spain's Hermida is expected to score his first podium finish of the season at the first race of the Spanish cross country series on March 16. German Nina Göhl will begin her season as usual at the end of March in a road race.
The first big highlight of the mountain biking season will be the World Cup race in Belgium's Houffalize, followed by the races in Offenburg, Germany and Madrid, Spain. For many on the team, the races will count toward qualification for Beijing's Olympic Games.