I have many memorable experiences after one week in South Africa, and it was definitely a positive stroke getting 12th place in the World Cup opening in Pietermaritzburg. I'm already looking forward to the next race.
We had some fantastic days in South Africa together with the Merida team, despite a few sick days for me. I boarded the plane from Stavanger with painful throat and stuffed sinuses and the long flight didn't improve my condition - quite the contrary. I got to do a few rounds on the tracks two days before the race, and was well enough to take part on Saturday.
It turned out to be a great experience in several ways, both regarding my physical condition on the climbs and what I was able to do on the most technical parts of the trail. I still have a way to go, but my condition and skills are much better now than at the same time last year.
On the first morning in Africa, I was awakened by some banging on the roof of the building where Team Merida was staying. Three monkeys were obviously having their morning gymnastics right above my head, a fun story which Bjørnar found to be most entertaining when I spoke to him on the telephone later that day. Now I have a soft stuffed monkey in my hand luggage waiting to meet Bjørnar in a few hours.
At present I'm in the Sky lounge in Frankfurt and am about to fly on to Stavanger. The long flight from Johannesburg has gone without incident, but I struggle to sleep on board airplanes as usual, so I don't exactly feel too bouncy right now.
Norwegian women at the top
It was a great weekend of the first race in the World Cup, with Lene Byberg finishing in a strong fifth place and Elisabeth Sveum as the unbeatable winner of the under 23 class. I'm always very touched when the Norwegian girls do well, and I'm sure all three of us will make an impact through this season.
Even though the week in South Africa has been focused on cycling from morning 'til evening, I've actually managed to squeeze in a whole day of "holiday". The reunion with our Merida family in Johannesburg was great and they invited me to their holiday pad on the beach right outside Durban. The rest of the Merida group flew home on Sunday afternoon while my departure was the following day.
On Sunday afternoon, I had a light jog along the beach promenade, ate a delicious seafood dinner at an Italian restaurant together with the family that evening (the Merida dealers in South Africa), had a wonderful bike ride along the coast early yesterday, and a fantastic swim in the sea before leaving. The opening of the World Cup next year is supposed to be held in South Africa again, and I like that.
Now the final part of my travel home remains, and it's no more than a stone's throw compared to the distance I've already covered. It's going to be great to give my boys a hug and the afternoon is guaranteed to be full of the fun and games I've looked forward to playing with Bjørnar.
Next weekend I'm racing in Houffalize (Belgium) and hope that my sore throat and somewhat stuffed sinuses have cleared up by then. I have some exciting days at home this week which I'll write a small report on in a week from now. Exercise well and take care of your health.
Cyclist's greetings from Gunn-Rita
Multivan Merida Biking Team
[Translation: Crispen T.P. de Lange]