A season of constant improvement

This last month has been a fantastic experience of steady improvement on my bike, with a silver medal in the European Marathon Championships, a top 10 finish in the European Cross Country Championships and recently a great time in a World Cup race in Champery. We've even managed to attend the Merida mountain biking school for kids at home here in Norway. So far, it's been a wonderful summer holiday.

I've only just landed at home in Stavanger after the fourth World Cup race of the season, held Sunday in Champery in Switzerland this weekend. Next year, the cross country World Championships will take place on the same track in the first weekend of September. All the rain that fell in the days before the race didn't exactly make the already technically demanding tracks any easier. But I did surprisingly well even so.

I started as number 64 and was already far behind in the queue when we, after a good kilometer, started in on the tracks and more technical parts of the race. But I was feeling good and gradually managed to advance so that I ended up in 19th place. Technically, I still have a way to go, but I feel that I did better for each round, and I felt better than I've felt in general at previous World Cup races. In other words, things are running according to plan and we're in line for our goals of improvement this season.

Going one month back in time, I was fighting for the gold medal at the European Marathon Championships (at the Gunn-Rita Marathon, Montebelluna, Italy) and was beaten only by Esther Sûss who has been strong this year in both marathon and cross country races. It was fantastic for me to be able to finish at the very top together with the very best riders in this year's European Marathon Championship.

The organization behind Gunn-Rita Marathon, this year's European Championship, Pedale di Marca, did a fantastic job and we are looking forward to next year's World Marathon Championship on the same track. If you're looking for challenges on your bike or want a fantastic cycling experience or holiday with your family, make your way to Veneto and Montebelluna in the last week of June 2011. It'll be a fantastic experience to look forward to. A big thanks goes to Pedale di Marca and all the volunteers who did a great effort at this year's race, once again making countless cycling enthusiasts happy.

Again, we received confirmation that we had done our homework properly and had been thinking correctly and lined everything up by getting a 10th place in the European Cross Country Championship in Haifa, Israel, two weeks after the marathon. The weekend's success makes us want more and gives us motivation for the final part of this year's season, including both the World Marathon and Cross Country Championships in the next five weeks. We have a lot to look forward to and work toward.

Here at home, life still consists of changing nappies at all times of the day, but we have a healthy and energetic happy little boy in the house who loves his mother no matter how she does on her bike. It was wonderful to get home again to little Bjørnar today, after a weekend with Team Merida in Switzerland. Father, Kenneth, and Bjørnar managed just fine her at home on their own for a few days, but luckily they do enjoy having mother home again, too. Bjørnar has been hanging around my legs all afternoon and is cuddly and very happy to have me home again.

Apart from that, the past month has been spent doing home-related jobs like gardening, repairing various things inside which have been awaiting attention, and we've been given a new bed by our sponsor, Madrassmesteren. The one we had before was very good, but with a new sponsor we were given the opportunity to try out the very best that the market has to offer, and one can't turn down such an opportunity.

Of course, the main issue here isn't the actual bed, but what one is lying on top of. In my opinion, a mattress shouldn't be soft or hard, but firm to lie on. Of course, everybody has a different opinion, but we're presently lying on a so-called Father Jacob mattress, and it feels very good and suits my taste very well.

Our visits home between various championships and races have given us the opportunity to spend one day with enthusiastic and happy newcomers to mountain biking. The Merida mountain biking school was staged for the first time this year at Skeikampen, in the east of Norway, and it was a great success. Kenneth and I were able to take part one of the days right after the silver medal in the European Marathon Championship. It was really great being together with these pupils out in the woods, energetic and eager to learn as they were.

The Merida mountain biking school was held for the very first time this summer, but we hope it's come to stay. Hopefully we can get a version of it here in the west of Norway in two or three years.

Now I'm having a few days at home with family and friends before leaving for Germany, where the big challenge is the World Marathon Championships. We're really looking forward to it, and this time both Kenneth, Bjørnar and my father will take part in the preparations for what will be an exciting race.

I wish you all an active and action-packed summer, both on and off your bike. I have had a day off exercise, but am looking forward to a slow-paced trip through the countryside early tomorrow morning.

Cyclist's greetings from Gunn-Rita and family

[Translation: Crispen T.P. de Lange]

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Norwegian cross country mountain bike racer Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå is a favorite on the international mountain bike circuit.  For years, she has delighted loyal fans as she raced her heart out in cross country and marathon events.

She made an impressive comeback in 2008 after a season of illness. In 2008, she won the Madrid, Spain, round of the UCI World Cup and the UCI Marathon World Championships and finished 12th in the World Cup final standings.

Dahle Flesjå then took on the challenge of motherhood in 2009 when she gave birth to her first child in the spring. With the support of her husband Kenneth Flesjå and her family, she returned to competition within a few months after becoming a mother.

Dahle Flesjå was World Champion in 2002, 2004, 2005, and 2006, plus Olympic champion in 2004. In 2003 to 2006, she dominated the sport, winning the World Cup overall.

Follow her faithfully recounted exploits on Cyclingnews as she balances the roles of mother and elite racer. Or, for more Gunn-Rita, see her personal website: