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Cycling in the cold and the snow

Looking at the training conditions here at home these days, one would think it was the Winter Olympics we were preparing for, and not the next season of cycling! It's far from normal here on the west coast of Norway to have so much snow for so many weeks. Luckily we can live off the memories and exercise we were able to do on Lanzarote in January.

It's Saturday evening here at Smeaheia. We've settled comfortably down in our new house, where we've been as good as snowed in this last week. Our street still hasn't been cleared of snow since the first snow fell in the middle of December, so it's almost impossible to drive along it and certainly not possible to cycle on it. I actually have to push my bike out to the main road before I can get onto it. Last Wednesday I suddenly found myself lying flat on my back outside the neighbour's front door after a long distance bike ride. I naturally jumped to my feet again as fast as possible.

We've been home for two weeks now after our three-week stay on Lanzarote. The transition from sun and summer temperatures to heavy snow and around minus 10 degrees Centigrade has been pretty extreme to put it mildly. For me as a cyclist, it is pure luxury to enjoy 20-25 degrees in January and definitely a memory we will cherish for a long time to come. We left the snow behind, and returned to even more of the stuff. We were a bit despondent during our first week back at home, as the snow heaped up higher and higher every day. At times like that, it's good to have a well-equipped training studio in the basement.

I had a long distance ride on Wednesday: a good three hours on snow and ice in minus five degrees. That means several extra layers of clothing, plus slalom gloves and two to three Buffs around my head and neck to maintain a modicum of heat. The sky was blue, and the sun warmed things up after a while, so it turned into a really lovely ride. It's important to keep one's fingers and toes in motion on a ride like that and to concentrate on the road in order to avoid the most icy patches which are hidden beneath the covering of snow. I stow my drinking bottle under my jacket, against my stomach, so the contents don't freeze to ice.

In these kinds of conditions, a certain amount of training takes place on rollers and ergometer bikes, and it's not really a big problem. Even so, this "tough" winter here on the west coast, with temperatures down around minus 20 Centigrade and a lot of deep snow for many weeks, certainly hasn't been beneficial for my preparations for a new season. Kenneth and I simply haven't had the best of luck this time round regarding optimal conditions for winter training and preparation.

Kenneth has been feeling weak and unwell all autumn and has simply thought to himself that that's the life of a new parent, with short nights and a different priority on sleep. However, the day before Christmas Eve, he received the results of a blood test that showed that he had contracted mononucleosis (Epstein-Barr virus) and had probably had it in his system for a long period of time. Not a good situation, considering that our success is largely based on the training that we do together. In addition, we both had the swine flu in November, so most of that month went down the drain regarding training, too.

I was able to do good training on Lanzarote in relation to my present condition, with the invaluable help of my mother and father who came along to mind our little charmer Bjørnar. My father brought his bike along, so I had a good training partner in him. He's probably never been in such good shape in January ever before. There's a way to go for me before I can train at the same intensity as I used to in January and February, but if we wish to reach the same level as before, we have to work methodically, step by step, and that takes time.

Apart from physical training, our days are spent feeding little Bjørnar, playing, changing nappies, and sleeping. Bjørnar has never been one to sleep much during the daytime, but he's gradually become better at sleeping through the night. "Mother", however, still feels he wakes up a tad early.

I've held a few lectures/presentations at various companies and venues this last week. I've had a few relaxation sessions at Elixir (it's important to allow oneself some enjoyment once in a while - we all deserve it!), and we've had a family get-together since we came home, too.

Kenneth has to do a lot of child-minding these days, as he's not allowed to do any form of physical exercise. Luckily we've received a lot of help from Kenneth's mother during the week. This weekend my parents are helping out.

Tomorrow I'm heading out for a long distance ride with my father, Kenneth's brother Frode, and a pal of his. The weather is supposed to be dry, a couple of degrees below freezing, and most likely pretty slippery on the roads. It'll probably be a great ride, simply because I still love riding a bike. I'm looking very much forward to Kenneth being able to join in again, too, so we can get going on some proper hard work in the build-up to next cycling season.

If I was good at cross country skiing, I'd make use of that form of exercise, but with my skiing technique, I wouldn't get too much out of it. We'll just have to hope that warmer weather is on its way so that the snow, at least here along the coast, soon disappears.

I wish you all great days of exercise and training, no matter what the activity. The most important thing is probably that the form of exercise you choose is something you enjoy doing.

The photos are from Lanzarote and the snowy chaos here at home.

Cyclist's greetings,

Gunn-Rita, Kenneth and Bjørnar.
[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: (opens in new tab)