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From world championship gold to Norwegian championship gold

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Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Norway) at marathon Worlds

Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Norway) at marathon Worlds (Image credit: Armin Küstenbrück)
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Newly crowned marathon world champion Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Norway) poses with family

Newly crowned marathon world champion Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Norway) poses with family (Image credit: Armin Küstenbrück)
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Marathon world champion Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Norway)

Marathon world champion Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Norway) (Image credit: Armin Küstenbrück)
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Elite women's marathon Worlds podium: Sally Bigham, Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa, Esther Süss

Elite women's marathon Worlds podium: Sally Bigham, Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa, Esther Süss (Image credit: Team Topeak Ergon)
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On her 40th birthday Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesja (Multivan Merida) was still the model professional

On her 40th birthday Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesja (Multivan Merida) was still the model professional (Image credit: Robin Wilmott)
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Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Norway)

Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Norway) (Image credit: Marius Maasewerd)
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Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Norway) wins the 2013 marathon World title

Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Norway) wins the 2013 marathon World title (Image credit: Armin Küstenbrück)
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Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Norway) on the podium

Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Norway) on the podium (Image credit: Armin Küstenbrück)

It was amazing to win a new marathon world championship gold medal. A new Norwegian cross country championship gold medal exactly one week later, felt fantastic, too. Now a good period of training at Livigno awaits me, together with my family.

It still seems unreal to be training in the rainbow colours for a whole year to come. We've worked hard and for a long time to achieve this gold medal. I can summarize concisely by stating the fact that if one is to succeed in such a tough sport, it is essential to be goal-oriented over long periods of time. Hard work every single day, active choices and priorities from the moment one gets up until one goes to bed at night, plus the will to execute every day of training in the best way possible, is essential for success.

The world championship race track this year, at Kirchberg in Tyrol, was extreme on many levels. Three mountains were to be crossed, the highest of which with its top 2000 metres above sea level. A total of 3800 vertical metres to be climbed, divided over 85 kilometres, with a temperature of only 2-3 degrees Centigrade on the tops. This area is some of the wildest we have ever trained in when it comes to long and tough sessions in beautiful nature, and the experiences from the world championship day will remain unforgettable for a long time.

Detailed planning

Kenneth and I were well prepared, as far as is possible, two weeks before the day of the race. Ever since my goals for the season of 2013 were defined in the winter, my plan was to reach a fitness peak at the time of the marathon Worlds. Even with a somewhat "rough" opening to the season and many unwelcome breaks due to sickness, we used our experience and hit the bull's eye on the correct day at Kirchberg.

We were able to train as planned on the track itself beforehand, we had perfect accommodation right by the race start and finish (Hotel Klausen), we had a fantastic set-up with the Norwegian national team, and got a mechanic, Marco, (who I normally work together with in Multivan Merida Biking Team), plus our dear family with us during the last week.

Nothing at all was left to chance in our preparations, and I was drilled on the mental side of things every day by my indispensable coach and masseuse, husband and father of Bjørnar, Kenneth. Yet another unforgettable world championship gold medal for all of us.

I have to include a few sentences about how much I ate during the race. The greatest challenge for me was how to complete the entire distance without running out of energy and hitting the wall. I was on the rollers for 20 minutes before the start, during which I ate an Energize bar from PowerBar and an Ultra Energy Complex bar from WinForce. (The Norwegian national team is sponsored by PowerBar and we are sponsored by WinForce in Team Multivan Merida. Both products taste good to me, work quickly, and don't give me any stomach trouble. A combination of these would be the ultimate solution on such a long day on my bike).

I had already decided beforehand what I was going to eat and when to eat it, and it worked very well. In total I managed to consume (including what I ate before the start) 2 whole Energize PowerBar, 6 Ultra energy WinForce, 6 gel PowerBar, and 3.5 litres of water with carbo-powder added. Everything went down without any stomach problems during the race or after it ?

Norwegian championships at Lillehammer

I have to admit that I've been quite worn out after the world championships, and the days at home, a total of three days before leaving for Lillehammer, were anything but abounding in energy. Even so, one is able to mobilize impossible levels of energy and positive thinking when one has just won something great, and it was with this in mind that I left for the Norwegian Championships. I travelled alone, as Bjørnar needed some days at home for some just dad and Bjørnar time.

The track at Lillehammer was exciting, with tough climbs and technically demanding descents, and rather too much mud for my taste the day before the race. There was a lot of getting on and off the bike, typical Norwegian conditions with lots of gnats, but luckily things dried up pretty well for the race day. It was a very demanding experience for my legs and body after very little exercise after the world championship race, but after I while things improved and I found my rhythm and started catching up with my competitors on each round.

It's going to be very nice to ride wearing the Norwegian flag internationally this coming year. The setting around the Norwegian Championships was really great, but we were lacking spectators, and when I hear that there was no great effort made to market the championship, I feel it's a shame for our sport.

Extreme experiences at Hafjell

The day after the Norwegian Championships, I went to Hafjell to check out the race track and conditions that are in place for the World Cup race in September. I was also booked in for a bit of training on the unbelievable downhill tracks that Hafjell has to offer, and it was a fantastic experience for both body and soul.

It must be said that I'm not a bad technical rider from before, because I'd never have managed to win two World Cup races last year and win the silver medal in the world championships, but Kenneth and I have always worked on details, and we're always on the lookout for things to improve.

I donned my armour and was handed a strange contraption called a downhill bike, and ended up having an utterly wild experience. Imagine: it took me 40 years to finally sit on a downhill bike and do downhilling, and get totally hooked after the first descent!

I was coached very well by Snorre, the main person in charge of the tracks and everything at Hafjell, so I was in the best of hands. First I got an introduction on how best to execute bends, how one can pump the bike through bends and before jumps, plus the idea behind positioning the body and stance on the bike.

It would be wrong to claim that I got much better from the training at Hafjell, but I was made aware of elements to work on and perfect in the time to come. Hopefully this can make me an even better technical rider with time. One thing that's for sure is that the downhill park at Hafjell is well worth a visit if you're even vaguely interested in trying something new, or if you're looking for the ultimate adrenaline kick, or are even looking for something for the whole family to join in on.

Training at Livigno

Now I'm in place at Livigno as I write, and am anticipating many weeks up at high altitude with great days of training and a quieter period together with my family. I've had a nice and slow-paced long distance ride with Lene and Sondre today, and otherwise relaxed and done a bit of shopping this afternoon. It resulted in a bit of Lego and some new jogging shoes for Bjørnar. I'm alone for the first week here in the mountains, but will fetch the rest of the gang in Zürich on Monday.

Tomorrow Armin from Tex Market is arriving with my new Merida world championship jersey, which will be very exciting. Friday is set aside for a photo shoot together with the Team photographer, Daniel Geiger, and my new Multivan is in place here in Livigno. A brand new Multivan Comfortline (extra long version) has been decorated in the colours of the rainbow, so now we have space for the whole gang and then some, when we go travelling. I've got automatic gears this time, and it's impressive how smoothly such a large vehicle can be driven with automatic gearing.

Tomorrow I'm heading out on a four-hour long-distance ride in somewhat hilly and exciting terrain, and I'm already looking forward to it. The weather gods have apparently been really awful through all of May and June up here, so I'm expecting that the good weather has been reserved for us. The weather reports are at least all for good weather in the days to come here in Livigno.

Have a continued active and great summer no matter where you are in the world. Remember that your bike can be used for practically all activities in your everyday life.

Cyclist's greetings from Gunn-Rita
Multivan Merida Biking Team
[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: