The life of an athlete consists of ups and downs. A slap in the face once in a while keeps me sharp and focused. The taste of gold stimulates my hunger for ever greater achievements. And a new rainbow jersey from the season of 2013 is utterly magnificent.
I felt pretty bamboozled at the beginning of the 2013 season. Several breaks due to sickness through the winter and a long break due to a viral infection right before the start of the season had set me back a lot. It didn't exactly help matters when I took a spill in Sørmarka (Stavanger) a few weeks before the first World Cup race and broke a few of my ribs. A half-hearted race and illness still present in my body was the only contents in my baggage when the World Cup circus began.
It was a shock to start the race in Albstadt at the very front, and then to be overtaken by so many other riders as the race proceeded. Thoughts of quitting a race hardly ever enter my mind, but this race was unbearably painful for my whole body! Every part of my body was just screaming out for a bit of mercy. Everything was agonizing. Luckily there was also a tiny small voice in the back of my head that kept saying to me, again and again, that this was exactly the type of beating I needed in order to advance another step.
I rolled over the finish line as number 21 that day and felt completely thrashed from head to toe. The following weekend, however, I was fighting for one of the top five positions in the World Cup at Nove Mesto, but I met the wall a bit during the final round and ended up as number 10. Still, this was a fantastic improvement for me, and a confirmation that things were now on the move.
Our plans for the period were already laid, from that point to the marathon world championship race on the 29th of June, five weeks later. Now we had the certainty we had been hoping for, after a rather heavy start to the season.
It's quite easy to maintain focus and to make all the right decisions each day when the world championships are only five weeks away, and when one simply can't afford to make a single mistake if one wants 100% success on the day in question.
I could have written many pages about the last two weeks of preparation before the world championships last year, but we don't have time for that here and now. We managed to ride several sections of the race track during the 14 days we spent at Kirchberg and also rode in the mountains around Kitzbühel. We spent time reviewing tactics, choosing tires, testing air pressure, and going through our focal points for the race itself, etc.
When I lined up at the start on Saturday morning, June 29th, I was tense, nervous and very ready for the challenge that I was now programmed to complete, and it was truly an unforgettable day.
The season and the way onwards, from this fantastic world championship gold medal and a new rainbow jersey, started with some great weeks of training in Livigno with steadily improving physical condition. I took part in the French Cup finals in Meribel (which will also host next year's World Cup finals) two weeks before the cross country world championships in South Africa , and I felt that practically everything was as it should be, despite legs which were pretty chockablock after many weeks of hard training. From then on, the main focus was to be rest and restitution.
A whole lot of sickness
But I ended up having a completely different type of rest than I had hoped for. It all started with a sore throat a few days before leaving for Pietermaritzburg, and then a full-on infection of the sinuses after arriving in South Africa. This naturally resulted in a pretty bad experience in the world championships, and I had to make do with taking part in the World Cup finals at Hafjell with a rather rusty motor two weeks after that.
I had to endure many disappointments toward the end of the season. One invests a whole lot of hard work over a long period of time, and then ends up without the results one had hoped for. But that's what it's like in the world of sports, and almost all other participants experience this kind of thing through their careers too. My disappointment wouldn't let go for a while after the end of the season, even though there really wasn't any reason for it to linger. Being able to put on the world champion's jersey every single day when one goes out to train, tells quite a lot about what a fantastic season we had in 2013.
Fantastic season for the team
All the members of Merida Biking Team had a lot to celebrate in the season of 2013. We started the year with a humdinger of a press camp on Majorca together with Team Lampre Merida. We've had a whole lot of fun together, plus unforgettable experiences and a very impressive effort from the team as a whole.
At the World Cup in Nove Mesto the young guns on the team, Thomas [Litscher] and [Ondrej Cink] Cinky, did extremely well and got number 4 and 6. I was out along the side of the track myself and was running around like crazy, shouting and encouraging them. Jose [Hermida] fought for victory at Mont-Sainte-Anne (well done old fellow!) and Cinky was leading the World Cup for a long period of time in Andorra, but was beaten almost on the finish line by Nino [Schurter]. Most impressive, even so, and extremely exciting to be a part of.
We finished the season with an absolutely "APPROVED" at Hafjell in Norway, both for the riders and for the team supporting them, but I think we had the best party by far and were probably the last ones to go home that evening! I beat all the other competitors in beer drinking, and that's a victory well worth achieving in these circles.
The most memorable day in the season of 2013, was no doubt the team building we had the day afterwards. We had booked the whole group in at the activities area by the bobsled track right next to Hafjell, where we started all together at 11:00 on Sunday morning. Some had more pallid faces than others, and some of us had a somewhat enlarged head compared to normal. But this was simply one of the very best things we've ever done together as a team.
There were many activities to take part in, involving every part of the body, and naturally also activating our competitive spirits. One of the best activities was running as far as possible tied to a bit bungee cord. This was an activity executed with one's life in both hands, and it led to some seriously spectacular falls when the elastic reached its limit and pulled the person backwards. Marco was the one who managed to run the farthest - the bungee was un-hooked without him knowing it, and he just ran and ran and ran!
Everybody survived the bobsled activity - though not everybody was equally ecstatic about the idea of bobsledding. Everything was obligatory though, and nobody was let off the hook. Even so, a few were exempt from the beer tasting at the brewery in Lillehammer that afternoon - Marcel was one of them.
Home to winter and low temperatures
We now have two days of training left before leaving for home on Saturday afternoon. Today we did intervals together with some other Norwegian mountain bikers and it felt great. I've been able to complete all my training as planned during these three weeks, and that always makes me feel great.
I would like to direct a big thank you to the Volkswagen dealership here on Gran Canaria which has lent us a van for our whole stay. It was a real luxury for the whole family to have a Multivan at our disposal for our training camp on this warm island.
Now King Winter awaits us at home in Norway, which means sub-freezing temperatures and very strong winds, plus the possibility for snow. Our training will definitely be taking place exclusively indoors during the first week at home.
I'll write a short update before leaving for Majorca again in the beginning of February. Believe it or not, but now even I have managed to get onto Facebook at www.facebook.com/gunnritadahleflesjaa.