At my age, birthdays aren't always all that much fun to celebrate any more, but I have to admit that I do appreciate a suitable gift. This year I was handed three new bikes on the actual date of my birthday, and I also treated myself to a super-intense stint of intervals.
I'm on Majorca for a spell, at Santa Ponsa, where Merida is having their annual press gathering. I've been here for a week now and have been able to do some very good training. Part of the team leadership arrived on Thursday with cars filled with the new bikes for the season. After 15 years as a professional cyclist, it's still just as exciting to be handed new bikes, and especially when it's on my birthday.
The hardtail already suits me perfectly since it has more or less the same equipment and the exact same geometry as the bike we rode last year. With exact measurements and a steady hand, it doesn't take long to dial in a new bike, not even for me, who needs to have everything exactly right, down to the last millimetre. I've had a new pair of NorthWave bike shoes adjusted for me too, which I now feel fit utterly perfectly.
A beast of a bike
Initially, the bike I was most excited about testing was the new 29-inch bike from Merida. With a completely different geometry and many other differences too, it's going to take a bit more time to get it adjusted perfectly for me, but what a beast of a bike!
It goes like a bullet both upwards and downwards and weighs no more than 9.3 kilograms at present. I can see myself becoming a typical 29-inch rider in the course of this coming season.
Kenneth is already itching to test this new bike, and he knows that for most marathon races in Norway, it's the perfect bike, both with regards to comfort and speed. We'll probably bring these 29-inch bikes with us to Lanzarote in the end of March, to train both technique and speed.
The Merida team is almost complete here on Majorca now. [Jose Antonio] Hermida arrived today and Ralph Näf is coming on Wednesday together with the team leadership. Test bikes for the press will be in place within a couple of days. Friday evening will be the first gathering for the press, and we'll be about 200 people in all, including some bike dealers with their own Merida riders from national teams.
So we have some pretty intense days coming up, with lots of photographing and a lot of talking to journalists from the whole world. Each individual team member will also have the final adjustments made to their season schedules, and I'm naturally hoping for some hours of training in amongst the various appointments, since I really don't have any more time for unwanted breaks and delays in my training work.
A touch of homesickness
My two boys, Kenneth and Bjørnar, are at home together, enjoying themselves without their mother. I miss them and long for home once in a while, but things have gone amazingly smoothly so far. We see each other and talk together on Skype every evening before going to bed and that helps a lot for the homesickness.
Kenneth has spent just as much time with Bjørnar as I have since he was born, so he runs the home and the little prince just as well as I do. Bjørnar will be two years old in the end of March, so he's in the middle of a learning phase headed for the stars, both regarding physical skills and speech. He's high and low, constantly talking and testing the boundaries on just about every level. It's a busy period, but amazingly fun and giving.
I think I'll round off for now. I'm going for a small jog now, to be followed by a swim in the pool up in the town of Calvia. It's raining here today, coinciding beautifully with my rest day, as long as the sun is out again tomorrow! We've had bright sunshine since I arrived here, meaning that the hours on the bike have been that much more enjoyable.
I wish you all good exercise experiences at home. Remember that a bit of physical exercise every day does wonders for both your body and mind.
Cyclist's greetings from Gunn-Rita
Multivan Merida Biking Team
[Translation: Crispen T.P. de Lange]