Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå
· Name: Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå
· Born: February 10, 1973
· Height: 173 cm
· Weight: 62 kg
· From: Norway
· Lives: in Sandnes
· Languages: Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, English, working on my German
· Civil status: Married to Kenneth Flesjå
· Family: Bjørnar (born March 22, 2009)
· Education: Journalism at the University of Stavanger, 1994-1996
· Started cycling in April 1995 – have been a professional cyclist since October 1995
· Training per week: 15-20 hours
MY STORY (Updated March 2010)
I was born and raised at Bjørheimsbygd, a small place between the fiords outside of Stavanger on the west coast of Norway. As a small girl I was always bubbling over with energy, running around, involved in all sorts of activities. My parents took me along with them to the mountains every summer and winter right from when I was just a few years old, and these trips came to be an important part of my childhood. When I was twelve years old I started track-running and playing football/soccer. During the winter I would spend a lot of time ice-skating or skiing in the snow.
Mother and father have always been my inspiration, and were my best exercise mates right until I was 20. At 15 I became increasingly interested in long distance running, but never competed on a high national level. At 17 I travelled to Australia as an exchange student and had a fantastic time at a high-school in Sydney. I learned a lot about culture, language and people during my year in Australia.
After I had finished my A-levels in Norway, I started working in the local newspaper, Strandbuen, in my local municipality of Strand in Ryfylke. 15 months later I started a 2-year education in journalism at the University College of Stavanger.
My initial interest in mountain biking started in April, 1995. I was invited to come along on a bike-ride with a local cycling club in Stavanger and was hooked from the start. Two months later I won the Norwegian championships, and three months after that I became Nordic Champion in Finland. My first experience of the best international mountain-bikers was when I took part in the UCI World Cup in Plymouth, England, in August the same year. Things moved very quickly from the outset, beginning with my first encounter with mountain-biking in the spring of 1995, to October when I signed a professional contract with a Dutch mountain bike team. Since then I have spent a lot of time on my bike. I’ve travelled around the world and met many interesting and fantastic people. All of this came in addition to wonderful successes.
My newly-wed husband, Kenneth Flesjå, took over as my coach and massager in the spring of 2001. We had had a very rough period during the whole of the 2000 season and the following winter, so we decided to simply take control ourselves and start from scratch. I signed my contract with Merida in January 2002 and have had many amazing victories on my Merida bikes since then. I’ve signed a new 3-year contract with Multivan Merida Biking Team which lasts until the Olympics in Beijing in 2008.
I always travel everywhere together with Kenneth, except for when I’m competing on-road. This year, in 2005, I’ve had 253 days away from home, in Stavanger. About 100 of these days were spent with our pro biking team. I certainly miss our two “children,” our cats called Isak and Petruss, and our dear family and good friends, when we’re away as much as we are. But this life-style is a necessity when we aim to be best in the world.
We’ve won many victories through the past seasons, and are more motivated than ever before. I’m looking very much forward to a new and exciting cycling season of 2006. I wish all of you a fantastic year filled with all sorts of excitement, progress and lots of fun.
I am presently entering my 15th season as a professional mountain-biker, and this year is no exception: starting a new season brings with it excitement, anticipation, joy and insecurity. Through the years, as success has followed success, countless nouns have been linked to my name, but the best of all the titles is, without a doubt, “mother” Gunn-Rita, after Bjørnar was born on March 22, 2009.
My four most recent seasons can be summarized thus:
– “UNFORGETTABLE EXPERIENCES, BOTH POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE.”
SEASONS OF 2006 – 2007 – 2008 – 2009 – 2010
SEASON OF 2006
2006 turned out to be a very busy season, packed with action, including many races and countless days of travelling. The first World Cup race took place on Curacao, a small island outside of Venezuela, which turned out to be a very exotic cycling experience in every way. The start and finish were both located on the beach, giving the whole championship a very unusual setting.
It was a great experience to win that World Cup. We have many more fun memories from that trip, like Kenneth and me getting extremely sunburned on our first ride (we totally misjudged the strength of the sun over there), or the mice and rats which helped themselves liberally from the kitchen in our flat. And every night the gnats partook of huge portions of both Kenneth’s and Jose Hermida’s calves.
From Curacao we travelled onwards to Europe, taking part in both World Cup races and championships almost every weekend throughout the summer. We finished off the season by becoming Cross Country World Champions in New Zealand in September.
SEASON OF 2007
In 2007 Kenneth and I started the season at high altitude in South-Africa, in the town of Dullstroom. After that we left for Majorca and Italy before the start of the season. With a good foundation, and also with good results at the beginning of the season, we formed the basis we needed for a great season. Even so, all activities came to an abrupt stop in the end of May, when we had to cut a training camp in Switzerland short. We were preparing for the World Cup in Champery. For many weeks I had had stomach trouble. I had felt unwell and had had very little energy.
We went home to conduct a thorough physical check, and it turned out that I had various virus infections. I took antibiotics in order to rid my system of unwanted elements. At that point I believed that a few weeks without training or competitions would work wonders, and that I’d then quickly be back on my bike again. But the rest of the season of 2007 went to pieces and I didn’t get to do any more races that year.
I didn’t start up training again before October 2007, and then at a low pace. I was very weak and in bad shape, and had to take things slow and careful for the first months. Not the best of starts for the Olympic season the following year, Beijing 2008.
SEASON OF 2008
Through the winter of 2007 and 2008 I had many long breaks due to sickness and had hardly any quality training, as I was still regularly feeling weak and sick. Even so, we managed the unbelievable by winning a World Cup race in Madrid in May 2008, a good three months before the Olympics in Beijing. Kenneth and I were painfully aware that lasting for a whole season, with the very shaky basis we had, would be almost impossible. Even so, we managed to win the World Championship title in Marathon in the first weekend of July. But then it was over.
Despite it all, I look back on the season of 2008 as a fantastic season, considering where we started from that year. We managed to win a World Cup race and became World Champions. But since we didn’t succeed at the Olympics, other results are easily forgotten in the large picture. Kenneth and I learned a lot from that season, both regarding training and interacting with the press. We did everything we could, used all our experience, and harvested what we could. We were out travelling for 6 months without a break, from March 8 to September 6, 2008, and moved straight into our newly built house when we came home.
Beijing was my final competition that season. The bad crash I had three days prior to the race day in the Olympics, when I burst a rib and bruised my right hip badly, resulted in me having to take six weeks off training before I could start up systematically again.
Only a few weeks after the Olympics, we received the good news that I was pregnant, and I signed a new 4 year contract with Multivan Merida Biking Team in October 2008. Winning a surprising World Cup race in Madrid in May, becoming World Champion, cutting out of the Olympics, moving into a brand new house, signing a new long term contract, and becoming pregnant – everything within a period of 6 months – could quite well be termed “intense living”. But it’s this kind of lifestyle we enjoy.
SEASON OF 2009
In many ways, the season of 2009 was no less eventful than the previous year. Little Bjørnar was born on the March 22, 2009. I kept active through the winter and my training gradually decreased as my stomach grew. Our greatest hope for many years had been to become parents, so it was a longed for little boy who came to the world in the spring of 2009.
We naturally didn’t have any great expectations for the cycling season of 2009, as neither pregnancy, birth, nor a new life as a fresh mother is possible to plan particularly well beforehand. Even so, I was able to take part in several races through the summer, which culminated in September with an unforgettable gold in the European Championship Marathon, only 6 months after Bjørnar was born.
SEASON OF 2010
The winter and the preparations for a new season of 2010 have been somewhat turbulent in several ways. Even though I had become European champion in September, I started my winter training on November 1 at a much lower fitness level than previous years. The long period of being pregnant, plus many months with less training and fewer races than usual, in addition to less rest and sleep throughout the whole summer, had its indelible impact on myself as a top athlete. We didn’t expect anything else when we started up our winter training programme in November of 2009.
We had a good start in November, but everything was abruptly cut short when Kenneth and I got the swine flu, and Bjørnar also fell ill with a virus, the so-called exanthema subitum. Our whole family was totally knocked out for over two weeks, and we had many a visit to the doctor with little Bjørnar. Almost three weeks passed before we were on the go again.
Kenneth never really recovered properly either, and in the end of December it turned out that he had mononucleosis. This was unfortunate regarding my training programme, my restitution through a lot of massage given by him, and him being able to mind little Bjørnar. Those who have experienced this virus as an adult, know how little one is able to accomplish and how much one sleeps when it’s at its worst.
As I write, we’re in Majorca, where we’ve now been for two weeks. Bjørnar is enjoying life here on this Spanish bicycle island, and he’s learned something new every single day. He’s presently toddling around on the floor on his own, and is definitely the only person in our family who has learned to walk on Spanish soil. Kenneth is feeling slightly better but is still very careful with physical activity. We’ll be staying at home in Norway until the first World Cup race in England, at the end of April. Our goal is to have a few form peaks coinciding with the championships this season, and time will show if we succeed with those plans!
Cyclist’s greetings from Gunn-Rita
Multivan Merida Biking Team