Mountain Bike Queen leads World Cup wins

At the age of 42, Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå continues to dominate the sport of mountain biking with her sixth Marathon World Championship and 29th World Cup victory

Photo: Sapin88 / Wikimedia Commons  Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå competing in the MTB World Cup in 2012.

Photo: Sapin88 / Wikimedia Commons
Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå competing in the MTB World Cup in 2012.

Molly Jones
Norwegian American Weekly

It may be two decades into her professional career, but mountain biker Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå shows no signs of slowing down.

On June 27, the 42-year-old Norwegian won the Marathon World Championship for the sixth time of her career, becoming the oldest athlete to ever win the arduous event. The women’s race covered 60 kilometers and 3,400 meters of climbing through the Dolomites of northeastern Italy. It was expected to be a Nordic battle as Dahle Flesjå competed against the reigning champion Annika Langvad of Denmark. But with a time of 3:34.13, Dahle Flesjå beat her fellow Scandinavian by over three minutes and thoroughly earned her right to wear the rainbow world champion jersey.

“It means a lot for the national team, the sponsors, and not least for the professional team. If you win the rainbow jersey, you get it the entire year,” commented her trainer and husband Kenneth Flesjå to NRK. “It’s really about having faith in oneself and not listening to those who don’t think it’s possible. And in the end, it’s about having fun and working hard.”

Just eight days after becoming the Marathon World Champion, Dahle Flesjå—who rides for Multivan Merida Biking Team—returned to the international stage, this time for the sixth stage of the 2015 Mountain Bike World Cup in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.

Due to temperatures into the upper 80s, a technical track, and an altitude of 1,500 meters, the Lenzerheide stage was a tough race. And while the marathon race is one long (albeit grueling) path, cross country races are held on tracks that are ridden multiple times resulting in a much more explosive and intensive race, according to Dahle Flesjå.

But the Norwegian was up for the challenge; with a time of 1:32.15, Dahle Flesjå won her 29th World Cup event and set a new record for women’s World Cup wins, surpassing American Julie Furtado’s 28 victories. She was followed by American Lea Davison (Specialized Racing) in second and Canadian Catharine Pendrel (Luna Pro Team) in third.

“It feels almost unreal. But we know that this victory is well deserved,” said Dahle Flesjå to NTB. “I have worked towards this victory the entire year, and it feels incredible to finally manage it.”

Of course, the veteran biker is not going to settle for her 29 World Cup wins. In an interview with Rogalands Avis, Dahle Flesjå said, “30 World Cup victories sounds great. I like round numbers.”

She may even be able to pull off the overall World Cup victory this season, which would be her fifth in this event. Currently, Dahle Flesjå and Swiss Jolanda Neff (Stoeckli) are tied with 650 points, but Neff leads in the overall standings due to a greater number of wins.

“Getting to the championships is just as important as it always has been,” comments Dahle Flesjå to NRK. “Now we have to rest a bit this week. We can’t make too many mistakes before we are out of the fight for the medals, and that’s something we don’t want.”

“Luckily we are still hungry for more success and think it is very exciting to work hard each and every day to reach new goals,” she added. Already looking ahead of the 2015 season, Dahle Flesjå has her goals set high on the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and the 2017 UCI Road World Championships in Bergen.

This article originally appeared in the July 17, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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