Albstadt 2015

Albstadt’s Worldcup races were held close to MERIDA’s European headquarters. Taiwan’s second-biggest bicycle manufacturer made good use of this opportunity to present a first selection of new mountain bikes for 2016 to international media, including the chance for test rides under race conditions.

MERIDA’s expanding commitment to bicycle racing lead to some changes this spring, as for the first time ever two separate media camps for the road and the mountain bike team were being held. At the beginning of May the fourth generation of MERIDA’s super-lightweight SCULTURA road bike and the riders of TEAM LAMPRE-MERIDA were presented in the Italian Liguria region. At the end of May mountain biking took the centre stage in Albstadt: Held at the same weekend as Albstadt’s second round of the cross country Worldcup, this media camp attracted 57 journalists from 20 countries and gave them a chance to get in close contact with the athletes of the MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM.

But of course this was not all yet, as MERIDA made good use of the media camp to present two new mountain bike models for 2016 and giving the journalists an opportunity to put the new bikes through their paces in terrain. The main interest was on the entirely new race full-suspension model NINETY-SIX that has been developed in close cooperation with the athletes of the MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM. The most spectacular features of this new bike are a frame weight of only 1700 grams (or 3.75lbs, measured in size medium without a shock) and kinematics that have been tuned for maximum efficiency and to work best with drivetrains with just one chainring.

In order to achieve the best possible ergonomics and position on the bike MERIDA is relying on the “size specific wheeling” concept. This means that the wheel size depends on the frame size: In sizes small and medium the NINETY-SIX platform rolls on 27.5 inch-wheels and offers 109mm (4.3 inches) of rear travel, while the medium and large frame sizes roll on 29 inch-wheels and offer 96mm (3.75 inches) of travel. The newly arranged pivot points, linkage and shock make sure that the kinematics of the frame are consistent throughout all frame sizes. The postmount threads have been elegantly integrated into the left chain stay, and the “Smart Entry” technology is an innovation that facilitates a clean, simple and silent internal routing of the cables and rear brake line.

While the NINETY-SIX has been specifically developed to shine in racing and went through its baptism of fire at Albstadt’s Worldcup races, MERIDA’s second new mountain bike model for 2016 is aimed at endurance-oriented trail riders: Thanks to its carbon main frame the ONE-TWENTY CARBON is a full 400 grams (almost a pound) lighter than its existing aluminium sibling. With 130mm (5.1 inches) of rear travel these bikes offer plenty of cushion for demanding trails and still are highly efficient on ascents. The “Size Specific Wheeling” is being put to good use for this model as well: While both the medium- and large-sized frames are available with either wheel sizes, MERIDA adapts the wheel diameter to the frame for all other sizes.

The journalists that participated at Albstadt’s media camp got plenty of opportunities to test the two new models in terrain: On Friday this was done on a loop that features roots and rock sections, but also fast parts on meadows and double tracks. On Saturday MERIDA offered the chance to try the test bikes under racing conditions, as the “Albstadt Bike Marathon” offered either a short 23-kilometer- or a medium-length 46-kilometer-race. No less than 39 journalists went for this opportunity, and they all made it to the finish without any issues or serious crashes. This gave them ample of opportunity to see what both the NINETY-SIX and the ONE-TWENTY CARBON are capable of in terrain.

But new mountain bikes were not all that was on display in Albstadt: As a long-term title sponsor of the MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM, VW utility cars made good use of this event to present its latest T6 generation of the MULTIVAN. Just like its predecessors it will be a reliable and trusty companion for the team’s athletes, making sure that they get to all of their races around the world with all the equipment they might need. In addition to the new T6 VW also displayed a carefully restored T3 Syncro – much to the joy not only of the team riders. This youngtimer showed just how much effort VW utility cars has put into the evolution of the various MULTIVAN generations throughout the decades.



Also in year eleven of its existence, the MERIDA Press Camp was again able to come up with superlatives: Among the total of 329 guests, 119 journalists from 25 countries had followed the invitation to the Balearic Island of Majorca to attend the 2014 presentation of the MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM. Among them: international TV and radio journalists, representatives of the daily press and of course agents of specialist magazines from the global MTB scene. “The MERIDA Press Camp is a unique event within the MTB environment – not only with regard to its pure size,” Andreas Rottler (MERIDA Director of Sports Marketing) pointed out the significance of the annual season prelude for the MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM. “During these days, our pro riders enjoy a relaxed closeness to the press which can rarely be found otherwise.” Fortunately, the team around Andreas Rottler was able to rely on the professional support by Bicycle Holidays Max Huerzeler also this year: At the event location Alcudia in the north of Majorca, the Swiss bike-holiday pioneer again provided – with the four-star resort “Iberostar Playa de Muro” – an adequate infrastructure for the happening. The additional support by the team’s co-sponsor Volkswagen Nutzfahrzeuge (VWN; Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles) guaranteed the transport of MERIDA’s guests e. g. to the photo shoots or to the exclusive dinner evening. Moreover, there was the possibility to test-drive vehicles of the current VWN pool (such as the Multivan or the Amarok).


With Julian Schelb (22, GER), the MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM has been reinforced with another budding and promising pro rider for Season 2014: With his great performance as current U23 Vice World Champion, Julian Schelb does fit optimally into the picture drawn by the team after the enrolment of Ondrej Cink (24, CZE) and Thomas Litscher (25, SUI) in 2013.

In the upcoming season, these three young professionals are still accompanied by three experienced MMBT pro athletes: Rudi van Houts (30, NED), José Hermida (36, ESP) and Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesja (41, NOR). “Already last year, our concept of a young substructure for the seasoned pro riders already successful for many years has paid off completely,” Fabian Aust (MULTIVAN MERIDA Team Manager) sums up. “For 2014, we hence stake even more on the card that José, Gunn-Rita and Rudi ensure with their experience that they do not only achieve their own successes but also do fulfil their leading role for Thomas, Ondrej and Julian.”


All six pro riders of the MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM line up for the start of the new Season 2014 with utter motivation. They underlined this during the about one-hour press conference which was again characterized by a remarkably high media attention like in the years before (please click here for the video of the 2014 press conference). Afterwards, Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesja, José Hermida, Rudi van Houts, Ondrej Cink, Thomas Litscher and Julian Schelb were at the press’ disposal for individual interviews and photoshoots – as were Fabian Aust (MMBT Team Manager) and Andreas Rottler (MERIDA Director of Sport Marketing). “Year after year again, the week on Majorca with the press conference and the official photo shoot as a highlight is a fabulous start into the new season,” also ninefold World Champion Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesja looks back with pleasure on the Press Camp 2014. “Majorca always means the first great and collective appearance of the entire team – our second family.”


MERIDA’s annual Press Camp took place on the Balearic island of Majorca, particularly popular with cyclists, from February 6 to 13, 2013 and it turned out to be a week full of superlatives. Many of those that were invited might have considered this well-established event as something well known, but still some things were new und many things have grown in size yet again.

Last year saw more than 300 guests, 125 of them journalists, check-in at the four star hotel „Iberostar Playa de Muro“, situated at the north coast of the island close to the city of Alcudia. At this year’s 10th MERIDA Press Camp, these numbers have grown to 340 guests, including 140 reporters from 26 countries. Amongst them representatives of well established print and online editing offices of various daily news outlets and high gloss magazines, radio stations and TV journalists. The professional organizational support of our infrastructure partner Bicycle Holidays Max Hürzeler and another substantial effort of the Volkswagen Nutzfahrzeuge, co-sponsor of the MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM and providing shuttles, exhibition models and as a first timer cars for testing such as the VW Amarok, were a big help to carry out this event on the highest possible level seen its continuously growing size.

One very pleasing element was the weather: Last year, snow was falling for more than two days, showing that even a Mediterranean island like Majorca is not safe from onsets of winter in February. This year was different however as mostly mild temperatures offered perfect conditions to work and test. „With its February date, the MERIDA Press Camp seems to take place very early in the calendar year, but without a doubt it’s one of the highlights of each MERIDA year“, William Jeng as the Senior Vice President of Merida Industry points out. Despite the national festivities for the „Chinese New Year“, he had made the trip all the way from the company’s headquarters in Yuanlin, much to the joy of Wolfgang Renner, MERIDA Europe’s CEO and MMBT manager who also attended the event.

The pleasant weather was all the more welcome for the five professional athletes of the MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM that was presenting its modified line-up for the 2013 season. After all, those hours-long photo shooting sessions in front of hundreds of lenses are being performed in the summer outfits with short sleeve jerseys and shorts. 2010’s Cross-Country World Champion José Antonio Hermida (ESP) was his own relaxed self and always was up for all kinds of jokes. The Spaniard just like the „Queen of Mountainbike“ and reigning XC European champion Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå (NOR) have gotten a „special task“ within the new team.

This is due to the MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM focusing entirely on the Olympic Cross-Country format as per this season with a line-up reduced to five riders. „Sadly the marathon format does not get the public attention it actually deserves and that we as a UCI Pro Team really need“, MERIDA Europe’s Director of Sport Marketing Andreas Rottler explains. As a consequence, the team has been restructured from scratch. Rottler and his long-time assistant and new team manager Fabian Aust made good use of the opportunity to promote the two experienced „old hands“ Hermida and Dahle to become the two lead riders. This means that they have been given the task to successfully integrate two new high-quality signings Thomas Litscher (SUI) and Ondrej Cink (CZE) into the existing team structures. This task involves quite some responsibility as Thomas Litscher has won the under23 Cross-Country World Championships in 2011 and Ondrej Cink did the same in 2012 and added the European Champion title to it. With Rudi van Houts (NED), a familiar face acts as the connecting link between the „old hands“ and the „young guns“ within the MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM.

Seen all this illustrious names of the riders, MERIDA Europe’s head of development Jürgen Falke proudly presented the new work tools of the MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM to the assembled press from all over the world. The only bike to remain widely unchanged is the twentyniner hardtail BIG.NINE. It has been a key element to all the successes the team got to celebrate throughout the season 2012. After having been presented as an aluminium prototype a year ago, the dual-suspension twentyniner BIG NINETY-NINE now has evolved into a full carbon version. This ultra lightweight and super stiff dual-suspension race bike has been tailor-made to the likes of the team’s two young riders. Another new team bike could almost be considered as a custom build for José Hermida, as the BIG.SEVEN with its 650B wheel size is a perfect match for the Spaniards active riding style. Still Hermida, Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå, Rudi van Houts, Thomas Litscher and Ondrej Cink are free to choose whatever bike they feel works best for them on the race course at hand – „we even encourage them to do so“, Jürgen Falke as the head of the R&D department points out.

The next day saw the yearly highlight for most of the 140 journalists from all over the world: They got the chance to test all these bikes that only the professional athletes of the MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM already have the privilege to compete on at international races. Mind you, these bikes are only going to be shown to the global public at the end of August at Friedrichshafen’s Eurobike trade show. The world’s biggest bicycle trade show takes place a mere five months before the 11th MERIDA Press Camp. Rest assured that there are going to be some thrilling highlights to be discovered again by then…