Elite MTB Team2015’S SEASON IN RETROSPECT
In 2015, the MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM again scored a couple of impressive successes. Above all, Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå not only added another World Championship title to her palmares – her 10th! – and finished the World Cup season 2nd overall but managed to become the most successful female mountain biker of all time by winning her 29th World Cup race. Furthermore, still young Czech rider Ondrej Cink managed to win his first medal at Elite World Championships.
The racing season for the MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM started early in March. First, Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå used the Cyprus Sunshine Cup to loosen her legs. Three weeks later, the Norwegian started at the prestigious Cape Epic stage race for the first time ever, teaming up with Switzerland’s Kathrin Stirnemann for the “World Bicycle Relief” organisation. Unfortunately, Gunn-Rita’s team partner had to pull out in the 4th stage already due to a stomach bug. South Africa saw another MMBT rider with digestive problems: José Hermida, who had started together with Rudi van Houts, struggled too. Still, the MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM duo managed to score two podium finishes at the first couple of stages, but then they lost a lot of time. But Hermida hung on thanks to the unselfish support of van Houts, and this great team work was rewarded with a 2nd place in the final stage and a 4th place in the overall standings.
The World Cup season 2015 once again showed that Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå is still a force to be reckoned with: the Norwegian finished in 2nd both in Nove Mesto and in Albstadt. For her male team mates, the season’s kick off in Nove Mesto didn’t work out too bad either. Thomas Litscher managed to finish the men’s race in 8th, coming from way back, and José Hermida also made it into the top10. Unfortunately, the following race in Albstadt was quite a disappointment for the men of the MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM, as Rudi van Houts was the best-placed rider in 17th. But with performance number three in Lenzerheide, the team again got plenty of reasons to celebrate: having won the World Marathon Championships in South Tyrol just a week before, Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå turned her confidence into a strong performance. This was rewarded with the win – the 29th World Cup victory in her career! Thus, the Norwegian made history in the sport of mountain biking again by crowning herself the most successful female rider of all time. Powerful too: in the men’s race, Ondrej Cink also made it to the podium finishing in 3rd, and the men won this weekend’s team ranking.
Two weeks later, Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå and Ondrej Cink again made good use of their form to win their respective National Championships. In Spain, José Hermida missed out on the win by about a minute, and Rudi van Houts achieved a 3rd place. Julian Schelb on the other hand scored his most valuable result of the season at the German National Championships: In his first year in the Elite category, Schelb finished the race in 5th. The two freshly crowned National Champions also scored the best results for the MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM at the overseas World Cup races: Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå took another podium finish with a 5th place in Mont Sainte-Anne, with Ondrej Cink riding into the top10 in 9th. Cink repeated this performance a week later in Windham while Dahle Flesjå finished the women’s race in 7th. And at the World Cup finals in Val di Sole, José Hermida scored his second top10 result of the season with a 7th place. With that, the men finished in 2nd in the team’s World Cup overall standings as well.
With the 2015’s XC World Championships held in Andorra, Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå showed a courageous race: She looked to be on her way to another medal for quite a while but had to settle for 4th, being beaten in the fight for Bronze by Ukraine’s Yana Belomoina. Ondrej Cink had prepared for the World Championships meticulously, and it paid off: For a while he even managed to stay with super strong Nino Schurter and Julien Absalon. In the finale of the race, the young Czech had to let these two riders go and focused on defending his 3rd place – which he didsuccessfully. Thus, the MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM got to cap off the season with a beautiful success.
As for the Olympic season ahead, the targets are clearly defined for Fabian Aust, manager of the MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM. “In the World Cup, we want to finish on the podium regularly not just in the women’s but also in the men’s races, thus confirming our status as one of the strongest teams in cross country racing. This is well within reach if José, Thomas and Julian get through the next season without major health issues. Naturally, the World Championships are another important target, all the more so as Ondrej Cink gets to compete on home turf in Nove Mesto. And then there are Rio de Janeiro’s Olympic games, of course, where the MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM will be competing with at least three riders. As for José Hermida, these will be his fifth Olympic games already, a feat that has only been accomplished by a few select athletes. And for Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå, Rio will be her fifth Olympic games as well.”
Elite MTB Team2014’S SEASON IN RETROSPECT
The season 2014 has been long and exciting for the MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM: In January the newly-signed runner-up at the under23 World championships Julian Schelb won the silver medal at the German under23 cyclocross championships. The next rider to show top form was Ondrej Cink in February in Cyprus, where he won the second race of the Sunshine Cup. The young Czech added a second place in both the first race and the overall standings to his tally. In March it was up to Rudi van Houts and José Hermida to wave the flag of the MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM: The two managed to win the prologue at the Cape Epic stage race, becoming the first team to wear the leader‘s jerseys. The joy did not last for long however, as van Houts crashed heavily the next day and was forced to abandon the race as a consequence.
In mid-April the Worldcup commenced, and at the first round in Pietermaritzburg no less than three riders of the MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM made it into the top10. With Ondrej Cink in 4th and José Hermida in 5th, two riders finished on the podium, and the team handsomely won the team classification. Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå contributed to the successful start of the Worldcup campaign as well, finishing the women‘s race in 2nd. Two weeks later it was Julian Schelb‘s turn in the spotlight: The young German advanced to semifinals in Cairns‘ eliminator race. By winning the small finale he finished in 5th and thus scored his first Worldcup podium finish. José Hermida doubled up on that in the men‘s crosscountry race, finishing in 5th again. Rudi van Houts on the other hand had to forfeit the race after a serious crash when training on the course.
When the Worldcup circus returned to Europe the MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM got off-track slightly, however: Due to a mechanical Ondrej Cink fell out of contention early on at his home turf race in Nove Mesto. Still two of the team‘s riders made it into the top10 in the men‘s race with José Hermida and Thomas Litscher. Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå continued to be a safe bet, adding another Worldcup podium result to her record by finishing in 3rd. In Albstadt the MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM could count on the experienced Norwegian again as she scored the best result of the team with a 2nd place. Due to a combination of health issues and bad luck the men could not perform as expected however. Things turned to the better at the national cross country championships in summer: Both Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå and José Hermida won their respective races, and Thomas Litscher added a bronze medal in the eliminator race in Switzerland to that.
This marked the beginning of a positive season‘s finale: José Hermida and Thomas Litscher finished within the top10 at the overseas Worldcup races, and Julian Schelb got his best result of the season in the cross country Worldcup by finishing in 6th in Windham. At the final race of the Worldcup season Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå added another 2nd place to her tally. At the World championships in her home country of Norway she could not live up to her own expectations, however. The men did not succeed in winning a medal either, but at least Rudi van Houts managed to meet his personal target by finishing in 14th.
Elite MTB Team2013’S SEASON IN RETROSPECT
Season Highlights 2013
Gold Medal – World Championships XCM – Dahle
Bronze Medal – World Championships XCO – Hermida
1x 2nd World Cup – Hermida
1x 2nd Place World Cup – Cink
1x 4th Place World Cup – Litscher
1x 2nd Place World Cup XCE – Litscher
5th Overall Ranking World Cup – Cink
2x No.1 Team World Cup
3 Stage Wins Andalucia Bike Race
2 Stage Wins Cape Epic
4th Overall Ranking Cape Epic
3 National Champions – Dahle, Hermida, Cink
6 World Cups – 6 Podiums
UCI Worldcup, Team Ranking Cross Country
1.BMC MOUNTAINBIKE RACING TEAM 364
2.MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM 343
3.SCOTT SWISSPOWER MTB RACING TEAM 297
4.GIANT PRO XC TEAM 208
Who dares win. The MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM strikingly rejuvenated its line-up for the season 2013. With Thomas Litscher and Ondrej Cink the under23 world champions of the preceding two years were added to the team’s core consisting of Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå, José Hermida and Rudi van Houts, and Fabian Aust was promoted to become the team manager after having served as assistant for many years. This daring rejuvenation paid off, and the season 2013 can be considered a full success with a world championship title, another world championship medal, multiple national championships and a number of podium finishes. In the UCI’s team ranking, the MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM finished the season in second. And for 2014 another talent will be added to the team with Julian Schelb, who won the silver medal at last year’s under23 world championships. Things are looking good for a continued success story.
The MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM can always rely on Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå, and last season was no exception: Mountainbiking’s «grande dame» won the world marathon championships, providing a highlight of the season. Unfortunately she did not manage to win another worldcup race in 2013, which would have made Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå the most winning rider of all times. But finishing on the podium in Vallnord, Val di Sole and Hafjell was quite a performance as well. For next season, the world championships held in Hafjell are the major target of Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå: The Norwegian hopes to crown her unparalleled career with a second world championship title won in front of her home crown. She already pulled this off in 2005 when she became marathon world champion.
In its new composition, the MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM showed remarkably homogenous performances throughout the men’s worldcup season. This was rewarded with wins in the team’s classification at the races in Albstadt and Val di Sole with another two second places in Nove Mesto and Mont Sainte-Anne. At the end of the season, one of the riders made it into the top5 of the worldcup’s overall standings as well. But different from the last couple of years, it was not Spain’s José Hermida who performed this feat. After what had been a so-so season to his standards, Hermida had to settle for 10th in the worldcup’s overall standings. He only made it to the podium at one race, finishing in 2nd on his favourite course in Mont Sainte-Anne, Canada. But once again he showed his real class at the world championships in South Africa, riding to the Bronze medal. In the world ranking, the 35-year-old Spaniard finished the season in 6th.
This meant that José Hermida was placed right behind the big revelation of the season within the MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM: In what was his very first season in the elite category, 23-year-old Czech Ondrej Cink kept on surprising everyone, including himself. He got very close to winning his first elite worldcup race in Andorra, leading for most of the race until Nino Schurter caught up with him and put him in 2nd. In front of his home crowd, Cink had finished in 6th in Nove Mesto, and he added top10 finishes in Hafjell and Val di Sole just like at the European championships, racing at the very top of the world. He also managed to win the national crosscountry title in the Czech Republic in his first year in the elite category. All these results show that Cink can perform even better in years to come. As for himself, he particularly wants to shine in front of his home crowd in Nove Mesto in 2014 and confirm last year’s exploits in general.
At the very beginning of last season, Ondrej Cink played second fiddle to the second new signing of the MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM, however, as Thomas Litscher was in splendid shape throughout the months of April and May. First he finished in 2nd against strong competition at the Ötztal Mountainbike Festival. Three weeks later he made it to the podium as the runner-up at the first race of the crosscountry eliminator worldcup in Albstadt, southern Germany, and he finished in 9th in the crosscountry race two days later. As if that was not enough yet, Thomas Litscher showed a brilliant performance at the second worldcup race in Nove Mesto, crossing the line in 4th and finishing on an elite worldcup podium for the first time in his career. Unfortunately Litscher’s season came to a premature ending due to serious saddle soreness issues. These have been addressed surgically in the meantime, and Litscher intends to come back stronger than ever before.
For Rudi van Houts the last season was kind of frustrating at times: First he narrowly missed out on a podium spot when he rode the Cape Epic with José Hermida and finished in 4th. At the Dutch national championships, he was the obvious favourite but the win slipped from his hands when he made a mistake on the final lap. Later on, he was forced to take a break throughout the month of August due to severe stomach issues, thus missing out on the world championships. But van Houts also scored his best worldcup result of his career to date when he finished within tehe top10 in Val di Sole, and the Dutchman made it to the podium at two races of the MTB Bundesliga as well. As the rejuvenation of the team’s line-up has been such a huge success, the MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM has decided to further this strategy, adding Germany’s Julian Schelb to the team as last year’s winner of the silver medal at the under23 world championships. As Schelb is only 21-year-old, he will be competing in the under23 category next year as well to fight for the win at the world championships. No wonder he mentions the worlds in Hafjell as his most important goal for 2014.
Elite MTB Team2012’S SEASON IN RETROSPECT
The biggest successes of 2012’s season
Gold Medal – World Championships XCE – Näf
Silver Medal – World Championships XCM – Dahle
Gold Medal – European Championships XCO – Dahle
Bronze Medal – European Championships XCO – Näf
4th – Olympic Race XCO –Hermida
2x World Cup Victory XCO – Dahle
1x World Cup Victory XCO – Team
1x 2nd World Cup – Hermida
1x 3rd World Cup – Näf
2x 5th World Cup – Hermida / Dahle
2nd overall ranking World Cup – Dahle
5th overall ranking World Cup – Hermida
3rd overall ranking World Cup – Team
Andalucia Bike Race Victory
3rd Cape Epic – overall ranking Kugler / Genze
UCI Worldcup, Team Ranking Cross Country
1. SPECIALIZED RACING 504
2. CANNONDALE FACTORY RACING 413
3. MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM 380
4. SCOTT - SWISSPOWER MTB RACING TEAM 352
Writing history of sports…
For the MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM, the 2012 season brought some highly memorable successes that will find their way into the history of sports. Winning the Worldcup races in la Bresse and Val d’Isère respectively, Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå now has won 28 times in 16 years, a truly outstanding career performance. These 28 wins equal the record of Julie Furtado, one of the dominating riders in the early days of mountainbiking.
Another performance for the history books was Ralph Näf’s win at the first world championships ever in the crosscountry eliminator format at Saalfelden. This marked a triumphant finale of Näf’s ten years with the MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM.
Another impressive performance was the fact that no less than four riders of the MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM made it to London’s Olympic bike race. No other team could match that number. But an Olympic medal remained out of reach: José Hermida’s fourth-place finish was the best the team riders could do, and Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå had to endure a particularly frustrating Olympic race with an early crash and a mechanical throwing her out of contention. A few weeks later however, Dahle Flesjå was back to her own strength, adding the Silver medal at the Cross Country World championships to the European Cross Country champion title she had won in Moscow.
At the same European championships, Ralph Näf won a Bronze medal. José Hermida finished another season within the top5 of the Worldcup overall standings, and the MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM confirmed its status as one of the strongest teams in Cross Country racing. Nevertheless, the team’s management has decided to rejuvenate the line-up of the team drastically for 2013. As MERIDA’s brand ambassadors, the two experienced professionals Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå and José Hermida continue as the team’s captains, and Rudi van Houts still is with the team as well. Ralph Näf and Jochen Käß however have left the team. After the main focus of the MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM will be on the Cross County discipline in the future the two marathon specialist Hannes Genze and Andreas Kugler have left the squad as well.
… and a rejuvenated team for 2013
They are being replaced by the respective under23 World champions of 2011 and 2012, Switzerland’s Thomas Litscher and Ondrej Cink of the Czech Republic. «We expect these young, talented and hungry riders to put some pressure on our long time team members and at the same time learn the ropes from them in order to become contenders for wins in the elite category as well. Rudi van Houts is kind of the connecting link between the talents and the seasoned riders», Andreas Rottler comments on the new signings. «The clear priority of the MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM is on the Cross Country Worldcup races and the expanded series of Cross Country eliminator races. In addition, we are going to compete in selected stage and marathon races such as the Andalucia Bike Race or the ABSA Cape Epic.»
One more change deserves to be mentioned: Andreas Rottler has handed over the position as the manager of the MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM to his long-term assistant Fabian Aust. Rottler himself has been promoted to become MERIDA Europe’s Director of Sport Marketing, coordinating the brand’s sponsoring effort in both mountainbiking and road cycling.