It was time to leave again only 2 days after we came home from Icleand, this time Norway and Birkebeinerittet was calling!
Luckily we were home the day when Jenny Rissveds came home to Falun and we could join everyone else in town and celebrate her fantastic, impressive and very well deserved Olympic gold medal on the town square! It was amazing and it felt like every person in Falun came out to congratulate her! I still remember the first time I rode with Jenny, I joined a training session for the youth in the club which I had just joined and saw this tiny 10 year old girl, on a mountainbike, going down a slope which was too technical and steep for me to imagine it possible to ride a bike! I later had the honour to race a couple of races together with her on the road and I have always known that she will be the best in the world but that it would be this quick and that she would take gold at her first Olympics, as the youngest rider in the field, I could not dream of even if I did hope for a medal.
We packed the camper on Thursday morning and headed for Norway and Lillehammer where we visited Kristin, David and Noah, as we also did last year. It is always nice to see them! I rode a bit on the course on Friday to see the new section and also the last 400 meters which was new and tricky.
The elite ladies started at 9.20am and it was a strong field, the strongest was Gunn Rita Dahle Flesjå who had just come back from the Olympics with a 10th place in the bag, so she was in good form. Hielke Elferink, the Dutch marathon champion was also there and I guessed the 2 of them would be the toughest competition, and I was right. The first 13 kilometre climb to the first intermediate sprint was a bit slow since no one wanted to get the race going. I was a bit silly and sat at the front most of the time and took a bit too much wind. It was a close battle for the first sprint which I managed to take just in front of Ingrid Lövik from Team Hitec. Gunn Rita went very fast on the first downhill and I was badly positioned and had to chase hard after to get back to her and Hielke who was at the front. I managed to reach them as we entered the first and only technical forest section of the race. I made a costly mistake on the “walking section” as it is called, an uphill where no one can ride and everyone walks. I was next to Gunn Rita when she got on the bike and started to ride, but I thought I would run a bit further, to the top of the climb, but when I got on the bike Hielke sneaked pass me since she was already on the bike. We still had 2 steep tricky uphills with only one line to ride and I had nowhere to pass Hielke and I could only watch Gunn Rita disappear. When we came out on the gravel road again Hielke was tired and did not want to help, I worked hard but it was only frustrating having someone on the wheel and not getting any closer. After a while I started to feel a bit tired and Hielke had recovered and we started to work well together. I tried to get rid of her on the “Raisin climb” a 1,5km climb with some steep sections, but I could not drop her and I realised that it would come down to a sprint and started to plan for the sprint.
This race has a very difficult and technical finish with “Balettbacken” which goes straight down a few hundred meters, then corners, a short uphill, a longish fast downhill with a corner at the bottom and then in to the new section with corners a short uphill, a very steep downhill and the last corner to the finish. We came in to “Balettbacken” side by side but I had a fun rider in my lane at the bottom and had to break hard and go around, I almost thought I would fall, and she got a gap. I could catch her and knew I had to use my strength here so I attacked on the next uphill and got a gap, she caught me on the downhill and I attacked again on the next uphill, I could stay ahead until the last corner but heard the commentator saying it would be a sprint so she was right on my wheel and I had to pull off a maxsprint for second place. I am very happy with second place behind Gunn Rita but I am a bit disappointed that I did not get on the bike earlier on the “walking section” and at least had a chance to try and stay with her for longer.
I guess I must come back next year again to try for that first place after 2 second places at Birken. Thank you Birkebeinern for a great event!
The start in Rena
After the finish in Lillehammer