Big ambitions in vintage walls

Three days before the first Worlcup race to be held in Europe the MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM invited journalist from all over the world for the official team presentation. The setting for this was the impressive count’s hall of the Hohenzollern castle.



In the short-lived world of sports the MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM is striking a decidedly different tone: Since 2004 the Taiwanese bicycle manufacturer has been working with Volkswagen’s utility vehicle department to support a mountainbike racing team. Sram is another long-term partner that has been with the team for 12 years. Add to that team riders such as Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå and José Hermida that have been part of the team since 2002 and 2004, respectively. With Thomas Litscher and Ondrej Cink, team manager Fabian Aust has signed some younger riders as well in order to prepare for the future. At the beginning of the Olympic season the goals of ambitions of the riders of one of the strongest crosscountry racing teams are of particular interest. Apart from Julian Schelb who was forced to stay at home due to health issues, all athletes and the team manager were at hand at the Hohenzollern castle to present themselves to 50 journalists from all over the world and to go into detail about their goals and focus for the season ahead.


Just three days before Albstadt’s worldcup races these journalists got a welcome opportunity to probe the stars of the MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM in the Zollernalb region and to see these athletes race just a few days later. Team manager Fabian Aust was first on stage, conceding that the team still had some way to go to get back to where it belongs: „With Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå’s world champion title in the marathon format and her 29th race win in the Worldcup, she has added some chapters to the history of the sport and given some samples of her class. Add to that Ondrej Cink’s podium finish in Lenzerheide and the Bronze medal at the world championships, doubling up two weeks ago with another Bronze medal at the European championships“, as Fabian Aust reflected. „Of course our main goal has to be to finish on the podium regularly in the men’s races as well and to compete for the top spots in the team standings.“


As soon as the team manager had finished it was the athletes turn. As MERIDA’s European PR manager, Thorsten Lewandowski was doing the interviews with the four athletes at hand, and they all had their own view on the season ahead. Both José Hermida and Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå clearly focus on Rio de Janeiro where they are set to participate in their fifth Olympic games - a feat that only very few athletes get to enjoy. In order to prepare for the Olympic race in an optimal way, Dahle Flesjå will not be defending her marathon world championship title. „Apart from the Olympic games, the World championships in Nove Mesto are my big goal for the season ahead. I’m still hungry to win, and I’m proud to still be competing at a world class level after so many years - this is the biggest challenges that I have been facing together with my husband and coach Kenneth“, as Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå explained.


With 20 years of mountain bike racing under his belt, 38 year-old Spaniard José Hermida is heading for his fifth Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro. „The first worldcup race of the season in Cairns was probably the worst race in many years for me: First my start was not good, and then I also had a bad crash. From that point of view things can only get better. The fact that MERIDA offers me the choice of both a hardtail and a full-suspension bike is ideal seen the varying character of the worldcup courses. As for the future after this season, I have not taken any decision yet.“ Far from this kind of thoughts is Ondrej Cink: The Czech rider has won a Bronze medal at the elite’s world championships last fall and has doubled up with a Bronze medal at the European championships two weeks ago. As for the season ahead, it offers a number of highlights for him: „Of course the world championships in Nove Mesto are my main goal as I’m racing on home turf there. Apart from that I have already secured my ticket for the Olympic games, and of course I want to perform at my very best there.“


Last but not least Swiss rider Thomas Litscher wants to look ahead rather than back: „Due to various health issues the last season was not an easy one, and I also made a lot of changes, from my personal trainer to nutrition and the specific training plans. I’m starting to feel the effects of all these changes now, and I also have been training very well over the winter. Due to these reasons I’m pretty confident to return to top10 results in the worldcup this year. As the competition for the Olympic tickets is brutal within the Swiss team, I have decided to focus on the worldcup races and the world championships instead.“ Apart from the athletes of the MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM, the journalists also got presented the two new racing bikes BIG.NINE and BIG.SEVEN. For these feather-weight carbon frames MERIDA combines flattened stays in the back with up-to-date elements like a boost axle in the rear, fully internally-routed cables and brake lines and a seat tube that is ready to mount a dropper post. The racing weapons are available both with 29 and with 27.5 inch-wheels.