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…