How much?

A recent article in L’Equipe looked into how much it costs to run a Pro-Tour team and how much it costs to organise a race. To illustrate the latter they used the recent Tour de L’Ain, a 2.1 UCI race whose budget of Euros 552,000 is financed as follows:-

  • 60% from the local communes, departments and regions
  • 40% from 60 private sponsors, for which the principal sponsors paid around Euros 35,000

So how was all this money spent?

  • Security: Euros 45,000 was spent on motor outriders, ambulances and police escorts. In addition, 200 police officers were provided free of charge by the region.
  • Transport for the 16 teams taking part: Euros 25,000 is the amount determined by the UCI’s sliding scale which depends on the teams’ status.
  • Accommodation for the 16 teams: Euros 75,000 for 5 day’s of half-board, in 3 starred hotels, for 12 people in each team which equates to 960 nights in total.
  • TV transmission on France 3 regional costs Euros 85,000
  • Administration costs for UCI, Anti-doping etc totals Euros 25,000
  • Prizes for the riders Euros 57,000
  • Organisational costs total Euros 120,000 split between accommodation for the organising committee, mounting and demounting the installations at the start and arrival towns.
  • Sundry costs of Euros 120,000 for the announcers, tour radio, public announce system, petrol for the cars, neutral assistance vehicles, marketing and communication etc etc

Of course, none of this would ever take place if it were not for a large and willing band of volunteers, usually from the local cycling clubs who are more than happy to lend a hand, probably in return for a couple of t-shirts. According to the organisers, they’ve managed to break even in each of the last 10 years. I know how much it costs to stage a local cyclosportive so, to my mind, these figures check out. If for any reason the organisers didn’t balance their books, then in all likelihood the principal sponsors would bail them out.

Show me the money

To illustrate how much it costs to run a team, L’Equipe had access to information from France’s only Pro-Tour team, Ag2R La Mondiale whose budget for 2011 was Euros 8.5 million, consistent with it’s ranking of around 14-15th out of the 18 teams.  This sum is provided by its principal sponsor AG2R, Kuoto who provides the bikes plus some financing, a further 12 sponsors who all provide some level of sponsoring and the team makes a further Euros 160,000 at the end of each year from the sale of bikes.

By far the biggest expense, as is the case for most sports’ teams, is salaries and associated costs which accounted for 68% of AG2R’s budget (Euros 5.78 milllion). This percentage is lower at AG2R than at other teams because they don’t have a roster of really big names, their principal riders being Nico Roche, John Gadret, Jean Christophe Peraud and Christophe Riblon. Two-thirds of this (Euros 3.853million) goes to the 27 riders and the remainder is spent on the 23 support staff. The range of gross monthly salaries varies from Euros 3,000 to Euros 35,000 per month making their highest paid rider (before image rights and bonuses) on Euros 420,000 pa. The salary of the 5th highest paid rider (ie it excludes those named above)  is Euros 180,000 pa. One should not forget that being a French team, with largely French riders, carries a heavy price tag in terms of social costs. Hence a lot of multi-national teams are based in countries such as Switzerland and Luxembourg where, unless the riders are based there, they’re generally paid gross and are responsible for making their own contributions.

After salary related costs, the next biggest expense relates to taking part in competitions. Costs here amount to some Euros 1.275 million, (15% of the budget) of which Euros 750,000 cover transport, around Euros 550,000 of which are covered by the race organisers, leaving the team to pick up Euros 200,000. The remainder is spent largely on training camps and food during the races.

General costs of some Euros 850,00 of which Euros 270,000 covers membership of UCI, French Federation, licences, AIGCP, participation in the bio-passport. The rest is spent on consultancy fees for physiotherapists amongst others, costs of running the office, rent. It costs Euros 450,000 to lease and run the vehicles and the remaining 1.7% covers sundry costs such as telephone bills.

Again, having spent some time looking at the costs of running a Continental pro-team, this summation rings very true. So, when you see figures of Euros 20 million being bandied around for the cost of BMC bear in mind that most of the difference between their budget and that of AG2R’s is salary related. Messrs Evans, Gilbert and Hushovd don’t come cheap.

In fact, the article in L’Equipe goes on to focus on salaries in cycling and how they compare to other sports. The average annual salaries of French riders are as follows:-

  • Pro-tour team Euros 122, 512
  • Continental pro team Euros 87,838
  • Continental team  Euros 22,243

Please note this refers only to French riders on French teams, so would exclude Sylvain Chavanel riding for Quickstep or Amael Moinard at BMC. The average salary for a French rider compares favourably with average salaries for rugby and basketball players, and is considerably higher than for those playing handball and volleyball in France. Wisely, the article excludes any comparison with the average salary of a football player in France who, if memory serves me correctly, earns in a week what a cyclist will earn in a month.

Finally, L’Equipe turns its attention to the 30 highest paid riders in the sport in 2011. It groups them in bands rather than giving exact figures and I would say that it’s a not unreasonable assessment. However, I think there may be a couple of errors in their figures and two notable omissions. Unsurprisingly, the man on the highest salary, which is estimated as between Euros 4-5 million pa, is Alberto “November can’t come quick enough” Contador. On around Euros 3 million pa are PhilGil and Cadel Evans. On just under Euros 2 million are Messrs Schleck Jr, Cancellara and Boonen. The first Frenchmen appear in the category “above Euros 500,000 but below Euros 1 million” and they are, unsurprisingly Messrs Chavanel, Voeckler and Fedrigo. However, with a large number of names in this list having had a stellar season and who are moving teams at the end of this season, it’ll be out of date all too soon.

Panic stations

This afternoon I had a call from a damsel in distress, the wife of one of our club members. He’d left the house this morning for the club ride (every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday) and hadn’t come back. It was now 14hr, at least 2 hours later than his normal return time and there was no sign of him. Nor was he answering his mobile phone. Although this particular gentleman has been a member of the club for many years, his wife doesn’t share his passion and they don’t socialise or attend any of the club events, so she’d had no idea who to ring. In desperation, she’d found my number on the club web site.

I tried to calm her nerves and said I’d talk to those who normally ride during the week. I said I was quite sure there was a simple explanation for his late appearance. Actually, I wasn’t sure. This was said more in hope, and for her benefit, than expectation, as we’ve had a number of riders injured this year in contre-temps with cars. I quickly rang ex-M Le President who explained he’d last seen the gentleman in question in  a small group of other riders, some way behind. We both started ringing around the other riders. Most of the ones I spoke to had cut short their ride, but confirmed that they too had seen him. So, good news, he had at least gone on this morning’s ride and hadn’t used it as an excuse to conceal some other activity.

Ex-M le President rang me back. It appears that they’d decided on one of the longer routes for today’s ride although a number of them had foreshortened their rides to get back home for lunch. Among the retirees, who you’d think could afford to be more spontaneous, the world spins off its axis if they’re not at the table for lunch at 12:30. The gentleman in question, having almost reached home decided to stop and have lunch. Lunch, as you know, in France takes 2hrs. By my reckoning, the missing man would be back home just after 14:30.

I rang his wife, whose fears had reached fever pitch when she discovered her hubby had left his phone at home. This, of course, explained why he’d not been answering her calls. I quickly summarised the situation and said he’d be home soon. I then suggested that she ask her hubby for the mobile phone numbers of his regular riding companions and to encourage him to always take his mobile phone with him. Methinks this chap’s going to be in for a bit of an ear bashing when he finaly gets home and some gentle ribbing from his team mates on Sunday’s ride.

Mutton dressed as leopard

You’re possibly wondering what, if anything, did I bring back from Copenhagen? Well, we’ve already covered the Mark Cavendish autograph. My friend Bert always gives me a load of New Zealand memorabilia: pens, coasters, mobile phone holders, key rings, bidons and notepads. These, along with anything else cycling related that I pick up, get put into the club goodie box for members to help themselves. My beloved asked me to get him some Remoulade sauce. I usually buy it in Germany but the Danish version is superior and, IOHO, there’s nothing better with cold roast beef and saute potatoes. I also bought some salty liquorice. Again, you can get this in Holland and Germany but I prefer the Danish as it’s saltier.

I really wasn’t intending to buy anything until I got to the airport which is one ginormous shopping mall and enables Danes to save on the vat. I now understand why you can check in 3 hours ahead of your flight and they provide shopping trolleys for all your shopping bags. I bought some liquorice syrup and powder at one of the specialist food stores along with some chilli flavoured liquorice. Expect me to be experimenting with this flavour for the next couple of months.

In addition, I have a friend who collects ornamental bells, so I bought her one from the Georg Jensen Xmas 2011 collection. I then had 80 Danish Kr left in change which I spent in H&M, not your usual duty-free store, on a leopard print scarf.  I have noted that animal prints were not just a passing phase last winter and again feature strongly. However, I do feel that anything more than accessorizing with these prints leaves one looking rather more “Bet Lynch” than’s advisable. Particularly if teamed with gold hoop earrings, also making a comeback.

I also seem to have brought back a head cold. The tickle in my throat from yesterday afternoon has escalated into a full blown sore throat and head cold. This is very unfortunate as I was looking for a new best time on Sunday on the ascent to Fort de la Revere via Col d’Eze. I missed this event last year because I was in Australia. The year before, I was 2nd in my age group, but last overall. Unless there’s more riders in my group, I suspect the overall result might well be the same, but I was hoping for a significant improvement in the time of my ascent. I’ll stay home today and see if I can shake it off. I’ve plenty to occupy me as it’s a quarter end, but I’d far rather be out on my bike.

Easy does it

Almost a year ago my cycling coach pointed out that if I wanted to ride faster uphill, I should lose weight. He’s ideally placed to dish out such advice since he looks as if he’s got 0% body-fat and I suspect, but haven’t checked, that my arms are fatter than his legs. I haven’t asked his wife but I’m sure he’s one of those naturally slim people and he eats pretty much what he wants without putting on weight.  I’m not necessarily seeking to emulate him, though it would be nice to eat whatever I want without putting on weight; maybe in the next life. I have, on his advice, sought the assistance of a nutritionist, herself an endurance athlete, whose upper arms put me in mind of Madonna.

I started off by keeping a food diary and rather anticipated that I would be congratulated on my food choices. But, no, it was quite the contrary. I was advised that I ate too much dairy produce, too much fruit  and not enough protein. As a consequence, I  have given up eating dairy, have only one piece of fruit per day (usually my mid-afternoon snack) and made a point of eating protein at every meal. Another very important factor is portion control. When I started with the regime, I weighed everything to ensure that I didn’t exceed my daily allowances and still do so from time to time to make sure there’s no portion creep.

So typically, what do I eat? For breakfast I have porridge (made with water, no sugar) or soya yoghurt with 40 g of unsweetened muesli. If I’ve a long ride on the programme, I might also have some bread with either honey or my home-made jam.  Lunch and dinner will both be 100g of protein plus either vegetables and/or salad. From time to time, and depending upon my exercise regime, I may have some other carbohydrates for lunch, such as a small portion of lentils or chick peas. I’m also allowed 1tbsp/day of cold olive oil but often don’t use it, preferring instead to make salad dressings from soya yoghurt, herbs and/or spices. I’m allowed a treat a week which is often a glass of champagne or maybe a coffee eclair. However, everything, and I do mean everything, is noted down in my food diary. I also endeavour to drink plenty of water and green tea along with a couple of mugs of coffee.

Another of my challenges was somewhat easier to deal with. I find that most of the drinks, gels and bars produced for endurance sports contain artificial sweeteners which my digestive system does not enjoy. I had, therefore, already developed a range of of homemade bars which provide me with the energy I need on long rides, which are void of any chemicals and which I can happily continue to use.

To start with, this new way of eating was somewhat boring but I have risen to the challenge and now feel I could produce my own cookery book full of delicious and tempting recipes which satisfy the strictures of my regime. In addition, I have damage limitation strategies for eating out in restaurants or at friends’. The weight has slid off slowly, which is good, as there’s a greater likelihood of it staying off. In addition, as my neighbours keep telling me, my body shape has changed quite dramatically as I have reduced my body fat percentage. But I cannot afford to become complacent, not with the Festive season looming. I am inching slowly towards my goal and I would like to achieve it before the start of next year’s cycling season ie at the beginning of March.

Cards from Copenhagen IV

Yesterday’s American announcer kept waxing lyrical about Copenhagen. I seem to recall he trotted out the same fare in Melbourne. Yes, there were more fans at yesterday’s race but Copenhagen is more easily accessible, particularly for the hordes of Scandinavians who started drinking at the start of the race and were still going strong 12 hours later. I’m guessing there’s some sore heads today. The Copenhagen newspapers patted the City on the back for holding the races in the City. I’m sorry but, while the time trials were in the City, the road races were most definitely in the suburbs. That said, the Danes clearly love their cycling and put on a good show but, IMHO, it lacked the pizzazz of Varese, the ambience of Salzburg and the energy of Geelong. I was also horrified, as I walked from the course yesterday, at the amount of rubbish, largely tins, left behind. Methinks the Danes aren’t quite as green as they’d like you to think.

I went to wait outside the Press Conference to get Cav’s photo and autograph for my friend Olivier who had said that on no account was I to leave Danish soil without it. Having failed to secure it in Melbourne, now was my big chance but frankly I hesitate to disturb riders after a race. After riding, all I want is a shower and something to eat. Why should they be any different?  Thereafter, Ute and I ventured into downtown Copenhagen in search of dinner. We wanted sustenance rather than a gourmet meal and I managed to find a small restaurant which delivered a delicious meal at a reasonable price, no mean feat in pricey Copenhagen.

This morning I rose at the crack of dawn to meet my friend Bert from New Zealand who was heading home via London. Needing two more World Championships to achieve his goal of 75 attended, he’s going to next year’s Track World Championships in Melbourne and the Road Race World Championships in Limburg. Which is kinda neat as his first one in 1948 was also in Holland. So, I’ll get to see him for one last time providing his health remains stable. I gave him a book for his ever growing library which is now on display at New Zealand’s national velodrome.

As I checked out of the hotel I bumped into another couple who were checking out. It was Mark Cavendish and his girlfriend. This really was my BIG chance and I have finally secured his signature on a copy of the official UCI results page which lists Cav’s palmares. I’m going to have this framed along with one of the photos I took. I’m sure Olivier will be delighted. I should add that they’re a delightful couple. He’s modest, almost shy and she’ll ensure he keeps his feet on the ground and help him deal with the inevitable problems of his ever growing fame. Good luck to them both.

I had a late flight back this evening which left me plenty of time to renew my brief acquaintance with Copenhagen. Having already visited most of the City’s major attractions and after taking account of the mild weather, I decided to take a boat trip around the harbour. This gave me a great view of the City as the boat wound its way through the Inner Harbour, along Christianshavn’s canals and around Slotsholmen, the island on which the original town of Havn was established. Two relatively recent buildings stood out: the Opera House and The Black Diamond library which houses Europe’s largest collection of book’s published in Denmark. Copenhagen has some very architecturally interesting modern buildings both domestic and commercial. I also had a quick stroll around some of Copenhagen’s design stores, proudly displaying goods by Arne Jacobsen, Georg Jensen, Kaare Klimt and Vipp. I couldn’t resist nipping into a bookstore and buying a couple of cookery books. Having learnt what little Danish I know in a restaurant, I can understand recipes.

One place I would have liked to visit is Noma. But, as befits a restaurant twice voted “Best in the World”, the waiting list is longer than the number of yesterday’s spectators. I first saw the restaurant’s young chef, Rene Redzepi, on a cookery programme some years back and thought his philosophy was extremely interesting. I loved the creativity and simplicity of his dishes. He lives and breathes the mantra of local and seasonal showcasing both unusual and everyday Nordic ingredients. It’s intelligent food served with passion and frankly you’d expect nothing less of a chef with The French Laundry and El Bulli on his palmares. For now, I’ll have to content myself with his cookery book.

The airport shuttle bus driver, as I was his only passenger, asked me how I’d enjoyed Copenhagen. In truth I said I’d had a lovely time, and I had, but was ready to go home to France. We then discussed some of the other places we’d both visited and he asked me which was my favourite country? You know the answer to that question: it’s France. Yes, it’s nice to travel, even nicer to travel and watch cycling, but it’s great to be back home.

Tuesday postscript: Today, L’Equipe wondered why Cav hadn’t tweeted about his sore head, like Wiggins and Millar, after Sunday GB team night’s celebrations. We know why, but they don’t. And I thought L’Equipe had the inside track on all matters cycling.

Cards from Copenhagen III

Eshewing the race start in downtown Copenhagen, I went directly to the finish at Rudersdal to claim my spot on the 50m to go marker. The Danes were expecting crowds of 400,000 tall Scandinavians. I needed to be in the front row, against the barriers. I could watch the start on the nearby screen. The Championship’s website claims that the nearest train station is 10 minutes from the finish line. That would be 10 minutes as driven by Sebastian Vettell. On foot, it’s a good 20 minutes and we’ve already established I’m a quick walker. Today I took my own supplies as the choice on offer is somewhat spartan: Carlsberg or Carlsberg. Although I did buy some coffee the other day from some enterprising youngsters, pretty much the cheapest and best coffee I’ve found in pricy Copenhagen.

I arrived in Rudersdal to discover that the locals had laid out their towels the night before and my spot on the 50m marker had been colonised by some very large Danes who, at 09:30 in the morning, were already swigging Calsberg. I am however, if nothing adroit, and by the second circumnavigation of the circuit by the peloton I had claimed my rightful place. The race had been pretty lively from the start and a breakaway of 7 riders had gone clear which included Anthony “it isn’t a break if I’m not in it” Roux and three riders from Team Astana, albeit all different nationalities. The race unfolded much as expected, with the British , whom the American announcer kept calling “the English” –   I bet David Millar and Geraint Thomas loved that – controlling the peloton with assistance from firstly the Germans, and secondly the Americans.

PhilGil sent his lieutenants up the road to form a second break away group which, with 5 laps to go, joined up with the first. But the British remained tranquillo. Not so the back of the peloton, where Team New Zealand, Tony Martin and defending champ Thor Hushovd, among others, were caught up in a crash and never regained the main peloton. Meanwhile, riders were pinging off the front of the bunch, particularly the Danes, to the delight of the local crowd, only to be recaptured by the GB steam roller. Two of the escapees were, as anticipated, French favourite Tommy  Voeckler and Johnny “Scarred Legs” Hoogerland, making their trademark attacks.  But nothing and no one stood in the way of the GB train. A train PhilGil had missed.

The final escapees were brought back on the last lap, where the Brits fought for control with a number of other teams trying to set up their sprint trains, until finally mayhem ensued. Cavendish, shorn of support, picked his way through the pack on the right-hand barrier to burst free of the bunch with 150m (where else) to go, beating team mate Matt Goss by half a wheel. Ex- team mate Andre Greipel was a bike length back in 3rd ,separated from Fabulous Fabian by just a fag paper. The British had won their second gold medal in this event: the first going to the late Tommy Simpson in 1965. Bradley Wiggins was right when he said Cavendish would be unlikely to have a better chance to win gold. The course was made for his style of riding. Even so the Brits had apparently been planning this for the past 3 years. See, proves my point, planning and preparation deliver results every time.

Top 15 Results
1.   Mark Cavendish (Great Britain) Time 5:40:27
2.   Matthew Harley Goss (Australia)
3.   André Greipel (Germany)
4.   Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland)
5.   Jurgen Roelandts (Belgium)
6.   Romain Feillu (France)
7.   Borut Bozic (Slovenia)
8.   Edvald Boasson Hagen (Norway)
9.   Oscar Freire Gomez (Spain)
10. Tyler Farrar (USA)
11.  Denis Galimzyanov (Russia)
12. Peter Sagan (Slovakia)
13. Anthony Ravard (France)
14. Daniele Bennati (Italy)
15. Rui Costa (Portugal)

Here’s the medal table which clearly shows Sheree 6 – 5 Ute.

Medal table by country

Country Gold Silver Bronze Total
Great Britain 2 2 2 6
Australia 2 1 2 5
France 2 1 0 3
Germany 2 0 3 5
Denmark 1 1 1 3
Italy 1 0 0 1
New Zealand 0 2 0 2
Belgium 0 2 0 2
Netherlands 0 1 1 2
Switzerland 0 0 1 1

Cards from Copenhagen II

For the last two years I’ve been able to ride the World Championship circuit. Not this year, this year I walked it during this morning’s Junior Boys race. It’s only 13.5kms and I’m a very brisk walker. It’s not quite as good as cycling it, but it did give me a better perspective of the course, the profile of which is shown below. The important scale here is the vertical one. Hardly any real elevation at all. It’s undulating, but the inclines are really neither long nor steep enough to trouble anyone in the professional peloton. There’s all too few places to launch a successful attack. It’s not technical, despite a number of the younger riders coming to grief on some of the corners. There’s a lot of road furniture but it’s very visible, well padded and the riders will all know where it is from their reconnaissance rides. In yesterday’s U23 race, the feed-zone proved pivotal in launching some of the breakaways but this was made easier by the less than aggressive pace set by the bunch.

This morning’s race demonstrated that it is possible to win from a breakaway but it was won by the team with the greatest number of riders who had been omnipresent throughout the race. The racing was aggressive from the start and dominated by a flurry of attacks with the successful break getting free only in the final laps of the race and managing to maintain it’s slender margin despite the advancing peloton. The winner, 18-year old Pierre Henri Lecuisinier, who raced clear in the final 150m, completed the 126km race at an average speed of 44km/hr and finished ahead of two of his breakaway companions, Belgium’s Martijn Degreve and Holland’s Steven Lammertink. France’s Florian Senechal, winner of this year’s junior Paris-Roubaix, finished 4th and 5th was Germany’s Rick Zabel, son of the great Erik Zabel who was supporting enthusiastically, along with Frau Zabel, from the sidelines.

The sunny but chilly weather persisted for the 140km ladies Elite race where I resumed my place on the 50m line. Again, the winner came from the largest team. Clearly, size matters. ln women’s races there tends to be far fewer escapees instead it’s just pretty hectic racing. Like the race this morning, there was a bit of a pile up on the final lap ,where the peloton took back lone escapee Canada’s Clara Hughes (or Huge as she was called by the Danish commentator) on the run in to the line. The Dutch took charge, hoping to lead out Marianne Vos. But Italy’s Georgia Bronzini, the defending champion, powered her way past Vos in the final (yes, you’ve guessed it) 150m to win by a tyre width. It’s Groundhog Day. Cue lots of squealing Italians and glum faces for the Dutch as Vos recorded her 5th consecutive silver medal, after gold in 2006.  Germany’s Ina Teutenberg was 3rd. Today’s score, all square Ute 1 – 1 Sheree.

This led us to contemplate tomorrow’s race. Would Thor repeat his feat of last year or would his younger compatriot Edvald Boassen Hagen prevail? PhilGil has tried to play down his chances on this course, but can his team, and the other teams without sprinters, make it a hard enough race to dispose of the out and out sprinters? Not forgetting that PhilGil has a number of sprinters on his team.  Of course, there are plenty of teams whose sprinters could be in contention tomorrow, most notably:-

  • Spain’s Oscar Freire and Jose Joaquin Rojas
  • Italy’s Daniele Bennati, Daniel Oss and Sacha Modolo
  • Australia’s Matt Goss and Heinrich Haussler
  • Germany’s trio of John Degenkolb, Marcel Kittel and Andre Greipel
  • USA’s Tyler Farrar
  • France’s Romain Feillu and the diminutive Samuel Dumoulin
  • Columbia’s Leonardo Duque
  • Slovenia’s Grega Bole
  • Russia’s Denis Galimzyanov
  • Slovakia’s powerhouse, Peter Sagan

However, in a bunch sprint finish, it’s hard to look beyond Mark Cavandish who has a dream support crew. If, against the odds, it’s not a sprint finish then Phil Gil might find himself being challenged by Fabulous Fabian who has to be smarting after Wednesday’s loss. Yes, I know he won a bronze but, get real, it’s gold that counts!

Cards from Copenhagen I

As a cycling fan I’m fortunate to often venture where I’ve never been before or, as in the case of Copenhagen, renew my acquaintance with places I haven’t visited in a while. Though the trip didn’t get off to a propitious start. I took the low cost flight option, which doesn’t have on-line check in facilities, so that you do really need to get to the airport 2-hours ahead of departure. A coach load of octogenarian Danes had however beaten me to it and I was sandwiched between them and a coach load of spotty adolescents. I then circumnavigated the long queue through security with my [free] airport premier card and fled to the sanctuary of the lounge where I browsed through the day’s Press and enjoyed a few non-alcoholic beverages.

Once on board, it was soon evident that there was a problem. The staff wandered up and down the plane counting and re-counting heads. Eventually they came clean. They had issued 144 boarding passes but there were only 143 people on the plane. It took a further 20 minutes to identify our phantom passenger who had been erroneously checked in by the travel company but who, fortunately, had no luggage. We breathed a collective sigh of relief: too soon. Ground staff were unable to decouple the plane from the loading bridge. The captain made a few off the cuff jokes about using explosives to blow the bridge off. His humour was not appreciated by his largely elderly passengers who were queuing 20 deep for the toilet.

Finally, we were underway. I fell asleep, as I do on most flights, only to be woken on a regular basis as my travelling companions needed yet another comfort break. We arrived and there followed a 2km hike to retrieve our baggage. I’m sure airports do this to reduce waiting times for luggage. Our luggage soon arrived. Or should I say, everyone’s luggage soon arrived, apart from mine. Just as I was thinking that this was the cherry on the icing, my Tumi hove into view. I grabbed my bag and legged it but was too late for the complimentary shuttle to my hotel. I reluctantly got a taxi. On arrival at the hotel I was advised that I was being upgraded to an executive room – good news. Ten minutes later, my head hit the pillow and I was in the land of nod.

This morning I easily made my way on public transport to Rudersdaal for today’s races. It was cold, largely overcast, at times windy, sometimes sunny but ultimately dry. I easily found a good spot on the barriers, near the 50m to go marker, in sight of the large screen, not too far from facilities and refreshments and directly opposite the great and the good in the UCI’s hospitality facilities which had colonised the entire other side of the road.

The girls, who had to ride just five-times round the 13.5km circuit, started nervously, with crashes marring the first three. Once the peloton settled, Germany’s Mieke Kroger and Italy’s Rossella Ratto escaped and built up a reasonable lead before being reeled in with only 600m to go. The winner, having kept her powder dry, launched her attack with just 150m remaining and easily showed the pack a clean pair of cleats. Britain’s 17-year old Lucy Garner had won Britain’s first gold of these championships. Belgium’s Jessy Druyts and home-girl Christine Siggaard completed the podium. Not an Aussie in sight, they’d been felled in the falls.

The Men’s U23 race sometimes, but not always throws up surprises. Freed from her duties in the Press Centre, I was joined by my friend Ute who was hoping for further medals for Germany. The race was relatively relaxed until the final couple of rounds with numerous breakaways, all of whom were absorbed before the final round. It was largely those teams without a recognized sprinter who animated the race, such as the Italians and Danes, and it was heartening to see riders from Eritrea holding their own. To become a truly global sport, cycling needs to embrace competitors from every continent.

Finally, the much fancied Aussies took control of the race with their gold medal TT winner, Luke Durbridge driving the peloton. But there was a sense that the Aussies had done too much, too soon. Their train fell apart as Durbridge swung off. GB’s Luke Rowe led out Andy Fenn for the sprint but, as he faded, he was overtaken by the French duo of Arnaud Demare and Adrien Petit who impeccably timed their sprints to take gold and silver respectively. Fenn, who took bronze, can take heart, last year in Geelong, 20 year-old Demare committed a similar error and faded to finish 5th, but not this year. He will turn professional next year with FDJ. Just reward for his impressive results (below) this year.

I first saw Demare race in Mendrisio which was won by fellow Frenchman, Romain Sicard who now rides for Euskaltel-Euskadi and whose most recent season has been blighted by injury. The French team bossed the race and one was left with the impression that any one of the team could have won. They worked similarly last year but lit the blue touch paper too early.

From my perspective today was extremely satisfying given that I support both GB and France. What else can I say, Sheree 4 – 0 Ute.

2011 Palmares Arnaud Demare  

  • 1st Boucles Catalanes
  • 1st Vienne Classic Espoirs
  • 4th on 4th and 5th stages of Tour of Normandy
  • 1st in La Cote Picardie, U23
  • 4th ZLM Tour
  • 2nd on 4th stage of Tour of Brittany
  • 4th in Paris-Roubaix Espoirs
  • 1st in 1st and 4th stages of Coupe de Nations, U23
  • 2nd on 3rd and 4th stages of Tour de L’Oise
  • 1st in GP de Pont a Marq
  • 2nd in GP Cristal Energy
  • 1st on 3rd stage and 4th on 4th of Tour Alsace
  • 3rd on 1st and 7th on 2nd stage of Tour du Poitou-Charentes et de la Vienne
  • 19th in GP Fourmies
  • 1st on 3rd stage of Tour de Moselle

Postscript: This is my 500th post!

The King is dead, long live the King

This afternoon HTC’s Tony Martin capped a stellar season by winning the rainbow jersey in the individual time-trial event. Twice runner-up to 4-time winner Fabian Cancellara, Tony was gunning for Spartacus’s crown and, indeed, was many people’s favourite to de-throne him. This was based largely on the success he’s enjoyed this year in a number of stage races. As well as winning the overall in Paris-Nice and Volto ao Algave, he’s won the time trails in those two races as well as those in the Tour de France, Vuelta a Espana, Vuelta a Pais Vasco and the Criterium du Dauphine.

I prefer to watch time-trials live as you get to see each individual rider. Of course, in stage races, with the exception of those gunning for GC or a win, most riders endeavour to get around the course in the permitted time. At the World Championships, whatever your ability, you get an opportunity to record a time. This isn’t the case in the road race as those who are lapped are obliged to drop out. In addition, those taking part in the time-trial are generally specialists and often their countries champion in the discipline. Even so, there were some interesting gear choices today. The two tail-end Charlies from Albania were pushing huge gears in what looked like slow motion. On the other hand, former champ Bert “too big to” Grabsch was pedalling a ginormous gear with admirable speed and fluidity.

Luckily, the weather co-operated and, despite a few scattered raindrops, all 65 riders negotiated the 46.4km, 2-lap race in dry conditions. Astana and Kazakh’s Alexandr Dyachenko, fresh from his bottle carrying duties in the Vuelta, was in the hot seat for some considerable time until the more fancied raiders knocked him off his perch. He finished a very creditable 9th overall. A number of the younger riders such as Taylor Phinney (15th), Jonathan Castelviejo (11th), Jesse Sergent (18th) and Jack Bobridge (5th) turned in fine performances. The future of the sport is assured.

Germany’s Tony Martin radiated confidence and purpose as he steam rollered down the ramp and very quickly overtook Scotland’s David Millar. He was smoking and recording the fastest times at all of the checkpoints. To be fair Fabulous Fabian didn’t just roll over. He gave it everything, and probably lost the silver medal when he overcooked a right hand turn coming off the cobbles on the second lap. Britain’s Bradley Wiggins,  another man in fine post-Vuelta form, pedaled with grace and suppleness to take the silver medal some 65 seconds behind Martin. The 26 year-old German recorded an average speed of 51.8km/hr. I cannot begin to explain how difficult it is to maintain this speed on a flat course. I feel inordinately pleased with myself if I can keep close to 40km/hr,  for more than 5km, aided by a strong tailwind.

Fellow Germans, and HTC team mates, have won gold in both elite TT disciplines. My friend Ute, who’s working as a volunteer on the UCI Welcome Desk, will be delighted with the German dominance and will, no doubt, have already secured their respective autographs. So, there were 2 Brits in the top 10, 2 Germans and 2 Australians. The locals had Jakob Fuglsang, who finished 10th, to support. Tomorrow’s a rest day, enabling the teams to check out the road race course which heads out from the town centre to this circuit around Rudersdal.

The future’s bright, the future’s green-edged

We had a marathon meeting down at the club yesterday which enabled us to make our positions clear, particularly with respect to the coming (and our last) season. Interestingly, it soon became apparent that the Old Guard hope to persuade me to stand for President at the end of the present incumbent’s current term. They can think again. I’m more than happy to remain involved with the Kivilev and to continue the supply of baked goodies, but that’s as far as it goes. Everyone’s agreed to retain the cyclsportif and brevet for the coming year but we’re going to amend the 175km parcours making it around 20kms shorter.

All this meant I was unable to watch the individual time-trials on the television and had, instead, to settle for the edited highlights. For me one of the charms of the World Championships is the ability to watch great races every day and, in  particular, see those who you can’t generally watch on the the television, such as the ladies and U23 races. This year, they’ve added the juniors into the mix. The Australians have made a very strong start to the Championships with 18 year-old Jessica Allen winning the 13.9km time-trial in 19:18, ahead of Britain’s Elinor Barker and Germany’s Mieke Kroge.  Jessica thought her mastery of the technical sections of the course just gave her the edge.

The men’s U23 individual time-trial was won by Australia’s 20 year-old Luke Durbridge, a member of their gold winning track team, who hails from the same town as Jessica. He finished 2nd last year to Taylor Phinney, but was in a class of his own this year, blitzing the two-lap, 32.5km course in 42:47. He was the only rider to break 43 minutes and was fastest at all of the splits. Rasmus Quaade gave the home crowd something to cheer about as he finished second while in third place was another Australian, Micheal Hepburn, who might have fared better if he hadn’t fallen. Another Australian finished in ninth place. Watch out for these boys in the forthcoming road race.

Under grey skies and in windy conditions, baby faced, 17 year-old, home boy Mads Wurtz Schmidt lifted the spirits of the considerable crowd to win the junior world title on the 27.8km course in 35:07:06. Looking as if he’d maybe started too quickly, Mads maintained momentum to record the fastest split times. His more fancied team mate finished sixth. Not to be outdone, the podium was completed by Kiwi, James Oram, and Aussi, David Edwards.

The skies were still overcast when the ladies elite individual time-trial got underway this afternoon. First off the ramp was  Kathryn Bertine who rides for St Kitts & Nevis. I met her in Stuttgart 2007, she’s a former US triathlete who changed allegiances and now runs the islands’ cycling development programme. The weather deteriorated as the event progressed making the conditions treacherous for the more fancied riders. Germany’s Judith Arndt turned in a masterful and powerful performance to win her first gold medal in this event. Always a bridesmaid, never a bride – not anymore. In second place was Dane turned Kiwi Linda Villumsen and, in  third, the defending champion Britain’s Emma Pooley who did well on a course unsuited to her attributes. The future is indeed green-edged, with maybe flashes of red.

For tomorrow’s elite men’s race, it’s hard to look beyond either Fabulous Fabian Cancellara or Tenacious Tony Martin. The latter has had a more impressive season than the former whom, I feel, you write off at your peril on a course which favours the stronger rider. Bring it on.