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
Postscript: This is my 500th post!