Postcard from Il Lombardia

Last week-end was my beloved’s and my maiden Il Lombardia. We’ve visited and cycled in the area many times but never watched the race live. This year’s edition kicked off in Bergamo, a delightfully historic town with some truly memorable architecture, great shops and restaurants – just perfect for a week-end’s break.

A wet start to 109th Il Lombardia
A wet start to 109th “Il Lombardia”

 

One of the many churches
One of the many churches

 

Crowds forming to greet the riders despite the wet weather
Crowds forming to greet the riders despite the damp weather

 

View of the Upper Old Town of Bergamo
View of the Upper Old Town of Bergamo

 

Best view in the town
Best view in town

 

It's going to be a long, hard and probably wet day in the saddle
It’s going to be a long, hard and probably wet day in the saddle

Here’s the “Three Amigos” and my dedicated team of cake and cookie testers. It’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it. It was nice of them to offer. Ian has recently renewed for two years with Sky thereby continuing his love affair with Nice which he now calls “home”.

Ian Boswell signing on for his last race of the season
Ian Boswell signing on for his last race of the season

Larry meanwhile has signed on for another year with IAM – still the best kit in the peloton.

Larry Warbasse of IAM Cycling
Larry Warbasse of IAM Cycling

Joe aka the King of Utah has another year with Cannondale.

Joe Dombrowski leading the way for the Cannondale boys
Joe Dombrowski leading the way for the Cannondale boys

I had hoped that twice runner-up Samu Sanchez might be third time lucky this year but he was clearly riding in support of PhilGil.

#SamuSighting
#SamuSighting

The bookies’ favourite, thanks to his win earlier win in Tre Valli Varesine, Vincenzo Nibali looked focused and set to redeem what was by his standards a miserable 2015 season.

His Nibs
His Nibs

Former Cote d’Azur resident, Max Monfort looked deadly serious before the start. Intent on his role supporting Tony Gallopin or dreading the torrential downpour?

Race face for Max Monfort
Race face for Max Monfort

A magical part of the world though (sadly) no sighting today of local resident George Clooney. He’s obviously not a cycling fan.

And we have sunshine in Como
And we have sunshine in Como

 

And boats bobbing in the lake
And boats bobbing in the lake

The race takes a first pass through Como en route to the final climb of the day. Messrs Kwiatkowski and Wellens leading here, were overhauled by eventual race winner Vincenzo Nibali.

Kwiatkowski and Wellens lead first pass through Como
Kwiatkowski and Wellens lead first pass through Como

 

Rosa leading the chase for Nibali
Rosa leading the chase for Nibali

It’s game over for these boys quite a few of whom didn’t bother with the final assault and headed directly for their team buses.

The rest, led by Peter Kennaugh
The rest, led by Peter Kennaugh

Tom Jelte Slagter catching his breath just past the finish line.

Slagter at the finish line
Slagter at the finish line

I know what you’re thinking. Where’s the photos of the winner crossing the finish line and the podium? You may well ask. Sadly my photographer was not well placed on the barricades and we were far too far from the podium to take any photos of the presentation of the prizes.

We’d seen (on the television) a great race, enjoyed the atmosphere and finally the sunshine before we drove back home. Of course, that’s the reality of watching live racing. You see the riders sign-on, set off, sometimes catch them en route and watch the rest of the race (and the podium) ceremony on the big screen.

Postcard from Richmond, VA

My beloved’s halo has slipped. Having downloaded the instructions on how to get to Richmond from Long Island, he decided to ignore them and go off-piste. I can’t tell you how often he does this but usually GPS gets us back on track – not this time, no GPS.

We were staying in a hotel just outside of Richmond, far enough away from the madding crowd. This was my tenth consecutive World Championships and expectations were high after one of the organising committee told me it was to  modelled on my first, and still my favourite championships, which were held in Salzburg, Austria.

We drove in early Sunday morning for our preliminary reconnaissance of the course, when Richmond more closely resembled a ghost town, which allowed us to marvel at the splendour of their civic buildings before the crowds came out and, more importantly, decide where we wanted to stand and watch the racing.

2015-09-20 WCHogwarts
Hogwarts?
Typical colonial building
Typical colonial building next to statue of George Washington

We based ourselves in The Marriott Hotel on the finish line: television, great WiFi, restrooms and refreshments readily available and right opposite the convention centre for the podium ceremony and press conference.

The racing kicked off with the trade team time-trials with BMC successfully defending their crown, as did Velocio-SRAM in the women’s. It was somewhat poignant victory as four-time winners Velocio are disbanding at the end of the season.

Rohan Dennis: BMC defended their World Championship crown
Rohan Dennis: Proud of his second gold medal
It’s Monday, the sun has gone, the crowds have thinned, volunteers outnumber the crowd, my beloved has departed for a two-day business trip to Baltimore and I’m flying solo, sans camera. Happily, he was back for Wednesday’s elite men’s time-trial where Belorussian Vasil Kiryienka prevailed –  to the surprise of many.
Gold medal winning performance
Gold medal winning performance
Thursday there was no racing which gave us ample opportunity to explore Richmond. We spent a delightful morning at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, built around a number of very generous donated local collections, and explored the historic area of Carytown which has the finest examples of Victorian housing in the US. We ventured along W. Cary St littered with property porn which wouldn’t have looked out of place in the Surrey commuter belt.
Richmond Historical Society
Richmond Historical Society
 I was amused to see they had a “Downton” Exhibition. They do know it’s only a television programme, don’t they?
VMFA
VMFA

A month away from Halloween and many houses had pots of matching chrysanthemums and gi-normous pumpkins on their porches.

Bountiful harvest
Bountiful harvest

While we were sightseeing the teams were out training in glorious sunshine on the road race course.

Kazak team out training
Kazak team out training

The biggest group of fans, apart from those supporting the US, were the Eritreans. Over 400 – or was it 4,000? – had come in hired coaches from all over the US. They were enthusiastic and very noisy supporters – just what the riders ordered.

Teams training
Teams training including the Eritreans

Back to the racing and on Friday, USA’s Chloe Dygert and Emma White, who had won gold and silver in the time-trial respectively, got in the day’s break with Dygert going solo to take her second gold. She had such a large time gap over the chasing group that she cruised over the line. I could easily have kept pace with her. White collected her second silver.

Double gold medal winner USA's Chloe Dygart
Double gold medal winner USA’s Chloe Dygart

Changes to the men’s U23 meant that riders in ProContinental teams were now eligible to take part and the French, who have a great record in this competition, were much fancied. France’s Kevin Ledanois and Anthony Turgis didn’t disappoint going one-two on the day.

France's Kevin Ledanois: the winner!
France’s Kevin Ledanois: the winner!
Austria springs a surprise in the junior men's race.
Austria’s Felix Gall springs a surprise in the junior men’s race.

The elite women’s race was very aggressive with riders constantly pinging off the front and being brought to heel. Britain’s Lizzie Armitstead capped a glittering season with a gold medal – next stop Rio and Olympic gold.

Offensive riding by the women along the leafy and historic Boulevard
Offensive riding by the women along the leafy and historic Boulevard

Finally, the blue riband event which had supporters out in force, particularly on Libby Hill which resembled a mini Alp d’Huez. In my book, there was only one favourite and he prevailed – a very popular winner.

2015-09-27 WCmensRRbreak
The early break
The Dutch giving chase
The Dutch giving chase
The Germans preparing to lend the Dutch a hand
The Germans preparing to lend the Dutch a hand

Former world champion Tom Boonen looked lively throughout the race even getting into one of the breaks. He’s keeping a close eye on Alejandro Valverde who, despite five trips to the podium, has yet to stand on the top step. Would that change today?

2015-09-27 WCmensRRtom
Tom Boonen looking lean and mean

Slovakia’s Peter Sagan followed an attack by Greg Van Avermaet and just kept on going from 2.7km out. Some daredevil descending and superb cornering allowed him to build a three second cushion which was enough to see him solo over the line.

A very popular victor
A very popular victor

This man captured all the action which will be in a book edited by me and published in time for Christmas. Be sure to add it to your letter to Santa.

Official Richmond 2015 artist Greig Leach.
Official Richmond 2015 artist Greig Leach.