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.

Memories of Melbourne II

I know, I know, my second day in Sydney and I’m still reminiscing about Melbourne, or more specifically, Geelong. In Melbourne airport I met some of the Lithuanian squad on their way back to Marseille. Obviously, they had more modest ambitions than some teams but overall were pleased with their performances. So few have either the ability or opportunity to win that they have to set themselves more realistic goals.

The Moroccan squad were no doubt delighted that their rider Mohammed Said was part of the original breakaway group and featured strongly in the television coverage. Likewise, Esad Hasanovic from Serbia, the rider stranded in no man’s land for a large part of Sunday’s race, was probably being cheered on by lots of Serbs around the world. Yukiya Arashiro was the first Japanese to ever finish in the top ten in the Men’s Race. The Japanese team were staying in our Geelong base camp and they were delighted with that result. I know road racing is becoming more popular in a country that already has a significant cycling culture, albeit in Keirin racing.

My beloved, who flew back to Milan via Doha, was on the same flight as Philippe Gilbert and the Evans’. He talked to both of them and said they were pleased with their respective performances. They tried their best and that’s all anyone can expect.  The Belgians came away empty handed, not so the Australians, who collected three medals: one of each.

The Germans topped the medal table. A country that’s fallen out of love with cycling and which, at the end of this season, will no longer have a Pro-Tour team. But that didn’t stop them picking up four medals: three silvers and a bronze.  Great Britain’s hardware was picked up in the time-trials. Silver for David Millar and gold for Emma Pooley who was also a formidable presence in the Road Race. Who knows what Alex Dowsett might have achieved if he’d had a mechanic as deft as Tony Martin’s. Next up USA, whose Taylor Phinney won both a gold and a bronze medal.

Scandinavia garnered a full-house with Hushovd, Breschel and Johansson. Italy and Switzerland each collected one gold. Vos won her 4th consecutive silver, after gold in Salzburg, and looked on the verge of tears, she’s not a lady who likes to lose. Canada and New Zealand each picked up a bronze, or should that be half a bronze in the case of Canada?

Spain’s performance was disappointing. Their highest placed rider in all the races was Freire, who finished 6th in the road race. However, I do know that the team was much affected by all the doping news, particular that relating to Alberto, who is close to both Luis  Leon and Samu Sanchez, fanned by McQuaid’s pointed comments about Spain. I seem to recall they rather faded into the background when Valverde faced similar approbation in Stuttgart in 2007.    

I didn’t get a chance to ask JaJa if he was pleased with the performance of the French, Jeannie aside, but the 5th place of Arnaud Demare in the U23 road race and they way they animated the Men’s Race, not forgetting Romain Feillu’s 10th place, must have shown the team’s heading in the right direction.  

McQuaid has declared the Championships a success and said over 156,000 watched from the roadside on Sunday. How to they know? Does someone go round and count them? Or is there some agreed formula which takes account of the length of the course and the depth of the crowds?

Postcards from Melbourne III

It’s still far colder than I anticipated for this time of year and I’m regretting not bringing my down vest but the forecast is for warmer weather at the week end. As well as checking out the course in Geelong, we’ve been exploring the Melbourne shoreline on our rental bikes.  The scenery has been quite spectacular and, as we’ve ridden further south, the properties have grown in size and there are some splendid examples of both colonial and modern architecture. The former are generally clapboard with wrap around verandas decorated with filigree ironwork while the latter are seemingly built largely from glass affording the owners panoramic views of the sea.

When questioned as to the difference between Sydney and Melbourne, the natives have advised that Sydney was founded by convicts while Melbourne was founded by immigrants from mainly Scotland and Italy. Do I sense some rivalry?

We again set off for Geelong at a reasonable hour to watch the U23 individual time-trial where Taylor Phinney was odds on favourite to win. He does have an impeccable pedigree and the results this year, most recently in the Tour de l’Avenir, to back up those claims. However, he faced stiff completion from the locals, last year’s silver medalist and GB’s Alex Dowsett.

We easily positioned ourselves near the start/ finish line with a clear view of the big screen, close to refreshments and cover from the promised rain squalls. This is my 5th Worlds and easily the best so far from an organizational perspective. Everything has been done for the viewing public. Instead of the usual banks of seating, there’s one small one for the press after and a small one before the finish line for local dignitaries. The UCI and sponsors’ lounges are at the foot of the final climb.

Many local shopkeepers have a cycling-related focus in their windows while the bars, cafes and restaurants are competing hard for business with lots of themed events.  There are screens all over the course, particularly in key areas such as the climbs and in the family-friendly parks.  They’ve even established hubs for the supporters of the major foreign teams all handily located near purveyors of alcoholic beverages. No stone has been left unturned. There’s even screens in the centre of Melbourne for those that can’t make the journey to Geelong. But then Australians really love their sport, don’t they?

Sadly, the cycling is being overshadowed by this Saturday’s replay of the AFL finals. You only have to look at the local press or watch the TV to have this amply confirmed. Residents of Geelong were asked if they’d be watching the cycling, most seemed to be annoyed at the inconvenience of road closures while others were aghast at having seen professional riders jump red lights. The inclement weather and that apathy accounted for the poor showing at today’s races. You could literally count the numbers of spectators, many of whom had arrived by bike.

The first rider off, Frayre Moctezuma Eder from Mexico, was visibly shivering in the chill wind and took some time to attain rhythm and speed.  No sooner had he set off than the heavens opened, making the course treacherous for those in Groups 1 and 2. Subsequently, the sun and gentle breeze combined to quickly dry out the course for those in the subsequent two groups. The few fans gathered mostly in the finishing straight did their best to loudly cheer and encourage the future of the sport. This was great to see and heart-warming for the riders as generally the U23’s and women’s events unfairly attract less coverage and support. This is a race with a great pedigree. Just look at a few of the winners of recent years;  Lars Boom,  Jose Ivan Guttierez and Thor Hushovd.

To win a rainbow jersey, you need luck. This was Phinney’s fifth. He was lucky that Luke Durbridge endured wet roads, while he didn’t. Alex Dowsett was unlucky to have a problem with his tyre which ended his potential challenge.  Phinney won by 1.90secs ahead of 19-year old Durbridge, while German Marcel Kittel was a further 20 secs back in 3rd. The future of cycling looks rosy.

Next up, the ladies. Pre-race favourite, German, Judith Arndt finished 2nd, some 15secs behind the diminutive, feisty Emma Pooley from GREAT BRITAIN. Linda Villumse was 3rd on her maiden outing for NZ. The evergreen Jeannie Longo was 5th.   A great day’s racing; I can’t wait for the men’s TT tomorrow.

Heartsick

I awoke Friday morning to the sound of falling rain. Never mind, a quick go on the home trainer and I was off to the airport to collect my beloved. By the time he arrived, the roads were already starting to dry out in the warm sunshine. However he elected to go for a swim, rather than a ride, Friday evening.

Saturday morning we were up and out early for a ride in the hills but I was feeling unaccountably sluggish and was riding about 2km/hr slower than normal. Not wishing to hold my beloved back further, I allowed him to continue without me while I pottered along at a positively pedestrian speed.

After sorting out everything for my husband’s week long trip to the US, and clarifying arrangements for the next few weeks, we decided to brave the hordes along the sea front. Once a month, the sea front is closed to traffic to enable everyone to enjoy the space be it on foot, bike, scooter or skates. This is always hugely popular. 

This evening there were three DJs, equidistant from one another along the promenade, playing three totally different styles of music. This is one of many free events in the Alpes Maritimes during the summer months.  Aside from a number of small stalls selling food, all the restaurants and bars were doing a roaring trade. In addition, a number of families were enjoying picnics on the seashore.

After a fish dinner, we had a leisurely stroll and returned home for an early night. Today’s pointage is one of my favourites but my beloved had to be at the airport by midday. Given that  he’s been abandoned to taxis a few times recently, I decided to have a shorter ride with him this morning and then take him to the airport. I still wasn’t riding well. It’s unusual for me to have two consecutive off days.

3 toque pointage!

Having dropped him off the airport, I returned home to enjoy the Sunday newspapers and watch GP Ouest France – Plouay: a 13 lap circuit race held in Brittany, not far from Lorient. With the ladies race, a cyclosportif and the men’s race all being held on the same circuit over the week end in cycling mad Brittany, the crowds (and camper vans) were out in force. Emma Pooley won the ladies race while Matt Goss made it two in a row for the Aussies.

While this race was taking place, my beloved boys in claret & blue were playing the Toon army at St James’s Park, one of the most intimidating football stadia. However, I was not in any way anticipating the score line: they lost 6-0. I haven’t yet summoned up the energy to find out why.

Meanwhile Nice, at home yesterday to Nancy, conceded a goal in the last five minutes of the match to record yet another draw. Loic Remy has been signed by OM, rather than a premiership side. However, not all has gone well. His medical revealed cardiac irregularities. A fuller report is anticipated on Monday. I do hope for his sake that it is nothing serious.

Brits on top

Britons win atop Mur de Huy! Yes, that’s right, two British girls finished on the podium at the Fleche Wallonne feminine: Emma Pooley (Cervelo) was first and Nicole Cooke (GB) was second. Sadly, neither will probably get as much column space as, say Bradley Wiggins who was well down the order in the men’s race.

I got back from this morning’s training ride just in time to watch La Fleche Wallonne. The legs were feeling much better than yesterday though they didn’t take too kindly to the interval sprint training. However, I was somewhat mollified by watching the professional peloton ride up the Mur de Huy. Sometimes, it’s good to watch the pros suffer on an incline. It’s a timely reminder that cycling’s a really tough sport – whoever you are. I think it was Greg Lemond who said “it doesn’t get any easier, you just get faster”.

It was a finely judged win by Cadel Evans. Gracing the rainbow jersey, he overtook Alberto Contador, who had probably accelerated too soon past Igor Anton, just before the line and dragged Joachim Rodriguez to 2nd place. I think Alberto can be pleased with his 3rd place and this portends well for Sunday’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege. It is to be hoped that the strike at L’Equipe will soon be over as not only am I getting serious withdrawal symptoms but I’m also badly missing its incisive run down on the Ardennes Classics.

Meanwhile, over in the Giro del Trentino, Riccardo Ricco beat off Vino and Basso to claim the 2nd stage. Vino’s still leading on GC after yesterday’s impressive performance in the TT. Evans and Vino are gunning for victory in next month’s Giro and both are coming nicely into form.