Memories from World Championships past: Part II

Here’s the second part of my meander down memory lane with my friend Ute covering UCI Road Race World Championships from 2011 to 2015.

Copenhagen 2011

While Ute didn’t travel to Melbourne she once again volunteered in Copenhagen. I had facilitated her application as the section of the website calling for volunteers had only been available in Danish. She still thinks I speak Danish, I’ve not disabused her! Again she worked for a few days in the Press Centre leaving her to enjoy watching some of the racing with me.

Manx Missile in rainbow jersey

Neither of us is tall so we needed to be on the barricades early otherwise we risked having our view blocked by tall northern Europeans, specifically this year by tall Scandinavians. I’m quite sure that Norway and Sweden were empty those few days at the end of September while they lent the Danes a hand trying to drink the place dry! After the race on Sunday I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many empty beer cans discarded by the side of the road.

Ute, being German, generally has the upper hand at most years’ races, results wise. But not on this occasion as Mark Cavendish was guided almost to the line by a tour de force from Team GB. A French friend had asked me to get him Cavendish’s autograph and while I saw him briefly before the post-race press conference, it wasn’t the right moment.

No, that came the following morning as I was checking out of my hotel. Peta and Cav literally bumped into me and I seized my opportunity. My friend was delighted as the autograph was on a copy of the UCI official announcement of the win, accompanied by the route book and other goodies which my friend Bert had given me earlier that morning as I’d waved him off on his plane back to New Zealand. That was the last I saw of Bert who sadly passed away the following September.

Here’s the posts I wrote about my trip back in 2011:-

Cards from Copenhagen I

Cards from Copenhagen II

Cards from Copenhagen III

Cards from Copenhagen IV

Limburg 2012

Ute tried not once, not twice, but three times without success to volunteer. However I think staying in the same hotel as the Belgian team, which included Tom Boonen, more than made up for the disappointment of not having a lurid, ill-fitting volunteer’s outfit to add to her burgeoning collection.

During the Championships I stayed in the same hotel as the Italian and Spanish teams. How fantastic? No, not a bit! Fans and journalists camped out in the entrance hall and bar, hogging the WiFi bandwidth and all the chairs, the hotel corridors smelled of embrocation and there was lots of door banging.

Ute and I loved the fact that few spectators could be bothered to make the trek to the finish line. Well it is 4km from the train station and, unless like me you had got press credentials granting entrance to the press restaurant and facilities, it was pretty poorly served in terms of food and drinks. Still we had a big screen and a great up close and personal view of the podium, so we weren’t complaining. Honestly.

Aside from catching up with people we both knew, being at the finish meant we spent quite some time chatting to anxious Mums and Dads whose offspring were riding in the various categories. It’s always interesting to see a race from someone else’s point of view!

Belgian’s top dog in trade team time-trial (image courtesy of OPQS)

Ute and I spent 10-days in companionable admiration of the racing. This was the first Championship to (re)introduce the trade-team time trial and combine racing for Juniors, Under-23s and Elite so we positively gorged on great racing in an environment where cycling is hugely popular.

Even though I had a great time, I only wrote one blog post about the trip.

Postcard from Limburg 2012

Firenze 2013

Ute worked once more as a volunteer, as did Nathalie, but I didn’t get to spend much time with either as my beloved decided to come along too. We also took our bikes and much enjoyed cycling around the Tuscan countryside.

I have two abiding memories from this Championship. The first was Matej Mohoric who, having won the Junior road race in Limburg, added the Under-23 title at the tender age of 19 with some of his trademark top-tube descending. The second was the Dantesque conditions of the Men’s road race which should’ve been won by the uber-popular Purito Rodriguez. His sad face on the podium was almost more than I could bear.

As in Varese, the Italians contrived to have the start and finish in a stadium and, while viewing en route was free, you had to pay to get into the stadium unless you had accreditation. And that’s largely why my friend Ute volunteers, to get accreditation, though it’s by no means the “open sesame” it was back in Salzburg 2006.

Again, I only penned one post:-

Postcard from Tuscany

Ponferrada 2014

Our trip to the World Championships in Ponferrada was part of a three-week vacation which spanned the Med and Atlantic coasts in both France and Spain. Ute once again volunteered to help out in the Press Centre but I only saw her a couple of times, including at an evening reception about the following year’s Championship in Richmond.

My beloved and I much enjoyed watching the racing in a very convivial atmosphere and in the company of parents who had offspring racing. Since we were all staying in the same small casa rural, it made for a lively discussion over dinner most evenings. As you can see from the photo above, this was not a well-attended Championship. Probably the least well-attended of those I’ve been to, but it wasn’t easy to get there and it was held in an area of Spain with a low population. However, it was a beautiful area to ride around and it’s on one of the many routes to Compostela.

That said, I did manage to write a couple of posts:-

Postcards from Ponferrada I

Postcards from Ponferrada II

Richmond 2015

Official Richmond UCI Road World Championship 2015 artist Greig Leach.

I had high hopes for Richmond which formed the second part of a vacation in the US. We didn’t take our bikes as I’ve found riding in the States to be frankly scary. It was an opportunity for me to finally meet Greig Leach after we’d already worked together on one project and this event was to form the basis of our second collaboration. I also met up with a couple of my fellow VeloVoices. Unbelievably, I’ve still not met everyone on the team.

Ute volunteered and once again spent time in the Press Centre but unlike in Europe, her accommodation was provided by a local host who also made sure she saw plenty of Virginia. I only saw her the once as we were staying in very different parts of town.

My beloved and I enjoyed watching the racing, there was no problem standing close to the finish line for any of the races, even the blue riband event, the Men’s road race. Our hotel was out of Richmond so we camped out at The Marriott Hotel which was almost on the finish line. One of the organisers had told me last year in Ponferrada that they had modelled the event on Salzburg, with everything being in the centre of town.

They’d gotten that part of the equation right and the thousands of Eritrean fans, who’d descended on Richmond for the races, provided lively animation. However, they were no substitute for the thousands of European fans who typically arrive by camping car, and colonise part of the course in order to support their riders. What I’m trying to say is that it was well-organised but a bit lacking in atmosphere.

Again, I did write a post about our trip:-

Postcard from Richmond

Neither Ute nor I went to Doha 2016. But as an avowed fan of all things Scandinavian, she was in Bergen 2017 and can be found manning the reception desk in the Press Centre at InnsbruckTyrol 2018. We had hoped to meet up this week but sadly work has gotten in the way and I’ll have to settle fo watching the action on the television.

Very belated postcard from Limburg 2012

Yes, I know that despite my best intentions the number of blog entries is dwindling to a trickle, but I have been busy, honest. I’m just back from an action packed 10 day annual pilgrimage to the World Road Cycling Championships which was held in the delightful surroundings of Limburg, that bit of the Netherlands which protrudes into Germany and Belgium. As you might imagine, the area’s cycling mad and every time I saw a cyclist I wished I’d had my bike with me so that I could join in. Ah well, next year in Tuscany 2013!

I had intended hiring a bike, albeit it would probably have been one of those sit up and beg ones that you see all over the Netherlands, but I fell over and twisted my ankle. Clumsy or what? As usual I was talking and not watching where I was going. One minute I was on the pavement, the next minute I wasn’t. As falls go it was fairly spectacular but I quickly leapt to my feet, dusted myself off, retrieved my scattered belongings and continued walking as if everything were fine. It wasn’t, it was really painful.

That evening I gave my right ankle the alternate hot and cold water treatment which seemed to help. No need for an embarrassing recourse to the medical staff of the Spanish and Italian teams who were staying in my hotel. The next morning the ankle was too puffy for my comfortable shoes but I could wear my ballet flats. I also had an impressive collection of bruises on my left leg and my right arm. There are times when a good covering of body fat comes in useful, I just bounce and avoid serious injury. A sore ankle is not ideal when you’re proposing to spend all day standing at the barricades but I’m an endurance spectator, I just grinned and bore it without complaint. It was my own fault after all.

So, back to the cycling which kicked off with a revival of the trade team time-trial. It sits somewhat awkwardly with a shed load of national races and a ways back they used to have a national team time-trial but nowadays that’s probably a bit impractical. The event was nonetheless pretty fiercely contested and, largely thanks to an error by BMC, Belgium’s Omega Pharma-QuickStep triumphed. But it was a close run thing. Not so in the ladies event where Specialized-Lululemon dominated with their US/German/Dutch squad.


Belgian’s top dogs in trade team time-trial (image courtesy of OPQS)

The great thing about the Worlds is that you get  a week’s worth of racing all in the same spot. My mate Ute (we met at the world championships in Salzburg in 2006) and I occupied a place about 20m or so from the finish line and, based on the early bird theory, laid claim to it all week. Neither of us is particularly tall, while the Dutch are, and we did not want to be in the second row standing on tippy toe.

Most fans preferred to stay the other side of the Cauberg climb, closer to the plethora of bars and restaurants, either that or they weren’t willing to trek the extra kilometres to the finish. This meant we had a ringside view of all the racing,  could swivel around to watch the action on the screen behind and then later have another prime view of the podium presentation: a pretty much perfect situation. Although there was little in the way of refreshments, my accreditation gave me access to the press area and Ute came well stocked, so we were able to regularly take in sustenance and prevent a bonk.

Another great thing about the Worlds is that you get to see lots of racers whom you never or rarely get to see on the television, like the ladies, U23s and juniors. It’s always interesting to chart their progression into the senior ranks. It’s also great to see the grass shoots of globalisation of the sport with more and more countries fielding riders and teams. None from China although there were increased numbers of Japanese and more from African countries. However, Ute and I agreed while it was great to see riders such as Judith Arndt and Tony Martin retaining their crowns, our abiding memory will be of Marianne Vos’s domination. She last won the World’s in 2006 –  our first Worlds –  and has been a disappointed  runner-up ever since. But this year she’s done the double, Olympics and Worlds just like Nicole Cooke in 2008.

I mentioned that I was staying in the same hotel as two of the teams. Initially, it was Euskaltel, Movistar, Lotto-Belisol and Topsport Vlaanderen. The Lotto boys were on the same floor as me although I never saw any of them but the strong smell of embrocation in the hotel corridor was rather evocative. However I could have done without all the door slamming. Of course, they departed smartly after the trade-team time trial to be replaced by the national team riders. The hotel was under siege from fans, many of whom waited patiently for hours for a glimpse of their sporting heroes. Goodness knows what the busloads of Japanese tourists staying in the hotel made of it.

Now you might be thinking what a fantastic opportunity for interviews. It would be except the boys and girls were already under siege and I had no desire to add to that burden. Surely, everyone deserves a bit of down time. However, it was interesting to observe the contrasting approaches of the two different nationalities. The Italians are extroverts, the Spanish introverts.

There was no racing on Thursday which afforded me a welcome opportunity to renew my acquaintance with Maastricht, a delightful historic town with plenty of eye-catching architecture and some great coffee shops. Purely in the interests of research I tried some of the local baked goodies but I did find them a little heavy for my taste – delicious, but heavy.

As ever one of the fun parts of this event is catching up with friends and acquaintances plus just chatting to a wide range of fans from all over the world while we wait for the racers to hove into view. A few of the natives were overly familiar. A rather drunken Dutch chap said he thought I looked around 42, I smiled as if he might have hit the nail on the head but he was way off base. He’d asked the woman sitting opposite me if she was my mother. I was delighted as she was probably only four to five years older than me. However, having ascertained I was married but with no children, he asked me to go clubbing in Dusseldorf. I politely but firmly declined, after over 10 hours manning the barricades the last thing I needed was more hours on my feet, besides I had a hot date with my laptop!  For more about the event and the races, head over to www.velovoices.com.