The beer’s not cheap on Grotestraat in Valkenburg here at the World Road Championships, at two Euros a pop, but with Dario G’s ‘Sunchyme‘ banging out, you can’t complain.
It takes me to Copenhagen and the ‘balustrade sprints’ at the Six Days.
But that’s not ’til next year – and we still have this year to put to bed.
Most importantly, who’s going to be wearing the rainbow jersey, a week tomorrow?
There’s a full Worlds programme to get through first, however.
Tomorrow sees the inaugural Elite Team Time Trial.
The event was run from the 60’s until 1994 for national teams; binned because the Italians were monopolising it – but now it’s for trade teams.
All of the 18 World Tour teams start and there are slots for a further 32 teams: 20 teams from the UCI European Tour (Continental and Pro Continental) plus five each from the UCI American and Asian Tours and one each from the African and Oceania Tours.
That’s a total of 50 teams with 300 riders on the start sheet, if all teams take up the option.
Endura, for example, were offered a ride but declined on the grounds that the all that money and logistical effort would give better value, elsewhere.
The six man team is a radical departure from the old one with four riders, the clock stopping on the third man.
The new format is six, with four to count.
The ‘fixed distance’ concept has changed, too – not the 100 kilometres of old, the first edition of the new race is over 53.2 kilometres.
And the parcours have also changed dramatically; usually – but not always – the TTT champs were fought out on an exposed dual carriageway, or motorway yet to open, or closed for the day.
The teams will still be toting 55 x 11 – but they better make sure they have also an inner ring fitted and some sprockets with a few more teeth to tackle the fearsome Cauberg.
And whilst on the subject of said climb, I walked the beggar today.
It rears straight out of the bars and restaurants of Valkenburg Main Street, curving steeply to the right then left for around a kilometre.
If you doubt the effect that this climb can have, dig out the clip of German power house Olaf Ludwig cracking totally on it during the 1993 Amstel Gold race.
He’d won the race the previous year and was again a favourite; but watching him zigzag across the road reminds you how tough a climb this is.
The top isn’t really the top, the grade eases but still drifts right and upwards – however the finish straight is long flat and fast.
The wind will be a big factor; if it’s a head wind then only the very strongest will be able to stay clear if they’re alone over the top if the Cauberg.
And let’s not forget that it’s climbed ten times; with the first ascent coming after 100 K plus on the Amstel parcours – the faint hearted need not apply.
However, spare a thought for the late, great Briek Schotte; when he won in 1948, the parcours was 26 laps of a 10.2 K circuit which included the Cauberg.
Walking the Cauberg wasn’t actually on plan A; but the nice lass in the accreditation centre assured me that the press centre was only a 15 minute walk.
Maybe it is if your second name is Bolt, but not if it’s Hood.
As I stopped to draw breath and hang over the barriers, the PA was blasting Boney M’s ‘Rasputin’- the end bit where the late Bobby Farrell groans, ‘Oh! those Russians!’ as the mad monk pegs out – I know how old Gregorio must have felt.
And on the subject of madness, Valkenburg is a tad crazy; The Netherlands oldest ‘tourist place’ – folks have been ‘radging oot’ on Amstel beer since 1885.
Medieval buildings sit cheek by jowl with ‘theme bars’ and restaurants of every kind – Mexican, Italian, Greek plus the inevitable frites joints.
I can only imagine what it will be like next Saturday night as the Flemish masses descend in support of Tomeke.
Het Nieuwsblad is billing the race as a straight shoot out between Boonen and Gilbert – Belgian team boss Carlo Bomans will need the Wisdom of Solomon to handle that one.
But it all kicks off tomorrow with the team time trial; the usual suspects will be in the frame.
Garmin, GreenEDGE, BMC, QuickStep and Sky – but let’s not forget Movistar.
That was a stunning ride they pulled off in Pamplona and a medal is very possible.
Dave Chapman poses an interesting question about this discipline – presumably rainbow jerseys will go to the winners and the victorious team will be able to sport these in any TTT for the next year?
But here’s the thing – what if the winning team fields a line up for a TTT but none of the starters actually rode the Worlds?
I’ll try and find out, tomorrow.