There are time trials – and then there are time trials.
Dual carriageways with high traffic counts on balmy Essex afternoons are one thing; Limburg in the autumn rain with a parcours which includes the Cauberg is another.
The VV camper is parked on the road race parcours on the opposite side of the circuit from the finish/press centre tented village.
The elite TT parcours merges into the road race circuit just 200 yard from the campsite, making it easy for us to pick up the route and walk perhaps the last seven kilometres.
When we set out, the sun was out and there was a bit of a breeze, but it was a nice day.
The first couple of kilometres were through typical Limburg farm country – maize, sugar beet, turnips and pastures.
From four K to three K to go – on the final approach to the Cauberg – it was a fast descent before a tight left and onto the climb.
When we ambled down into Valkenburg past the mining museum and stopped for a bowl of soup and a beer, it was still pleasant; but not for long.
A nasty squall blew in making for a half-an-hour of cold, wet and a wind which couldn’t decide which way to blow – all in all, not good conditions.
The first riders were from Ecuador, Andorra and Azerbaijan – in the old days there were riders in the Worlds who perhaps shouldn’t really have been there.
But not now, all nations have to qualify through their Continental Tour and there are no real ‘duds’ at large on the parcours.
This was confirmed by the way even the early starters flew down what was very slick tar and into the Cauberg.
Michael Hutchinson rode during this time, getting the very worst of the conditions.
Hutchinson hadn’t long gone through when the rain stopped and the sun came out – but there was still a stiff breeze as we made our way up the Cauberg.
Some riders were ‘on it’ – some weren’t.
Our ‘visual’ on the riders pretty much agreed with the finish sheet.
Dimitriy Gruzdev (Kazakhstan & Astana) isn’t a rider I knew anything about – but he looked the part en route sixth.
He had the gear just right, he wasn’t ‘spinning’ – as some were – nor was he all over the road and bogging down on a ratio which was too big.
His 1:00:35 held the lead for a big part of the afternoon.
Alex Dowsett (GB & Sky) wasn’t going as well as the Kazakh but was looking tidy, on top of the gear and moving nicely up the hill, en route 8th place.
Right behind him was Italian former world u23 TT champion, Adriano Malori who would finish 10th when the dust settled.
Malori has taken a while to find his feet in the pro ranks; but this year was just two seconds behind QuickStep’s Dario Cataldo in the Italian TT champs.
We contrived to miss Kiriyenka – who took bronze, but it was pretty crowded on that Cauberg.
Jan Barta was ‘unknown’ according to the American announcer who perhaps needs to brush up on his rider palmares.
Barta is reigning Czech time trial champion, won the Rund um Koln and rode a very strong Giro for his NetApp team.
He definitely looked the part, attacking the last part of the Cauberg hard and well on top of the gear – he’d end up 7th and gain a good clutch of UCi points in the process.
There followed a procession of top seeds for whom it just wasn’t happening – Meyer, Sergent, Velits, Larsson, Westra, Grabsch, Durbridge, Chava and Tuft; none were on the rides they wanted.
Young van Garderen (USA & BMC) was flying, neat in the tuck and getting a big gear round smoothly en route 4th – less than five seconds behind Kiriyenka.
The chat is that Tejay cost BMC the win on Sunday in the TTT; putting in a huge turn on the Cauberg which blasted the team and fired Phinney out the back.
The next man on the road should have been Marco Pinotti, but he came to grief on a wet bend.
Apparently he was moving well and in line for bronze – a great shame, he’s a cool guy.
I got my Fred Kessiakoff picture all wrong – sorry Fred; but he the Swede was going very well and would come in 5th at the death.
Phinney looked good en route silver, very good – he gets low for a big man and his aero signature is minimal.
Next on the road was Martin, the 58 x 11 was in but there were no signs of desperation, just total focus as he hurtled into the red kite.
The margin at the end was slim – five seconds, but like they say; ‘one is enough.’
Contador was last man on the road, Martin having caught him for two minutes – it must be a while since Alberto was caught in a test.
All that remained was a long slog with pics and words in the press room – and my three K walk back through the fields, in the dark.
I wasn’t scared – honest!
With thanks to John Young of Fietsenphotography for the use of his images.
Results - The “World Road Championships 2012 - The Mens' Time Trial
2 Taylor Phinney (United States Of America) 0:00:05.37
3 Vasil Kiryienka (Belarus) 0:01:44.99
4 Tejay Van Garderen (United States Of America) 0:01:49.37
5 Fredrik Carl Wilhelm Kessiakoff (Sweden) 0:01:50.56
6 Dmitriy Gruzdev (Kazakhstan) 0:01:56.44
7 Jan Barta (Czech Republic) 0:02:12.49
8 Alex Dowsett (Great Britain) 0:02:26.06
9 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spain) 0:02:30.00
10 Adriano Malori (Italy) 0:02:40.54
11 Andriy Grivko (Ukraine) 0:02:43.69
12 Svein Tuft (Canada) 0:02:56.24
13 Tanel Kangert (Estonia) 0:02:57.13
14 Riccardo Zoidl (Austria) 0:02:57.27
15 Sylvain Chavanel (France) 0:02:58.15
16 Cameron Meyer (Australia) 0:02:59.65
17 Kristijan Koren (Slovenia) 0:03:05.29
18 Jérémy Roy (France) 0:03:08.16
19 Gustav Larsson (Sweden) 0:03:11.99
20 Thomas De Gendt (Belgium) 0:03:15.29
21 Luke Durbridge (Australia) 0:03:17.88
22 Jonathan Castroviejo Nicolas (Spain) 0:03:23.38
23 Jesse Sergent (New Zealand) 0:03:25.89
24 Kristof Vandewalle (Belgium) 0:03:35.66
25 Wilco Kelderman (Netherlands) 0:03:39.35
26 Maciej Bodnar (Poland) 0:03:46.06
27 Patrick Gretsch (Germany) 0:03:48.78
28 Ioannis Tamouridis (Greece) 0:03:52.35
29 Sergey Firsanov (Russian Federation) 0:03:56.58
30 Matej Jurco (Slovakia) 0:03:56.96
31 Sam Bewley (New Zealand) 0:03:59.21
32 Carlos Oyarzun (Chile) 0:04:03.43
33 Ramunas Navardauskas (Lithuania) 0:04:05.98
34 Peter Velits (Slovakia) 0:04:07.06
35 Rein Taaramae (Estonia) 0:04:09.84
36 Bert Grabsch (Germany) 0:04:16.85
37 Jakob Fuglsang (Denmark) 0:04:18.37
38 Lieuwe Westra (Netherlands) 0:04:18.79
39 Jay Robert Thomson (South Africa) 0:04:19.25
40 Janez Brajkovic (Slovenia) 0:04:19.82
41 Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (South Africa) 0:04:25.93
42 Alexsandr Dyachenko (Kazakhstan) 0:04:32.23
43 Gatis Smukulis (Latvia) 0:04:35.63
44 Ignatas Konovalovas (Lithuania) 0:04:54.59
45 Mykhaylo Kononenko (Ukraine) 0:05:09.20
46 Michael Hutchinson (Ireland) 0:05:22.86
47 Vladimir Gusev (Russian Federation) 0:05:34.37
48 Eugen Wacker (Kyrgyzstan) 0:05:43.45
49 Jose Ragonessi (Ecuador) 0:06:16.66
50 Aleksejs Saramotins (Latvia) 0:06:19.04
51 Segundo Navarrete (Ecuador) 0:07:58.00
52 Elchin Asadov (Azerbaijan) 0:09:12.93
53 Andrei Krasilnikau (Belarus) 0:09:17.91
54 David Albós (Andorra) 0:09:18.85
55 Ji-Yung Kang (Korea) 0:09:19.66
56 Gabor Legyel (Hungary) 0:13:49.29
DNF Reidar Bohlin Borgersen (Norway)