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After six times finishing on the podium of the Men Elite Road World Championship, Alejandro Valverde claimed the gold medal for Spain for the first time at the age of 38. He rode away up the Höll, the gruelling climb at the end of the race, along with France’s Romain Bardet and Canada’s Michael Woods to beat them in a four-man sprint after the return of the Dutchman Tom Dumoulin. The final event crowned a wonderful week of sport in Innsbruck-Tirol.
The U23 Worlds in Bergen; a great race with a great finale with GB well there – Ollie Wood in fourth and our very own Mark Stewart a key part of the team which got Wood into a position to sprint for the bronze medal. We just had to ‘have a word’ with Scotland’s own double European track champion, Mr. Mark Stewart...
The sad news came through from Belgium on Sunday morning that Graham Webb, British World road champion in 1967, had passed away. Our condolences go to his family and the many friends and fans he had in the cycling community. A great champion and a wonderful guy. Ed interviewed Graham back in 2009, and we thought that reproducing the interview now would be a good tribute to the man. In memory of Graham; his views on the sport back in 2009. 'Former World Road Race Champion,' yes, that would be nice to have that after your name!
It was Mark Stewart suggested we have a word with this young man, Gabriel Cullaigh; he’s been riding strongly for the GB U23 Academy in Italy but recently decided to make his own way in the tough world of continental bike racing, joining strong Dutch Continental outfit, SEG Racing Academy. Here’s what Gabriel had to say to us just the other day...
Spanish sports paper, Mundo Deportivo says; 'El Tigre, en la Lieja-Ponferrada-Lieja' comparing the race to an Ardennes Classic. 'A complete cyclist with a brilliant future,' they say of the 24 year-old Pole Michal Kwiatkowski. Despite a tiny box on the front cover, the race gets two-and-a-half pages with nice colour pictures.
I hate to keep moaning about these Worlds, but ... There's no way you can get from the two K to go sign at the foot of the final descent and up onto the climb. Barriers, tapes, police, volantarios (volunteer janitors) - grim! A man who can't walk the course ends up in too many bars.
Well, if there's a pizza place in Ponferrada, we can't find it. It's rude to criticise your host's abode but we're mystified by how the Worlds came to be here. The communications are terrible, it's four-and-a-half hours by road or rail out of Madrid or get transfer flights up to the North West and more driving.
Sometimes you can just tell a rider is a bit special, BMC's Swiss road and track man, Silvan Dillier is one such rider. We first came across him on Six Day duties, he made the podium in Gent and Zürich but was forging a name for himself in the summer, too... and now, as a first year full pro, Silvan is an Elite World Champion....
Young Sky star, Alex Dowsett's early season was compromised by a bad crash in the Three Days of West Flanders - but he's come back strongly. He took eighth in the World Elite TT champs, rode strongly in the Tour of Beijing, aiding team mate Boasson Hagen on to the podium and closed his season with second place with Luke Rowe in the Duo Normand two-up time trial.
As the Worlds memories begin to fade and thoughts turn to the late season classics in northern Italy and France, VeloVeritas takes a last look back at the Cauberg. But this time through the eyes of a man who rode that beast of a hill all 11 times on Sunday, Ireland’s Ronan McLaughlin.
The ‘best world championships ever’ the organisers are saying – but I guess they would say that? It was certainly a good race; and if last year’s race in Copenhagen was a model of GB team work for Cav, then this year was all about Belgium and ‘Phil.’ Having walked the parcours and seen all of the road races up to and including the U23 end in a bunch sprint, I thought that it would be a bunch sprint. The parcours weren’t as tough as we all thought – the surfaces were good and two bergs apart, it was very fast. But when I saw Marianne Vos win on Saturday afternoon, I got to thinking; ‘Gilbert could do the same thing, maybe?’ And so it proved.
It's a nice afternoon in Limburg for bike racing, the sun is out, there's not a lot of wind and The Netherlands' Olympic road race champion Marianne Vos has just bridged up to the break; so the crowd is happy. Yes, yes, I'm watching another women's race. No report though, I'm just out of the press room. I had the report to write up and pictures to process for the U23 race from this morning. It started at 09:00 am so I had to leave the camper at 07:30 to work the start area.
There’s only been one winner of the Cycle Time Trials 50 mile championship in the 21st century – and that’s Ulsterman Michael Hutchinson who has won the event 13 times, straight. We caught up with the 38 year-old who just keeps getting faster and faster, the day after the World Elite TT Championship in Limburg, where he finished 46th @ 5:22 behind Tony Martin. In fairness to the man who this year has broken the British 10 and 25 mile records, he did have the worst of the day – cold stinging rain which made the parcours very dangerous in parts.
When you write and then put your words out there into the ether, you set yourself up. Whilst there’s nothing better than someone taking the time to say that they like your work. On the other side of that coin is that there will always be folks who have a real go at you. I understand and accept that, but what’s difficult to accept is uninformed criticism, where people don’t really understand the situation.
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.
Did I say that having the camper van here meant that I didn’t have to walk to the press room? Cancel that - I’d forgotten that the protocol is once you hook the van up to the electrics, you’re here for the duration. Kris has his electric bike – I have my shoes. A three kilometre walk through the back roads of Limburg to the press room and back is good for the soul – I suppose.
The party’s over, there’s no more nice wee room in Valkenburg and ambling down for breakfast, with the patron asking if you’d like a fried egg to go with your rolls, cheese and ham. Its camper van time – but at least I won’t have that four kilometre forced march to the press room, we can drive. There were two races today, the junior time trial and the U23 time trial.
I resisted the bars of Valkenburg and was in bed not long after 10:00 on Saturday night. The body clock woke me for 06:15 and I was on the Cauberg before 07:00. I decided to do my Cauberg piece early on Sunday because the junior time trial starts early on Monday and the police won't let you walk on the parcours, so best to get a bit of peace and quiet whilst I could.
The beer's not cheap on Grotestraat in Valkenburg, 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.
World Road Race Championships 2011 - Cavendish and the whole team were brilliant, full stop. There can be no 'buts' or 'maybes' - his team...
The Danish Press did Cav proud at the World Road Championships 2011; having Peta on his arm doesn't hurt as far as the photo opportunities go. And being the saddo I am, the first thing I did when I got home was to buy the British papers. All of the quality dailies 'done him proud'-The Independent gives him pride of place on their sports section and Alasdair Fotheringham's prose is perfect.
Braveheart rider Andy Fenn took an excellent bronze medal in the World U23 Road Race Championship 2011 on a windy but dry day in the northern suburbs of Copenhagen. The French team proved best motivated and organised with a dazzling one-two. Let's hope that Arnaud Demare doesn't go the way of so many French amateur and U23 champions in the past - big hype, big contract then a gradual slide in to obscurity.
No races today, time to catch up with some old friends, the gossip and write up the Worlds Elite rr preview and fit in an interview - I have to justify my existence. We're about 20 K from the city of Copenhagen in Naerum, which is right on the course. It takes two trains to get to central Copenhagen, but they run frequently and bang on time. Our meeting this morning was with Dane, Jimmy Hansen.
'Time trials are boring!' say the road men. But run it through the middle of one of Europe's great cities, with the best 'chrono men' on the planet jousting for a rainbow jersey through dense crowds and it's far from boring - spectacular! We got to the World Road Championships 2011 course early to see what we could see.
World Road Championships 2011 and it was wearing on for midnight when we pulled in to the truck stop in the north of The Netherlands; hundreds of artics lined up, many with refrigeration units chugging away on the cab roofs - how do the drivers sleep? You have to think it would be more environmentally friendly to haul all that freight by train? Anyway, 'Green Ed' what a thought that is.
Food poisoning; it's no fun. Vik and I were meant to fly to the Beauvais last Wednesday, take in the Championship of Flanders, the GP Isbergues, a handful of kermises then meet up with Hamish Haynes, Dan Patten, James Spragg - 'our boys,' no chance. I was so weak I couldn't leave the house - on a positive note, my North Face jacket fits me again.