I’m at the World Road Championships 2006 and Gerald Ciolek is the favourite for the Espoirs race. I was up before the bells, showered, washing done and on the street. Even at 08. 00 it’s buzzing.
The first rider I saw was from Brazil, then the Russian team – looking good in their Itera kit on white carbon Looks. 177 riders from all over the globe; 47 nations. I just saw the Mexicans sign-on.
Mark Cavendish of GB looks relaxed, no GB team Trek for him – a shiny new T-Mobile Giant is his mount for the day.
Team mate Greenwood is introspective, not a good sign, but we’ll see.
It’s a bit of the old organised chaos at the start here.
It’s supposed to be a choreographed, nation by nation roll-out but the Belgians ignored this, of course, and arrived in their own time.
To add insult to injury they burst-open the crowd-control barriers to get on to the course instead of coming through a gap in the barriers like the other 46 teams had done.
No sooner had they arrived than they left again to do a spot of synchronised team-peeing just off the street.
Dominique Cornu who won the under 23 time test looks more like a pro than most pros.
He’s a big guy and I can just imagine him riding the bunch off his wheel in the kermesse.
Once the show is on the road it’s time for my main gig of the day – a course review, with pictures.
I grabbed a lift from one of the shuttle-buses which lap the circuit to put-down and pick-up the photographers and any journalists who can be coaxed out of the free bar and catering.
Briefly, the parcours starts in the city, runs out of town on big, wide fast roads past the pits to the first climb.
This is a long, wide, fast, snaking job which hangs a left into the back roads at the top for a little more pain. The second pits are at the top, then it rolls over a lumpy, twisty plateau to where it drops fast and short into a little valley where the second and main climb of the day rears-up.
This one is different, steep, sinuous and narrow – not a good climb to be stuck at the back on.
There’s another plateau then a really fast but well-surfaced descent to the suburbs of Salzburg then a fast run-in on wide, urban tarmac and a finish that is straight and wide.
I left my pal, Gerard the bus driver and headed for the press centre. Having had my fill of the wi-fi in here I marched right into the photographer’s area, they have hard-wired, high-speed internet connections to cope with all those pixels.
The speed of access on this system is great and I was smugly congratulating myself on my astuteness until I tried to log-on to Hotmail. It wasn’t having any. Furthermore my mobile had decided to pack-in. There’s much fun and satisfaction to be derived from doing the internet thing but when you are an electronic Neanderthal like me and things go wrong then it’s stressful.
I mucked-around with my Hotmail but just couldn’t get-in, as the tears formed in my eyes I remembered that I have my mail app as a ‘favourite’ on the laptop.
I was back in business. I stripped the BlackBerry down to the SIM card then re-assembled it. Miraculously it picked- up a T-Mobile signal and I was back in the race.
It’s a while since I’ve used the attachment facility on the email but it seemed to be OK, fingers crossed!
The under-23 road race was running its course as I was going through all this electronic opera, that’s the thing about doing features-type pieces, you don’t actually see much of the racing. The most notable aspect of the race was that it ended in a bunch sprint, those two climbs didn’t break it up – remember Boonen says the Elite race will end in a bunch finish.
Gerald Ciolek (Wiesenhof & Germany) won. He took a stage in the Tour of Germany and was second in the Henninger Turm this year so the Pro Tour teams will already be after him; it should be a tasty contract now.
Best British rider was Mark Cavendish in 11th place, Ben Greenwood was eight minutes back in 127th place.
The ladies race is on just now, 136 starters and it has to be said that it doesn’t look like the processions we used to get.
I’ll draw a line just now and get back to you later — there’s work to be done.