I’m sitting in the press room at the World Road Championships 2007, sharing a table with my boyhood hero, Hugh Porter, four time world pursuit champion and on the podium in that event for seven years straight — he’ll need to get interviewed, I can’t let that opportunity go!
We’re here for the Worlds in Stuttgart, the Under-23 time trial was this morning and ladies time trial was this afternoon. I was lucky-enough to follow the Latvian rider, Gatis Smukulis in the test.
Last year it was very straightforward getting a ride in a team car, the second manager I asked, Kurt who looks after the Irish guys in the ‘Sean Kelly house’ in Belgium, said; ‘sure, no problem.’ This year was hard work, but when you sell windows all your life, you get used to folk saying ‘No!’.
I eventually managed to get aboard the Latvian car, behind their rider, Gatis Smukulis, he rides for the French club VC La Pomme, Marseille.
This was Vainsteins club, back in the 90’s. He and David Millar won a lot of races for La Pomme, grabbed the Directors attention and got themselves pro contracts.
It’ll be harder for Gatis, there are going to be fewer teams next year and getting a contract won’t be easy. All that said, he’s a good rider; the team manager for Latvia is Arvis Piziks who was a pro from ’95, when he was with Novell, through to 2003 with CSC, via Rabobank, Jack & Jones and Memory Card. If you know anything about pro racing then you’ll know that to be a pro for nine years on good teams isn’t easy to pull-off.
I asked him how he was enjoying being a coach;
‘I’m enjoying it, so many guys, when they quit as a rider have nothing to do with the sport, because they hate it so much, but I still like it.’
I enquired as to how Latvian’s most famous cycling son, Romans Vainsteins is doing;
‘I don’t know, I haven’t seen him for years, but he’s Italian now, anyway!’
I asked him about Gatis;
‘We’re hoping to pick-up a pro contract for him, but nothing is certain yet. He has a great career as a junior, he won five junior stage races across Europe and this year he’s won five races, including two French cups, he was second on GC in the William Tell GP and had some good stage placings in the L’Avenir. He’s a natural athlete, very strong.’
It was agreed that I would meet up with them again at the start house. It’s a great buzz at the ramp, the top guys were all there getting their bikes checked by the UCI commissar then trying to compose themselves for the big ride, a good day here could mean a pro contract. There was some nice hardware on display; with probably the nicest being the shiny black carbon, German Federation FES.
Look was well represented, and Cervelo too; David Zabriskie and Fabian Cancellara have sold a lot of bikes! The course was an eye-opener, with some heavy duty climbs, tricky descents, bad bends, adverse cambers and railway crossings — certainly no drag strip.
The full story is on Pez, but it was a great experience, more so than last year when I followed David O’Loughlin: this course is much more technical.
Tomorrow it will be interesting to see how Millar fares, I think he’s worth a medal, Bradley I don’t know about, but I think Cancellara has liked being World Champ too much to be beaten this time.
‘Our boy’ Gatis struck me as over-geared for the first lap; he just wasn’t on top of it. Once the French guy caught him, he rode much better; it wasn’t just having someone to chase, it was as if he thought; ‘yeah, lower gears would be better around here!’
Edvald Boasson Hagen: was very impressive, according to my reference sources, he’s had 16 wins this year. These aren’t all in UCI races, but they are all good results — he’ll have no problems finding a big squad for next year (word is, Columbia have him as good as signed) and a win on Saturday would be the icing on the cake.
At the finish, Gatis was disappointed, I think he knew he hadn’t done the ride he was capable of, but that’s cycling.
It was well after 6.00pm by the time I got the pics for this piece organised and then had to go across the city by train to Boblingen. I was struggling to get digs and one of our readers offered me his flat, it could be closer, but I’m not complaining, and anyway the trains are clean, on time and let you see the city and its people.
As I was walking out of the press room, I spotted the press release about Lars Boom, who won today:
- 2003: World Junior cross champ
- 2004: Dutch u 23 cross champ, European u 23 cross champ
- 2005: Dutch u 23 cross champ
- 2006: Dutch u 23 cross champ
- 2007: World u 23 cross champ, two stages + GC Tour of Brittany, three stages + GC
- Olympia Tour, Dutch u 23 TT champ, World u 23 TT champ.
As we say here – wow!
Elite test tomorrow, can’t wait! Talk to you then.