It was warm today, it’s a cliche, but what a difference nice weather makes here at the World Road Race Championship 2007.
The ladies race was on first: I have to rant, I’m afraid. What is Jeanie Longo doing? What is the French Federation doing? What is the UCI doing? It’s not good for the sport for a woman who looks about 60 to finish in the bunch; she’s a remarkable athlete, no doubt. But that’s not the point, it’s time to stop, Jeanie. Now! OK, I feel better now.
The idea I had today was based on what “espoir” means – ‘hope’ in French. I decided I’d ‘chap-up’ some guys I know and see what their hopes were for the race. I thought that I would just do a ‘post-script’ with their results, but as the day went on, it dawned; “why don’t I grab them at the finish, and a get an ‘after’ quote, to go with the ‘before’ one?”
I had also thought about covering the disparity there is between teams, many are on tight budgets, whilst the Italians slide-in, looking like an ad for Prada shades.
I was lucky, but as a famous golfer once said; “it’s strange, the more I practice, the luckier I get!” It’s a bit like that with writing about cycling, the more you are out scraping about car parks before races, the more story and photo opportunities you find.
I was at the team car park about three hours before the start, there wasn’t much doing, so I took to barrier-hanging at the Ladies event. There were girls minutes-down within a lap, but they all had the best carbon kit, and – radios, I can only surmise this is so their manager can tell them when it’s time to ‘keep over to the right’, as they get lapped.
Back at the car park the teams started to arrive, I had a wee bit of that luck with the Aussie team – Simon Clarke rode the Grenoble six last year and was happy to chat about the Aussie game plan. At the finish, I’d be even happier I’d talked to Simon before the start.
Michael Mørkøv of Denmark, who I’ve looked-after several times at sixes is always happy to chat; and he looks skinnier than ever. I wouldn’t put it on Pez, but Michael’s six day partner, Alex Rasmussen – who beat all the CSC guys to win the Danish Elite road championship and was world scratch race champion – is, according to Michael; “fatter than ever!” He had a bad crash in the summer and broke his hand, so he’s been off the bike and had his paws in the cookie jar.
After Michael, I tracked-down Kurt Bogaerts who looks after the ‘Sean Kelly House’, he took me round the time trial course in the car, behind David O’Loughlin at last years Worlds in Salzburg. One of his charges is hot property; Daniel Martin, he has good genes, his mum is Stephen Roches sister and he’s been getting good results. So good, that the ‘boys in Argyle’ – Team Slipstream, have signed him, so next year he’ll be with Backstedt, Danielson, Millar and Zabriskie.
With that part of the job done, I stationed myself at the top of the hill after the start and watched the race, in between writing my copy on my BlackBerry.
There was an early break of three, then two and when that crumbled there was a lot of activity but nothing could stick.
Having walked the course, I would have bet money on a breakaway. However, what Daniel Martin was saying at the finish was that it was really difficult for a break to make progress, the hard bits were straight into the strong wind, which blew for most of the day, and the fast part of the circuit had a howling tail wind which made it nigh-on impossible to escape the flying bunch.