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 at the Womens Road Race World Championships, 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.
It was cold and grey as the 157 U23 riders lined up.
An early break went to seven minutes for the first half of the race, but once it came back it was apparent that it was going to be a bunch sprint.
But going back to Ms. Vos for a moment, she just lead the five girl break through with three minutes on the field. No-one can accuse her of not racing – but maybe she’s just too keen?
She has a team mate in there to share the pace, but there’s also an Italian, Elisa Longho Borghini; an American, Amber Neven and an Aussie, Rachel Neylan – none of whom is contributing much.
The circuit isn’t as selective as we all perhaps thought; the Cauberg is tough, for sure. But it’s superfast off the top all the way to the Bemelberg – well surfaced, downhill or flat and with only two 90 degree left handers before the climb.
From the top of the Cauberg to the Maastricht sign, where the parcours turns left, reminds us a lot of the stretch running into the last kilometre at last year’s Worlds in Copenhagen. Along the back of the circuit it’s not technical at all.
Really, what it needs tomorrow is for the weather to be grim – wind and rain – that would ensure a real selection, but since I’m walking the parcours, I’ll settle for sunshine.
‘There’s a new Queen of the Netherlands!‘ says the speaker as Marianne attacks hard, last time up the Cauberg and gets the gap. I’ve heard that she trains with the Rabobank men and in Sky Speak, ‘has all the right numbers.’
The circuit – as I say, whilst the Cauberg is a toughie, even if you get the gap on the last ascent, there’s still 1.7 K to hang on ’til the finish.
In these days when the difference between top riders is minimal, it’ll be very hard to stay clear ‘en seule.’ I think that Hugh Porter is right in saying that it’ll be a bigger group at the line than we perhaps imagine.
Marianne has just done the biz on the Cauberg, and is riding in solitary splendor along the home straight.
It would be hard to criticise that race – or at least Ms. Vos.
The U23 wasn’t a great race, but it wasn’t dire, either.
Some of the young men in this race will be the best riders in the world, before too long.
Probably the best known former Espoir champion of the world is Ivan Basso.
But Kurt-Asle Arvesen, Francesco Chicchi, Gerald Ciolek and Peter Velits are all previous winners.
Last year’s winner Arnaud Demare is already making a name for himself in the pro ranks.
GB may have dominated the junior ladies racing, whilst Emma Pooley was fourth in the ladies TT and showed in the ladies road race; but the U23 side hasn’t shone, this year.
Last year Andy Fenn took bronze off his AN Post programme.
But this year, because the team hasn’t ridden the required races and gathered the necessary points, GB only qualified three men for the Worlds.
No doubt ‘better U23 representation in the Worlds for 2013’ will be on a Sky check list, somewhere?
And on the subject of tomorrow; favourites:
- With the Belgian press Gilbert and Valverde are ‘top favourites’ on five stars; with Boonen, Gerrans, Sagan and Freire on four stars.
- On three are Boasson Hagen, Rodriguez and Nibali; with Van Avermaet, Boom and Voeckler on two.
- On one are Nordhaug, Degenkolb and Kolobnev.
If it was me, I’d have Voeckler and Kolobnev on four.
However, someone always comes out of the woodwork.
Whatever is going to happen, I’m looking forward to it.