QUICK STEP FLOORS
B adly designed multicoloured jerseys and a circuit-based course: there is something special about the World Road Race Championships but it’s not just the aesthetics. Removed from the comfort, structure and tactics of their trade teams some riders thrive in the freedom of the Worlds.
The feeling in the peloton is completely different too. In a normal WorldTour race there are on average 20 teams on the start line, with perhaps half of those holding the belief that they have a bona fide contender. The Bergen elite men’s worlds had 44. Some, of course, were small one- or two-man teams, but there are far fewer team tactics at the Worlds and many see it as an opportunity to get a personal result without the restraints of a trade team hierarchy to contend with. This is even highlighted by the sprint for the line. Name another race on the calendar where every position is fought for tooth and nail. Usually outside of the top 10, riders will roll across the line. National pride is perhaps a factor but there is also a more cut-throat atmosphere.
The circuit changes the psychology of the race as well as its difficulty. One lap of the Bergen circuit would not be a problem, but hit those climbs 12 times and you see the damage they did. Circuits seem to encourage a more nervous race too. It’s always assumed that it’s crucial to be at the front of the peloton to save energy but that’s very much dependent on the circuit and needs to be sensed during the race. Sitting further back can waste a lot of energy in the case of splits caused by crashes or purely after descents, but it also takes a lot of energy to sit in the wind or fight for position the whole time. A lot of riders commented after the race that they hadn’t seen Peter Sagan at the front all day; perhaps because it was a circuit you didn’t need to be at the front. That was my feeling and how I approached the race.
It’s not just the peloton that is different. Riders enter into an alien environment for what is perceived as the biggest one- day race of the year. Different nutrition sponsors, clothing, backroom staff. Not better or worse, just everybody has a different way of working.
However, what stands out from a rider’s perspective is the atmosphere. The patriotism attached to the Worlds, the friendly banter between fans, is like no other sport. The noise on the climb in Bergen was incredible; a partylike atmosphere each lap that gave you goosebumps.
My performance came as a surprise [Dan finished 26th but in the lead group]. My body doesn’t seem to have recovered fully from the shock of the crash at the Tour de France and although I feel really strong I am definitely not firing on all cylinders. To still be in the mix at the end of the race was quite a surprise, although in all honesty I was simply making up the numbers and holding on. Next year’s course in Innsbruck looks super tough. Hitting that peak of form in late September is always tricky and the race itself is as unpredictable as the form-book, but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t in the back of my mind.
Name another race on the calendar like the Worlds where every position is fought for tooth and nail
The swathes of fans in Bergen cheer on the Worlds peloton as it goes by