Procycling - - Prologue - DM

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

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