I resisted the bars of Valkenburg and was in bed not long after 10:00 on Saturday night. The body clock woke me for 06:15 and I was on the Cauberg before 07:00, ready for the Team Time Trial.
I decided to do my Cauberg piece early on Sunday because the junior time trial starts early on Monday and the police won’t let you walk on the parcours, so best to get a bit of peace and quiet whilst I could.
It’s a ‘no messing’ climb, the road lifts just a little past the dozens of bars which line the streets of Valkenburg, then bang!
You’re on the Cauberg.
By World Tour pro’s standards, it’s not a killer, but it’s steep and unrelenting for around a kilometre with a false flat to follow.
With ten ascents, next Sunday ‘keeping your powder dry’ will be of the essence.
The winner will have to have kept some watts in his back pocket for the brutal charge which will surely culminate the race.
Over what you think is the top – just past the bridge – it drags again before levelling, dipping then running pan flat and arrow straight to the finish line.
I can’t see another Oscar Camenzind ‘surprise win’ – it’ll be ‘Big.’
Boonen wants is badly, so does Gilbert but the Spanish team is very strong with Contador and Valverde well capable of winning here.
Sagan will be in the mix, maybe Voeckler, Nibali – and just maybe Moser.
So that was a six kilometre walk before breakfast – I figured that once I was over the top I’d be as well to keep going to the press room and get my TTT start sheets.
There was the potential for 50 teams to ride, but there were actually 32 on the start sheet.
It costs a lot of money for a Continental team to ride a race like this – and then maybe get caught for four minutes by a Pro Tour squad.
First off in the Team Time Trial are the South African team with big ambitions, MTN Qhubeka – they’ve just signed Gerald Ciolek as well as Volta stage winner Jay Thomson and former Giro time trial winner, Ignatas Konovalovas.
Ciolek is only 25 but has already had an accomplished career, which includes being a former under 23 World Road Champion and a stage winner in the Vuelta a España.
After breakfast I hopped the train up to Sittard where the TTT started.
The rail network in Holland is excellent, every train arrives on time to the minute and the longest I’ve waited on a train is around five minutes. The prices are reasonable, too – from Schiphol Airport to Valkenburg, which is a near three hour journey with two train changes was 24 Euros. Edinburgh to Blackpool will cost you £67 and there’s no way you can count on ‘tight’ train changes because so many services run late. Sir Richard, get over to Holland and see how they do it.
Sorry, boring – Sittard wasn’t nearly as busy as I thought it might be.
I had hoped to ‘blag’ a ride in a team car but the UCI have tightened up and you need specific creds to be aboard a following car, I plan to do a TT bikes piece later in the week so there were lots of bikes snapped. But it was good to get a blether with old friends Dirk Dekeyser – our mechanic at the sixes – and ex-pro Charly Wegelius who’s a DS with Garmin these days.
Dirk works ‘day contracts’ with Topsport Vlaanderen – Mercator in the summer; meaning that he’s not employed by the team but is brought in when required on a day by day basis.
He was at the recent Giro di Padania, which he says was a very tough race with Nibali an impressive winner. On the Cauberg in the afternoon it was apparent that the Italian was at ease – one of the few riders to look so relaxed. Watch for ‘The Shark’ next Sunday.
Dirk was also giving me a few Six Day titbits: Bradley will not be riding the Gent Six Days for one. There were negotiations but Patrick Sercu couldn’t pay what the Tour winner wanted. If I tell you he was on €40,000 to ride a derny paced criterium then that may give you an idea. As Dirk says; “40k for an afternoon, so for six days . . . ” Iljo rides with Australian omnium specialist Glenn O’Shea – against fellow Belgians and world madison champions Kenny De Ketele and Gijs Van Hoeck. Get your tickets early for that one.
Gossiping and bike snapping duly done, it was back on the train.
Meanwhile, back at the Valkenburg Team Time Trial the sun was shining, the crowds were thickening and the bars were in full effect.
On my way to the Cauberg I heard an English cycle tourist say to her hubby as she struggled with her bike through the crowds; “it’s 50 miles; so it’ll be another hour before they’re here.”
There was a big crowd on the Cauberg but it was really the place to get the best snaps because on the flat they’re going so damn fast.
First up were those South African MTN Qhubeka boys – by no mean disgracing themselves in this company.
Many teams had lost a rider with the unfortunate casualty having to get over the Cauberg as best they could – some were in a real mess.
Liquigas were the first to ‘look the biz’ with Nibali very impressive – but even they had split, with two of their number tying themselves in knots to try to get back.
Movistar too looked purposeful in this Team Time Trial but home favourites and flyers at the early check flyers, Rabobank were in a mess – all over the hill.
The Rabo Conti team had been in much the same state and I would read later that as the Pro Tour team came into the Cauberg, chrono specialist Stef Clement put in a big turn which blew the team apart.
It didn’t cost them a medal, they were too far back, but it certainly cost them fourth place.
Jack Bauer was impressive at the front of the Garmin squad but it wasn’t their day and it seemed as if I’d just finished my notes on Garmin when the QuickStep machine glided smoothly into view.
They were one of the few teams to have six men left and looked like winners.
BMC had been my favourites for the Team Time Trial, with riders like Gilbert, Pinotti and Phinney, but the Cauberg did for them – the team had split and Phinney in particular was really hurting.
GreenEDGE were down to four but tight and organised – albeit you could see that they weren’t going like QuickStep or BMC.
All that remained was for a weary Sky quartet to get over the hill as best they could.
A great start to the Worlds – the first of three championships for QuickStep? It’s possible.
Results - The World Road Championships 2012 - Team Time Trial
- Omega Pharma-Quickstep 1:03:17.17
Tom Boonen (Bel)
Sylvain Chavanel (Fra)
Tony Martin (Ger)
Niki Terpstra (Ned)
Kristof Vandewalle (Bel)
Peter Velits (Svk)
- BMC Racing Team 0:00:03.23
Alessandro Ballan (Ita)
Philippe Gilbert (Bel)
Taylor Phinney (USA)
Marco Pinotti (Ita)
Manuel Quinziato (Ita)
Tejay Van Garderen (USA)
- Orica GreenEdge 0:00:47.06
Sam Bewley (NZl)
Luke Durbridge (Aus)
Sebastian Langeveld (Ned)
Cameron Meyer (Aus)
Jens Mouris (Ned)
Svein Tuft (Can)
- Liquigas-Cannondale 0:01:04.73
Maciej Bodnar (Pol)
Tiziano Dall’antonia (Ita)
Kristijan Koren (Slo)
Vincenzo Nibali (Ita)
Maciej Paterski (Pol)
Peter Sagan (Svk)
- Rabobank Cycling Team 0:01:08.13
Lars Boom (Ned)
Stef Clement (Ned)
Rick Flens (Ned)
Robert Gesink (Ned)
Wilco Kelderman (Ned)
Luis Leon Sanchez Gil (Spa)
- Movistar Team 0:01:18.57
Andrey Amador Bakkazakova (CRc)
Jonathan Castroviejo Nicolas (Spa)
José Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Spa)
Vladimir Karpets (Rus)
Vasil Kiryienka (Blr)
Ruben Plaza Molina (Spa)
- Katusha Team 0:01:18.81
Maxim Belkov (Rus)
Vladimir Gusev (Rus)
Aliaksandr Kuchynski (Blr)
Denis Menchov (Rus)
Gatis Smukulis (Lat)
Eduard Vorganov (Rus)
- Radioshack-Nissan 0:01:21.22
Tony Gallopin (Fra)
Andreas Klöden (Ger)
Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr)
Jesse Sergent (NZl)
Jens Voigt (Ger)
Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa)
- Sky Procycling 0:01:32.33
Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor)
Alex Dowsett (GBr)
Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa)
Sergio Luis Henao Montoya (Col)
Ian Stannard (GBr)
Geraint Thomas (GBr)
- Garmin – Sharp 0:01:35.13
Jack Bauer (NZl)
Thomas Dekker (Ned)
Martijn Maaskant (Ned)
Ramunas Navardauskas (Ltu)