The first day of the Road World Championships dawned with near perfect conditions: sunny, but not too warm and practically no wind. The scene was set for an exciting day’s racing as the crowds thronged the route, particularly at the base of the Cauberg where business in the bars and cafes had been brisk from early morning and, I suspect, continued long after the racing had finished.
At points along the Cauberg and beyond, camper vans had staked out their territory and were flying flags to show their allegiance. Hopes were high in the Dutch camp with plenty of local sides to cheer and a smattering of home riders in many other teams. Surely their hopes wouldn’t be dashed? Well, in the end they had to be content with a local rider on each of the victorious teams.
The elite woman’s race
The German-registered pre-race favourites Specialized-Lululemon lived up to their billing with an emphatic victory in the inaugural women’s trade team time trial from Sittard to Valkenburg. The team of Charlotte Becker (Ger), Amber Neben (USA), Evelyn Stevens (USA), Ina-Yoko Teutenberg (Ger), Ellen van Dijk (Ned) and Trixi Worrack (Ger) finished the testing 34.2km course, with a well-drilled performance, in a time of 46:31, 24 seconds quicker than runners-up Orica-AIS – Judith Arndt (Ger), Shara Gillow (Aus), Loes Gunnewijk (Ned), Melissa Hoskins (Aus), Alexis Rhodes (Aus) and Linda Villumsen (NZ). They in turn had posted the previous best time of 46:55 to depose Dutch team AA Drink-Leontien.nl – Chantal Blaak (Ned), Lucinda Brand (Ned), Jessie Daams (Bel), Sharon Laws (GB), Emma Pooley (GB) and Kirsten Wild (Ned).
The girls were thrilled with their victory and directeur sportif Ronny Lauke confirmed:
We’re all very excited. This has been a goal for us since it was announced last year and it’s really nice that we have been able to make it happen.
The 34.2km course started in Sittard with a fast flat stretch where the main contenders proved to be evenly matched. It was here that Specialized-Lululemon, last off the ramp, made best use of their sprinter Teutenberg – later dropped – to keep them in close contention. It worked. At the first time-check after 11km, they were almost a second up on Orica-AIS. However, the team demonstrated their power and greater experience when they started to pull away over the hillier terrain, particularly after Stevens had set a fast pace up the climb of the Lange Raarberg.
At the second time-check their advantage had grown to 13 seconds and by the time they hit the Cauberg it had increased to 20. Stevens again came to the front up the Cauberg but measured her effort to ensure her teammates could stay on her wheel. Once over the summit, Neben, Worrack, Becker and local favourite Van Dijk made the final push for the line and a historic well-deserved victory.
The UCI had thoughtfully provided the girls with their own podium boy to present the flowers, the legendary Eddy Merckx who tackled the task with relish. After all, it’s not often you get to kiss eighteen women. Still it’s a fitting reward for all those races he’s won.
1. Specialized-Lululemon 46:31
2. Orica-AIS +0:24
3. AA Drink-Leontien.nl +1:59
4. Rabobank +2:20
5. RusVelo +2:30
6. BePink +3:14
7. Michela Fanini-Rox +4:37
8. Hitec Products-Mistral Home +4:38
9. Dolmans-Boels +5:00
10. Lotto-Belisol +5:31
The elite men’s race
The ladies’ race followed the form book but the men’s didn’t. Belgian outfit Omega Pharma-Quick Step, comprising Classics King Tom Boonen (Bel), Sylvain Chavanel (Fra), world champion time-trialler Tony Martin (Ger), Peter Velits (Slo), Kristof Vandewalle (Bel), and Niki Terpstra (Ned) – fourth-from-last to set off – turned in a superby disciplined performance and the best time but then had a nervous wait to see whether they had indeed secured victory. They had. BMC crossed the line as runners-up, pushing Orica-GreenEDGE into bronze medal position.
You could tell how much the team relished the victory as Boonen strode onto the stage punching the air. After the race OPQS directeur sportif Wilfried Peters confirmed that together with Tom Steels and Jan Schaffrath they’d worked hard for this result:
A few months ago we did the first recon and we recorded everything for our riders. Then we came here again after Eneco Tour with the riders and we did the course. Then in the last days we really put everything into preparing as best as we can this race. Tom Steels put really a lot of energy into it and everything went well. It was a great team effort even on the staff side. Mechanics, masseurs, everybody on the team has to be proud of it and feel as if they are a part of this great victory.
OPQS posted the fastest time at each of the time-checks, impressively finishing the 53.2km course with all six riders in a time of 1:03:17. Closest challengers BMC – Alessandro Ballan (Ita), Philippe Gilbert (Bel), Taylor Phinney (USA), Tejay van Garderen (USA), Marco Pinotti (Ita) and Manuel Quinziato (Ita) – had four riders at the base of the Cauberg but Phinney struggled to stay in contention as Van Garderen and Gilbert rode up the climb and, despite their best efforts to regroup, finished three seconds down to the better-organised Belgian team.
Orica-GreenEDGE – Sam Bewley (NZ), Luke Durbridge (Aus), Sebastian Langeveld (Ger), Cameron Meyer (Aus), Jens Mouris (Bel) and Svein Tuft (Can) also turned in a consistent performance and, although they only finished with four, they held it together on the Cauberg and did enough to see off Liquigas-Cannondale with a time of 1:04:04, 47 seconds down on the winners.
Top-seeded Sky started last but, with many of its top riders either riding in the Tour of Britain or unavailable, they finished a lowly ninth. While home favourites Rabobank possibly went too fast over the first part of the course, burnt too many matches and were found out on the Cauberg.
It is also worth noting that there was one entity enjoying a dual celebration: Specialized, who delivered both teams to victory.
1. Omega Pharma-Quick Step 1:03:17
2. BMC +0:03
3. Orica-GreenEDGE +0:47
4. Liquigas-Cannondale +1:04
5. Rabobank +1:08
6. Movistar +1:18
7. Katusha same time
8. RadioShack-Nissan +1:21
9. Sky +1:32
10. Garmin-Sharp +1:35