So the World Champs have been and gone, and yes it was wet very wet, but that did not dampen the spirit and enthusiasm of the race fans who flocked to the roadside in their thousands.
Mads Pedersen surprised in the men’s race by becoming the first Danish World Champion in the event after winning the sprint in a three-man breakaway. Italy’s Matteo Trentin started the sprint but took silver while Stefan Kung of Switzerland took bronze. One of the favourites, Mathieu van der Poel of the Netherlands, had also been in the breakaway but could not follow it on the last lap and ended over ten minutes behind.
This left four men where Italy’s Gianni Moscon later lost contact; he finished in fourth place but was unable to help his teammate Trentin. Three-time champion Peter Sagan made a late break away from a larger group but could not catch the leaders and came fifth followed by Michael Valgren of Denmark.
A World Championship race is very demanding on the riders even in perfect conditions. The race had been shorted due to the conditions but was still 162 miles in length and with over six and a half hours of racing in none stop heavy rain it took its toll on the riders.
Of over 190 starters only 45 finished. Cycling Weekly summed up the scene after the riders had finished. “Many looked like the reanimated corpses of bike riders, their skin sallow and eyes sunken; some had difficulty stringing a sentence together; all were shivering uncontrollably”. Let’s not doubt it, my friends, cycle road racing is the toughest and best of all sports. These men and women don’t have a half time or get to stop for some refreshment, unlike these pampered, pansy overpaid tennis players who have to stop after five minutes of so-called effort and have a sit-down and a glass of lemon and barley water!
Dutch woman Annemiek van Vleuten won the women’s race. She made her winning move over the Lofthouse climb only 45k into the 150k race. Not even a chase group of Great Britains’ Lizzie Deignan, Chloe Dygert (USA), Denmark’s Cecille Uttrup Ludwig, Clara Koppenberg (Germany) and the Italian duo of Elisa Long Borghini and Soraya Paladin could put a dent in Van Vleuten’s advantage. Her Dutch teammate Anna van der Breggan was also in the chase but had the luxury of sitting back and skipping turns, and ended up securing the silver medal.
It was wonderful to spend time in the fan zone and see fans from across the world, most of them from Europe, many Belgium and Dutch people and also fans from further away, Australia, New Zealand, Columbia, Canada and the USA. People of all ages, tiny tots on their tiny bikes may be having a go for the first time, old-timers who have done it all seen it all and been everywhere. The thrill of watching the riders out on the finishing circuit, hurtling down Pot Bank aiming at things that weren’t in their site yet but soon would be!
While Chip and I were in a cafe having a coffee and a sandwich an older man came in, no one in there recognized him or gave him a second glance, but I did, It was Vin Denson. So I stood up to speak to him, you could see the delight on his face that someone knew who he was. Vin Denson was one of the very best domestiques back in the 1960s. He rode for Rik van Looy in the Belgium Solo Flandria team, while there an owner and DS and also a rider from another team had been watching him, the owner was Raphael Geminiani and the rider Jaques Anquetil. They soon had him in the St Raphael team. Vin helped Anquetil to many of his wins including 5 TDFs. Anquetil moved from St Raphael to Bic, but he took Vin with him. The loyal domestiques hardly ever get to stand on the podium, working very hard for their leaders it’s they who reap all the glory and are remembered, while the domestiques are forgotten by many. Who remembers Eddy Merckx’s loyal super domestique Martin van den Bosch, not many I suppose, but I do.
The World Championships is a fantastic event; it brings cycling fans from all over the world together, many of them singing dancing and having fun.
As Chip and I walked back up the Beckwithshaw road to the crossing point, there was Vin sat quietly on his chair watching the riders go past. Across the road was the large VIP marquee, full of people eating drinking and chatting and I felt a touch of sadness, if anyone should have been in there, it should have been Vin.