John Rayner reports on the 2018 UCI Age Group World Championships…
Back in the UK now after staying on in Lake Como for 3 days after UCI Age Group World Championship in Varese, Italy.
I had arranged to stay at Villa Nina on Lake Como as the owners, Federico and Claudia Walter, had a son at Shiplake College in Henley and he is also a keen cyclist (and bloody good) who I had ridden with when he visited Henley. We had the Lake Suite for 7 nights overlooking beautiful Lake Como, with a private jetty and all the toys. Absolutely cracking position.
Friday, we drove over to Varese, only 40 minutes away, but we managed to go into Switzerland and did not have our passports with us so had trouble getting back into Italy. I showed them my registration documents for the race and that seemed to do the trick – the Italians are big cycling fans. We drove the first 20km of the course and I nearly shat myself. Much steeper climbs than I expected and horrendous technical descents on rough roads under trees with pine needles (little rollers) all over the road. And all that to be raced in a 300 strong peloton.
Saturday rained all day, so we drove around the lake via Como and up to Madonna del Ghisallo to see the church and all the cycling mementos. Could have spent hours there but Annie less keen.
Sunday I was up early for the drive over to Varese and my 08:26 start time. There were 4 others from the club racing in younger age groups and I ran into Alex and Matt Chart, amongst 2800+ racers. The countdown to the start went quickly and the weather improved so my Castelli Idro 2 wet weather top went in the back pocket. The off was immediate with no neutralised section like last 2 years, which caught a few of us out. It was full gas from the start at 50+kph and slightly uphill. The HRM was going off the scale but no choice but to hang on in the pain zone. The inevitable happened after about 8 km and there was an almighty crash on a dead straight section and old Johnny Wheelsucker was of course the wrong side of it. With 300 riders it stretched the field out over a km or so and that was it basically, race over. Not that I was ever going to feature at that pace.
We hit the first climb at 12.5km up Alpe Tedesco and I was pedalling squares. Teamed up with a gruppetto of several Brits and Aussies and a Canadian and tapped it out to the top. The descent was vicious, but I managed to jump away from the crowd to get a clear view at least. Then another crash with several of the girls, who departed in front of us, battered and bruised in the ditch, but with medical staff on hand so on I went. There were at least another 10 crashes from groups in front of us (there were 10 pelotons leaving at 7 minute intervals, so nearly 3,000 riders on the road). Towards the bottom, Jeannie Longo (French ex world champion and pro, and eventual winner of her age group by more than 10 minutes), came past so I jumped on her wheel and got dragged along the beautiful stretch from Case San Pietro along Lake Lugano to Brusimpiano. It was nice to ride tempo for a good distance. Then the second climb up to Ardena and it was bye bye Jeannie!
Jules Emblin, a friend from Noosa (3 time winner), came past me about then and I gave her a shout. She eventually finished second, another fantastic ride. I look forward to discussing the race with her in January 2019. Now I was just enjoying the views and trying to stay upright on some downright sketchy descents, particularly from San Pietro down to Mesezana. Even the Italians had put signs up to say it was “strada dissestata”. I was glad I left the Zipp 303 carbon tubular wheels at home and opted for Zipp 30 alloys with Vittoria Corsa G+ graphene clinchers, running a little bit lower pressure than normal.
We then had a brief run along the valley floor and were joined by the leading younger groups, who started earlier but did a longer loop. That helped give me a tow. Then the last big climb up to Sasso Meree, a run along the ridge through Brinzio and another fast descent down to Gemonio. Another 25km of tempo riding along the flat and around Lago di Varese and I was feeling good …. until we hit the last 3km climb up to the finish in Varese. Now I was completely cream crackered and just glad to finish with the rubber still on the road, no punctures, no mechanicals and no incidents. Big pasta party lunch in the Piazza della Repubblica in Varese to finish the day.
The biggest shock for me was the winner’s time in my age group – Roger Cull, Australian, averaged 37 kph with all that climbing and tricky descents. I was 27 kph, not even at the races. I was in pretty good shape after plenty of training and LEJOG and better than the last 2 years, so he must be phenomenal.
So on to next year and Poznan in Poland, a great course for a “fat flat track bully”. Bring it on.