Luc Nouwen competes on behalf of CycloWorld (and Belgium) in the UCI Gran Fondo World Championships Sarajevo and nearby areas. In a series of blogs he tells about his adventures. Today the first blog.
The advantage of my participation in the qualifying event in August is that I am no longer in unknown territory. The organizers are full of good will, but there remains that feeling of just a tad too much improvisation and not enough German "Gründlichkeit."
For example, I don't understand why the accommodations recommended by the organizers are all in Jahorina, the finish place of the fondos, about 26 km from the start place in Sarajevo. In fact, the time trial takes place in Pale, 20 km from Sarajevo and 12 km from Jahorina. I found accommodation in Pale, which is more spacious and cheaper than what is offered through the official website. And also with beautiful views (see photo). After the arrival of the fondo, I can get back on my bike for a 12 km descent: just throw the legs loose.
The lights in the tunnel that is on the time trial course are still not repaired. Part of it is pitch black as a result; without lights you can't see a stitch in front of your eyes. My email with a comment about this apparently did not fall on everyone's mind. By the date of the race it would be fixed. In the meantime, you may crash.
That said, a certain Toni answers my questions immediately, even on Sunday. On a more positive note, the friendliness of the people I've met over the past week is undeniable. My hostess who spoils me with fruit from the garden and homemade muffins; the baker's wife around the corner who writes down on a piece of paper how little I have to pay for the bread; the friendly music producer who extensively shows me the way to the bike store and the mechanic in the bike store who immediately sees what the problem is with my bike which during a training session suddenly refused all service.
It stands in heavy contrast to the ruins you still see everywhere on the way to Sarajevo, as silent witnesses to the war that raged here. Inhabited apartment blocks also still show regular bullet impacts. And you don't want to argue with the police; there are tough men among them.
It sometimes feels a bit strange when you ride your time-trial bike on the track. You're a strange creature in an environment which is still recovering and isn't preoccupied with such futilities. At the same time, you're supporting tourism. Bosnia-Hercegovina certainly has assets in this regard. The fact that life and prices are still a lot cheaper than in more familiar places, helps.
But we're here to race and you can't think too much about that. Certainly not at a time trial. Because as Belgian tv commentator José De Cauwer knows: there are those who ride, there are those who race and there are those who time-trial!