Luc Nouwen is competing on behalf of CycloWorld (and Belgium) at the UCI Gran Fondo World Championships in Sarajevo and nearby areas. In a series of blogs he tells about his adventures. Today the time trial. The full results of that, by the way, can be found here.
Picking up your starting number and chip is an important moment. Which number will I have, what time is my departure time, who else is participating? Again, the organizers succeeded in making it more difficult than it is ... There was a very long queue because of the short the time to pick up the race package. The supplies for the road race were not there yet, so you have to go back again if you want to participate in the fondo as well. The crew who checks if your time trial bike complies with all the rules was delayed. It appeared at 13.30 while it should have been there at 12.00. Even the ever-friendly Erwin Vervecken, UCI Gran Fondo World Series manager (and former cyclocross world champion in the pros), lost his patience.
The weather has completely turned around. The past few days it was wonderful weather for cycling, this morning it is raining cats and dogs. The start times are scheduled from 1pm to 4pm. My start time right in the middle at 14.30.30. According to the weather forecasts, the rain will come at 2 pm. Not a nice prospect with my rim brakes on carbon.... There are 239 participants representing 38 nationalities. In the men 60-64, 23 participants are registered and 17 nationalities. The oldest lady starts in the 70-74 category, the oldest men in the 80-84 category. Fantastic that something like this can happen!
I leave for a warm up in full attire anyway. The problem in Pale is that when you turn into a street, it often turns into a gravel road a few hundred meters further on (and I'm not a gravel rider yet, especially not on my time trial bike with a full wheel). Even though, I do my three 15-second sprints and two five-minute runs at a high heart rate.
At the start those who are even older than me are ready when I get there. The queuing can begin. A chat with a Serbian in German and with a Brit in English. I finish my gell with caffeine and hang my rain vest over a railing. Hopefully it will still be there after the race (I'm alone in Bosnia; serious people have to work). Afraid to see if the bike position will be approved; it's the same guy who did the inspection in August and claimed that my saddle had to be moved back 5 cm... He didn't know the rule that the saddle can be perpendicular above the bottom bracket as long as the distance to a certain point or your handlebars doesn't exceed 75 cm. In the meantime, he has apparently updated his knowledge.
We start every 30 seconds. It is still not raining; so I chose to use my helmet visor. Don't start too fast, don't hold your breath. Stay around 165 heart rate until it really starts going uphill. Continue when the road flattens out a bit towards the tunnel. And that's where Mr. Australia flies past me; not even halfway and he's already gained a minute on me. On the descent, of course, he doesn't get any further away. Halfway up take the 180 degree turn and back up. I keep an eye on the Australian until it flattens out. The steeper, the better for my small stature. When the bigger gear has to be imposed, I come up short. Down the tunnel, where they've put some kind of lighting on the ground in the section where the normal lights don't work. So things are still not right.
I shift to a heavier gear, and again. End of the tunnel and the rain hits the visor. Three men in front of me; all three are overtaken. Biggest gear; navigating between what is just possible and smashing against the asphalt. Avoiding the speed bumps nicely (specially trained for this). Another 500 meters. Everything I have; with three bends and a wet road surface, of course, not easy. End. Breath out.
My rain vest is still there. I go to greet my Slovenian companion Andrej Zvabi. A nice man who was a state amateur in his younger days. Back to the apartment for recovery drinks and checking the results on the website.
Four participants did not have a time after their name, including our friend from Australia. Ah, I forgot to check if I have to go to the doping control. On foot I return to the finish; Erwin Vervecken shows me the way. From the age of 60 they apparently don't check anymore.
While I'm here, I attend medal ceremonie. Erwin pops up with adjusted results. Alan Nelson, the Australian, wins. I bump into Kevin Tye who won the qualifying race in August. He was first for the adjusted results and is convinced he won until I show him the photo of the adjusted results. Painful. I finish 9th and ride 27 seconds faster than in August; 1 second too slow for eighth place. It's a shame I didn't turn on my Garmin and fiddled with it a bit. But, top 10 at a World Championship! I am a satisfied man. And luckily my time is faster than Jeaninne Longo's, who won the women's world title in my age category.
The race has been run; it's over. The fatigue creeps into every fiber. The release is complete. I can just sink in and doze off now. I like a thorough planning; anything that doesn't fit in gets a scolding at best. The weather, of course, is no excuse, and that's what crossed my mind today.
Time for a steak and a pint! After a week of pasta and rice, that seems like an appropriate change. Turns out they are still allowed to smoke in the restaurant if the manager allows it. So no dessert. On to the medio fondo. According to Kevin it is a high quality field of participants and the weather conditions promise an epic race: rain and temperatures dropping to freezing point at the finish at 1500 meters. Again, something to look forward to!