News CWiX 500 Cycling regions Cycling holidays Shop Contact
11-06-2024 | Harry Ruiterkamp

Tartu Rattaralli: the perfect UCI qualifier for non-climbers

What do you do when qualifying for the Gran Fondo Worlds are the goal of your cycling season, but for various reasons, you don't seem to be in qualifying shape? "Just keep going," is a common comment. So that trip to Estonia for the Tartu Rattaralli could go ahead.

Cyclists participating in Tartu Rattaralli

Bike friends of mine managed to qualify for the World Championships in Glasgow last year, and the photos really appealed to me. Since the world amateur cycling title race will be held on other continents after this year, it was clear: my season's goal on the bike will be to qualify for the Gran Fondo World Championships in Aalborg, Denmark. With a trainer on hand, I tried to complete a somewhat structured training program. However, work, family, and other commitments often got in the way of finishing the planned schedule.

All in on Estonia

Not being much of a climber - I get dropped on an overpass, so to speak - I searched the calendar for the qualifiers with the fewest meters of elevation. The choice fell on the Tartu Rattaralli (126.6 km with 750 m+), which seemed doable for me. This tightly organized classic (in its 43rd running) began as a race for pro riders, with winners including well-known names such as Frenchman Jacky Durand and local hero Jaan Kirsipuu. Nowadays, it is a cycling event for everyone: in addition to a gran fondo and a medio fondo for the sporty, there is a family ride, a race for children, and even vintage bikes.

Scenic view of cyclists riding in Tartu Rattaralli

Already at the start at 11:00 am, the sun was shining brightly, and the thermometer was rising to well above 20 degrees. Ideal weather for the race. Arriving far too early at the start location, I enjoyed the nervous behavior of several other participants. I parked my bike early in the 50-54 start box (indeed, the equivalent of the towel on the beach bed) and then waited again at my leisure in the shade.

Cyclists gathering at the start line of Tartu Rattaralli

With my nose to the starting ribbon, I was ready to go. All 50+ riders (m/f/x) were grouped together, so apart from "my" red numbers, there were yellow (55-59) and some blue (60-64) numbers to be found. An initial push got me to the head of the starting pack for a while, but then I decided to ride between the wheels. The pace was often pushed towards - or above - 45 km/h on the flat parts. Not surprisingly, soon the first stragglers from the younger starting groups were swept up and left behind.

Shifting goal

An umpteenth group of stragglers caused a split in my starting group halfway through the race. At a feeding station on top of a tricky climb, we had to catch up to another group of stragglers. Since I was dangling from the rubber band at the back, I didn't notice the first group pulling ahead at the front. With that, the goal shifted from "stay on as long as possible" to "just get best-of-the-rest and hope it's enough." The pace in the group had dropped a notch, allowing me to take in the beautiful green surroundings. Vast meadows were interspersed with large forests. Moreover, the slower pace made it possible to take a water bottle at the refreshment stations. Empty water bottles could be thrown into a designated big bag, which I managed to do three times out of four; once, I hit the pole, and the bottle bounced into the grass next to it.

Cyclists riding through the scenic green landscape of Tartu Rattaralli

In the final kilometers, the stronger riders in the group found extra strength to push the pace at the front, ideal for a wheelie surfer like me to sneak along. In the wet streets of Tartu, it was then sprinting. The best thing I could do to secure a possible qualification was to win the sprint of the group, or at least be the best 'red'. For a moment, a group of stragglers seemed to throw a spanner in the works, but just in time, the door opened, and I was able to ride my sprint, pushing my wheel across the finish line first.

Waiting game

After receiving the event participant medal, the anxious waiting for the official verdict began: qualified or not. One of the riders in my group, a Finnish triathlete, was certain he had qualified. I may have finished ahead of him, but he was racing in the 55-59 category. Doubt lingered. In the race director's tent - where it was steaming hot, and you could almost feel the lack of fluids from the hot race - the diploma was printed out upon presentation of my race number: 23rd... Surely that would be enough? At table number two, they performed an additional check. Yes! I received the coveted medal for World Cup qualification! Preparations for Aalborg can begin!

Comments (0)

Create an account, or click here to log in

Only logged-in users can post a comment


Did you know that CycloWorld also has an online shop

Check it out.

Discount on event tickets up to 50% and much more.

Related posts