Road World Champs 2010: Brits chasing rainbows as the racing begins (+ course video)
Alex Dowsett and Emma Pooley are Team GBs big medal hopes tonight
At exactly 1am UK time tonight, 19-year-old Mexican Eder Frayre, who rides for the US-based Herbalife-La Grange team, will roll off the starting ramp in Geelong for the men’s under-23 time trial to get the 2010 UCI Road World Championships under way.
While the championships, the first to be held in the Southern hemisphere, officially go by the name of Melbourne 2010, with the exception of the start of Sunday’s elite men’s road race, all events are being held in the city of Geelong, 70 kilometres or so along the coast.
At the official opening ceremony earlier today, Steve Bracks, former Premier of the State of Victoria and chairman of the Melbourne 2010 organising committee, said: “It's going to liven up Geelong, it's going to liven up Melbourne as it leaves with the peloton going over the West Gate Bridge, so actually we're very pleased. "All the setup is right, all the organisation is right - we think it'll be one of the best world championships ever," he added.
One unexpected headache facing organisers is that for only the third time in its 114-year history, last weekend’s Australian Rules Football Grand Final has gone to a replay, to be held on Saturday at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, but Councillor John Mitchell, Mayor of Geelong, promised that the unscheduled clash wouldn’t take the gloss off the World Championships.
"As the excitement builds throughout the week with the football and the cycling to a crescendo on Sunday with the elite men's road race, it will be absolutely fantastic," he said.
James Merlino, Victoria's Minister for Sport, Recreation and Youth Affairs, said that the event would give Australia’s cyclists a chance to further reinforce their presence on the global stage.
"The UCI Road World Championships is one of the pinnacles of cycling on the world stage,” said Merlino. “But unlike any other event, this gives our cyclists across the world a chance to race and compete in their national colours, and that is what I think makes this event so special. We're going to have huge crowds across the five days of this event," he added.
Two Australian riders won rainbow jerseys in Mendrisio 12 months ago, Cadel Evans, of course, triumphing in the elite men’s road race, while Jack Bobridge took the men’s under-23 time trial. However, unlike Evans, who said “it’s been an honour to wear the jersey for a year,” the Garmin-Transitions rider won’t be defending his title.
“Of course, I go for the best result I can, and obviously to repeat last year is the ultimate,” added Evans, whose success last year came on roads close to his home in Switzerland’s Italian-speaking Canton Ticino, and who owns a house at Barwon Heads near Geelong.
The BMC rider is one of two Australian riders around whom the host nation’s challenge in the elite men’s road race is being built, the other being Simon Gerrans of Team Sky, with which one takes precedence in the closing stages of the race likely to be dictated by how events on the road unfold, although with no race radios allowed, the decision-making process could be interesting.
One home favourite who won’t be taking part in the race sadly is Katusha’s Robbie McEwen, somewhat controversially left out of the squad when it was announced earlier this month.
However, the 38-year-old has previewed the course with his thoughts captured on film, although given his references to Alejandro Valverde, Kim Kirchen and Lance Armstrong, all absent for different reasons, that recce took place long before the squad was announced (thanks to road.cc user Simon E for the link).
Given the barbecue-hosting potential of some of the front gardens of those big houses on the main climb, presumably the local shrimp population has gone into hiding, and as far as the cycling is concerned, you can see the reason many are sceptical about the chances of a pure sprinter taking the rainbow jersey, and just why Philippe Gilbert is considered one of the favourites.
As for tonight’s two time trials, the sole British challenger in the men’s under-23 event is Alex Dowsett, who was announced this morning as one of Team Sky’s three new signings for the 2011 season.
Dowsett, the European under-23 champion in the discipline, is the penultimate rider on the course, going off at 3.46am UK time, and by then he’ll know the time to beat, which most are predicting will be set by current Trek Livestrong team mate Taylor Phinney, recently signed by BMC Racing. Home hopes, meanwhile, rest on Luke Durbridge and Rohan Dennis, the latter the 2010 winner of the Tour of Geelong.
In the women's time trial, Great Britain’s Emma Pooley, winner of the silver medal in the discipline at the Beijing Olympics two years ago, is among the favourites, but will face a challenge from 2008 World Champion Amber Neben of the United States and Judith Arndt from Germany.
Pooley is the eighth-last rider out at 6.45am UK time, a few minutes after the irrepressible French rider Jeannie Longo, five times world road race champion and bidding for a fifth title in the time trial at the age of 51.
The full start list for the men’s under-23 time trial can be found here and for the women’s event here, and with the UK a mental arithmetic-friendly ten hours behind the time in Victoria, all you have to do to convert the start times to UK time is replace the 1 at the front with a 0, then add 1 to the second digit - so 1500, for example, becomes 0600.
You can watch the women’s time trial from 6am tomorrow morning on the BBC website and via the red button, and while the men’s under-23 event isn’t being broadcast live, British Eurosport is carrying highlights at 12.45 tomorrow afternoon, with highlights of the women’s event following at 4pm.
Don’t forget you can also find further background to this week’s racing in our World Championship Preview.