September 26/06 12:26 pm - Final Thoughts on Salzburg
Posted by Editor on 09/26/06
Thoughts on the Road Worlds...
Monique Hanley assisted us with our coverage of the Road Worlds - her first Worlds. She was an invaluable asset to us, and we hope you enjoyed her look at the Worlds through fresh eyes. This is Monique's final thoughts on attending one of cyclings premier events. Thanks Monique!
A moments hesitation, and suddenly the distribution of 3 medals to a pack of 35 is reduced to four: Spanish riders Alessandro Valverde and Samuel Sanchez, Germany's Erik Zabel and Italian Paolo Bettini. With only 600m left I watch in horror as the two Australians left in the remaining pack pause, both reluctant to work for each other. It is well known that Robbie McEwen and Stuart O'Grady share a mutual dislike of each other. But the noise and movement in the rail I lean on shake me back into perspective. I am standing right on the finish line of the 2006 Road World Championships, and there is only 300m left in what has been a fantastic week. So what if my countrymen lost a great opportunity - for me this week has been much more than watching your favourites. It is about seeing who makes the most of what they have got. With 400m remaining the Spaniards take up the challenge, Sanchez leading out initially for Valverde. But Valverde heads into the finish straight and takes the front too soon. My vision is blocked but I can still make out Zabel coming around, with the shadow of blue behind him. Bettini is in a perfect position on Zabel's wheel and launches just as Zabel's pace begins to soften. He wins clearly, and the place errupts. Italians are everywhere, in the photographers, written press, organisers, camera men and crowd. The electricity is contagious. I can't capture it in film or in words, but it ran right through my blood!
Cycling is a great sport, but my involvement is usually from either a recreational speed or racing domestically on both the road and track back in Australia. The intense task of capturing the essence of an event such as the World Championships isn't always so pretty. Following the great Italian victory, photographers push and shove each other to grab the best position for the podium presentation. I grab my spot but my view is blocked when another sits in front of me. Shortly after someone drops a lense on my head without apology. I hear an argument between two others, and chaose ensues after Bettini leaves the podium to hug his national team staff member. This is quite tense.
My experiences this week have been filled with some wonderful sights. No one could have predicted the script for each road race. The opportunity to sit out on the course watching (sorry, taking photos) of riders as they fought with everything on the climbs was superb. It made me almost want to get right back into training on hills again, as it is so comforting to see the best in the world suffer like I do - albeit at a much faster pace than I. And the support from the legions of people who have flocked from all over Europe and the world made this such an exciting week to be part of.
Next year the Road Champs are back in Europe (Stuttgart, Germany). Who knows, in a moments hesitation we could have an Australian squad working together, a full Canadian representation (Ryder Hesjedal was the sole representative in the mens race), and I could be back again feeling the electricity of the best racing in the World.