Inside The World Championships

by Koen de Kort

Every season after my last race I pack up and leave for Australia to be with my partner’s family and friends and prepare for the next season in the sun in Melbourne instead of the cold winter weather in Europe. This 2010 season ended differently however. I took a big step compared to my 2009 season which didn’t go unnoticed by Leo van Vliet, the Dutch National coach. I got selected to be part of the 9 man World Championship team that would represent The Netherlands in the men’s road race in Melbourne and Geelong. Of course it’s great to ride in the orange national team kit at a World Championship but it is extra special to be able to do so in the country, even city, of my girlfriend and her family. I wrote a guest post for CyclingTips before and enjoyed that so much that I’m more than happy to share my experiences at the 2010 World Championships.

First of all it was a long travel for everyone involved. It takes a long time to get over such jetlag the whole team left for Melbourne over a week before the actual race. It never happens that the national team is together for such a long time before any race but this time I really enjoyed getting to know the other riders on the team (I was the only rider from my normal, Skil-Shimano, team). It gave us plenty of time to check out the race course from Melbourne to Geelong, as well as the circuit in Geelong. I already rode the circuit in Geelong a couple of times last January so I knew how steep the first climb is and after riding it a couple more times I decided to use a 25T cassette instead of a 23T in the race. It’s just nice to have the possibility to ride a slightly smaller gear when not going full gas. I couldn’t say I was spinning my legs with my 39×25 gearing but it just saves that little bit extra energy that could be vital in the end. To put it in perspective, I remember one lap going flat out I was using 39×15 at the same hill.

After talking about tactics for a while we decided on it the night before the race. We agreed that we didn’t have a clear favorite to win the race but that we had a couple of good outsiders and a well balanced team. My role in the race would consist of keeping 2 or 3 of our riders out of trouble and out of the wind in the first part of the race and once arrived at the circuit I had to stay in the front of the bunch to make sure no big groups without any Dutch riders would break away. After my work it was up to mainly Moerenhout and Terpstra to defend the national honor.

Race day started great, Melbourne decided to give us great weather with a little bit of wind. It was already hot and sunny when we arrived at Federation Square. I was expecting to see quite a few people at the start but I was blown away by the massive crowds. At team presentation I could hardly recognize the square because there were simply too many people on it.

Almost directly after the start I went back to the team car with Langeveld because of a problem with his bike. We had no race radios so it wasn’t easy to inform our national coach that we were coming up and it took a little longer than usual but we were back in a good position in the bunch by the time the breakaway went. We were riding slowly for a very long time and when we saw the time gap increased to over 20 minutes a couple of countries started working. It wasn’t until we actually arrived at the circuit I realised how close the breakaway must have been to lapping us because signs were being held up near the team boxes and there were only neutral cars behind the bunch. Being without race radios had something to do with the break getting away that far and it also cost me a fair bit extra energy after I crashed together with 2 other Dutch riders. I had some trouble with my bike and it took a lot longer to have it fixed because I couldn’t communicate with the national coach about my problems before he actually got to me with the car.

It was amazing to see the huge amount of spectators at the circuit in Geelong. The first few laps I had time to look around a bit and it was great to see some friends and even Dutch flags with my name on it along the course. Thanks for the support everyone! During the race I realized how great it is racing in Australia. The spectators here are the best in the world, it doesn’t matter which country you are from. Whether you are in the front or way out the back, fans keep cheering you on. I never heard anyone yell out at us anything doping related which happens too often in other countries.

Because the breakaway was so far in front when we arrived to the circuit we had to keep riding pretty fast the whole time and therefore it was very important that I would be in the front of the bunch at all times as discussed in the team meeting. With a combination of good riders trying to save energy on the climb and lesser riders not holding the wheel, chances were high that large gaps would start opening up and groups between 20 to 30 riders break away (which happened a few times). If our team didn’t have had anyone in a group like that we would have had to chase. Of course staying in the front at quite a solid pace cost a lot of energy and by the time we had 6 laps to go I started to really feel my legs. I couldn’t stay in the front all the time anymore and it was up to other riders from the Netherlands to take over from me.

A few larger and smaller groups went off the front of the bunch and I had to stayed where I was. My legs were hurting more and more but I managed to hang on to the group and actually was nearly able to go with the big group that made it across to the front of the race. The last lap we all knew our race was over and we rode as a group to the finish. I was really empty by that time with very sore legs and with only 10km to go I was going hungerflat. I ate all my food and gels just to make it to the finish and was very happy when I made it.

My fellow Dutchies rode a great race after I finished my job which made it worth sacrificing my own chances. Especially Koos Moerenhout and Nikki Terpstra showed themselves till the finish line and that made the whole team and our country very happy. It was a great day riding in orange and hopefully in Denmark we can one day grab that rainbow jersey!

I would like to end my guest post by saying that I have become ambassador for Today for Tomorrow, a non-profit organization that runs fundraising and awareness events in support for the cystic fibrosis clinic for kids at the children’s hospital at Westmead in Sydney. Amongst other things like auctioning one of my jerseys, they will do a charity ride from the 19th of March from Fremantle, WA to Campbelltown, NSW, 4200km, in order to raise money and awareness for this great cause. Please visit their website or send an email to [email protected] for more information.