The World Press Cycling Championships, held in the Belgian town of Lierde between 17-19 September were the biggest yet, attracting over 130 competitors from 15 different countries.
BikeRadar and sister publication What Mountain Bike came away with one gold and three bronze medals in the three day competition thanks to the efforts of Jeff Jones and Robin Coomber.
The championships are held each year under the aegis of the AIJC (Association Internationale des Journalistes du Cyclisme) and UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale). On offer were rainbow striped jerseys, medals and trophies in the newly introduced team time trial, as well as the now traditional individual time trial and road race. This year, the categories were changed to men under 40 (M1), men 40-60 (M2), men 60+ (M3) and women (W).
Besides the competition, the event also offered a number of tourist opportunities. Visits to the Tour of Flanders museum in Oudenaarde, the famous ‘Muur’ in the town of Geraardsbergen and loud fun-filled parties every night were some of the highlights.
Team time trial: Belgians rule, OK
Team time trial podium: grinta (2nd), belgium (1st), great britain (3rd): team time trial podium: grinta (2nd), belgium (1st), great britain (3rd)Jonas Bruffaerts
Team time trial podium: Grinta! (2nd), Belgium 1 (1st) and Great Britain (3rd)
Belgian teams claimed first and second and Great Britain third in the opening event, a three man team time trial. Held on a bumpy, lumpy and technical 11km circuit (one corner every 500m, on average), the event really tested teams’ abilities to work together in order to stay intact and get around the course as quickly as possible.
The locals used their home advantage to good effect, taking the time to practice the course and get to know it from inside out. Thus it was no surprise that Team Grinta!, led by editor Frederik Backelandt, Roel Van Schalen and Lorenzo Derycke posted a fast time of 15’04.37 to take a firm lead over Team Delius Klasing (Germany), who managed 15’29.33. However, Grinta! lost Van Schalen in the final uphill metres, which may have cost them the eventual win as the time was taken on the third rider.
Team Great Britain, consisting of BikeRadar editor Jeff Jones, What Mountain Bike art editor Robin Coomber, and Triathlete Europe’s Ian Osborne, fancied their changes against the Belgians but came up short. A slow start proved costly and their time of 15’05.62 was good enough for the bronze medal and a post-mortem of what went wrong.
But those two teams were trumped by Belgium 1, whose riders Dieter Roman, Brett Wauters and Rik Lintermans clocked 15’00.15 to clinch the title in a very close race. Their average speed of 44km/h was impressive considering the slow nature of the course.
Individual time trial: GB strikes back
The individual time trial was held the following day with all categories competing over the same 11km distance.
The women were off first and it was a newcomer to the championships, Katherina Garus (Germany) who clinched the title in a time of 17’18.24. She held off her compatriot Miriam Mandt (winner two years ago) by 9 seconds with Italian Ilenia Lazzaro taking third at 27 seconds.
The M3 (men 60+) category followed the women and there was more success for the Germans. Karl Rupp, a multiple winner in this event, won convincingly in a time of 16’40.76, beating Austrian Herbert Lancker by 36 seconds. Italian Roberto Ronchi finished third but was 2’14 off the pace of Rupp.
A relatively large field of 32 contested the M2 (men 40-60) time trial. Belgian Rik Lintermans, part of the winning team in the previous day’s team time trial, was one of the first riders home and took the early lead with his 15’49.7. But a few minutes later, Brit Julian Bray posted a very swift 15’16.78 to move into the number one spot.
Bray’s time withstood the challenge of German Andreas Küblik (Tour Magazine) who clocked 15:37.51 which netted him a bronze medal. But then Dutchman Roel Kerkhof, who edits the Dutch triathlon federation magazine posted a winning time of 15:11.65 and the podium was sealed for another year.
The M1 (men’s under 40) category was the most keenly contested, with last year’s winner Frederik Backelandt up against last year’s M2 winner Jeff Jones. Backelandt, complete with rainbow coloured Cervelo and matching kit, was first to ride and he set a formidable mark of 14’48.61. That was faster than anyone had done during the day, as well as being 12 seconds faster than the winning team’s time the previous day.
The Belgian had long wait in the hot seat, but his time was eventually bettered by a compatriot, Jonas Heyerick, whose 14’48.15 was just a few hundredths of a second faster. Heyerick was delighted – he had penned a column in P Magazine entitled ‘From Donkey to Racehorse’, which chronicled his progress from an unfit and overweight 95 kilos last December to a lean racing thoroughbred nine months later. He’d even bussed in a load of supporters, all wearing t-shirts emblazoned with his mission. And they supported him and everyone else. Quite loudly.
But the Belgians had to wait until the last riders were home before they could celebrate in earnest. Third last rider to go was Robin Coomber, who suffered a slipped saddle on the bumpy roads but still managed to post a very creditable 14’58.29, the third rider to go under 15 minutes.
Last man off was Jeff Jones, winner of two previous journo world time trial titles and very motivated to win a third and make amends for the team time trial. He rode an excellent race to post the best time of the day: 14’36.38 to move Backelandt and Heyerick to the lower steps of the podium. Although Backelandt was a little disappointed with third, Heyerick was over the moon with second and celebrated deep into the night.
Jeff jones on his way in the m1 tt: jeff jones on his way in the m1 ttRobert Kühnen
Jeff Jones sets off…
Jeff jones finishes: jeff jones finishesRobert Kühnen
…and returns with the best time
Road races: meet the Eikenmolen
The 12.3km road race circuit used similar roads to the time trial, but also took in the Eikenmolen climb, a short sharp berg that’s featured in a number of the big Belgian pro races. The climb was situated at 2km to go each lap, which meant positioning there was vital for the finish.
Katharina garus wins the women’s race: katharina garus wins the women’s raceJonas Bruffaerts
Katherina Garus wins her second gold
The women raced first, over just two laps of the circuit, although the small bunch was still blown apart on the climb. After a gentle start, things warmed up at the end of the first lap, when Katherina Garus attacked with Ilenia Lazzaro and were chased down by Christine Vardaros and Slovenians Marjetka Conradi and Lucija Petavs.
The quartet stayed together for most of the second lap until they reached the Eikenmolen again. It was herethat Lazzaro launched her bid for victory, getting a small gap over Garus. However the German chased her down over the final few kilometres, catching her with 500m to go. Lazarro had no chance with the German now on her wheel, and Garus took her second world press championship title in as many days.
The M3 (men over 60) category was also raced over two laps and it was a similarly small field to the women. The last time up the Eikenmolen proved decisive again as German Karl Rupp, Italian Eugenio Capodacqua and Austrian Herbert Lancker opened up a small gap over the rest. Coming into the finish it was Rupp who once again had the best legs, winning the sprint from Capodacqua and Lancker.
That gave Rupp a second gold medal after his time trial win, just as his compatriot Katherina Garus had managed to achieve.
M3 road race podium: eugenio capodaqua (2nd), karl rupp (1st), herbert lancker (3rd): m3 road race podium: eugenio capodaqua (2nd), karl rupp (1st), herbert lancker (3rd)Jonas Bruffaerts
M3 podium: Eugenio Capodacqua (2nd), Karl Rupp (1st) and Herbert Lancker (3rd)
With 53 starters the M2 (men 40-60) category was the largest of this year’s world press cycling championships.
Shortly after the start, the jury neutralised the race because of two flat tyres in de the starting zone. After this slow intro, the Germans from Tour Magazine started at a breathtaking pace. This speed inferno lasted several minutes, but then slowed down. From that point on the race became very nervous, which often happens in a large group with many riders who want to be in front.
After several small efforts it was ’50 plusser’ Birger Heuser from Germany who succeeded in escaping from the peloton. The gap between him and the peloton grew gradually to almost a minute. But on the third lap Heuser’s legs proved to be not strong enough for a solo ride, and he was caught just before the Eikenmolen.
On the last lap there were some small attacks but none stuck. Everyone was saving their energy for the last climb. Dutch rider Peter de Groot (another 50+) was the first to lead on the steepest part of the Eikenmolen and started the hostilities. Rik Lintermans accelerated and managed to create a gap together with several others who were able to hold his wheel. But on the descent they did not defend the lead. That gave a bunch of ‘young’ riders the opportunity to come back.
The crash at the end of the m2 road race: the crash at the end of the m2 road raceJonas Bruffaerts
Crash in the M2 finish
Jorg grunefeld wins the m2 road race: jorg grunefeld wins the m2 road raceJonas Bruffaerts
Grunefeld wins it
In the last part the difference between young and old was startling. Some 40+ riders took all the risks of the world to get in a good position. That culminated in the final sprint where Dutchman Rodrick de Munnik hit the rear wheel of Pierre Daniels (Belgium). Both riders crashed hard and suffered serious injuries.
German rider Jörg Grunefeld (40+) avoided the crash and proved to be the fastest in the bunch sprint, taking the rainbow jersey. Just behind him was last year’s winner Eros Maccioni (Italy) while Gerhard Hack (Germany) finished third.
The last race of the day was the M1 (men under 40) category over five laps of the Lierde circuit. A field of over 50 riders took the start and it was clear that there would be some serious racing. The first lap was ridden at a fairly controlled pace with a few riders surging to test the waters. The Eikenmolen shed a few riders but the bunch was mostly intact as it crossed the finish line for the first lap.
Mark koghee off the front in the m1 road race: mark koghee off the front in the m1 road raceJonas Bruffaerts
Mark Koghee on the attack
On lap 2 the large Dutch contingent started attacking more seriously. Eventually Mark Koghee managed to escape on his own and the rest of the field, which had a strong Belgian and German presence, were content to let him go. Koghee was able to build his lead to 1’19 on lap 3, but admitted later he was losing time on the Eikenmolen as he refused to change out of the big ring.
Time trial winner Jeff Jones tried attacking a couple of times halfway through lap 4, but he was a marked man and was unable to get the smallest of gaps. However, that meant the pace was a little more subdued on the Eikenmolen as the Belgians played a waiting game, some of them clearly working to set Backelandt up for the win.
Racing in the m1 road race: racing in the m1 road raceJonas Bruffaerts
The peloton in the M1 race
That didn’t stop Frenchman Christophe Moec from escaping over the top of the climb and bridging up to the tiring Koghee at the start of the final lap. Moec had been looking strong all day, doing plenty of work on the front when no-one else was interested. He and Koghee opened up a sizeable gap over the bunch, where counter attacks were led by last year’s winner Edouard Cholet and Jeff Jones, among others. That brought the leaders closer, but the gap was still there.
Koghee eventually cracked before the Eikenmolen, leaving Moec to try to win alone. The Belgians wound up the pace and everything blew apart on the final climb of the Eikenmolen. Five riders bridged up to Moec, including Backelandt, Robin Coomber (GBr), Holger Koopmann (Ger), Erwin De Clercq and Lorenzo Derycke (Bel). Incredibly, Moec was able to recover to outsprint them all, despite Backelandt getting a strong lead out from Derycke. Coomber came through for third – another bronze to add to his team time trial medal – and the podium was complete for another year.
The only thing that remained was the after party, which was held in a large tent right next to the finish. With most of Lierde out in force to have a good time, the beer flowing freely and accompanied by frites, Flemish stew and singing, it was a fitting way to end the 11th World Press Cycling Championships in Belgium.
Next year’s journo world’s will be held in Gabicce di Mare near Rimini on the east coast of Italy. It promises to be a hilly affair, and if the course preview is anything to go by, a time trial bike will not be necessary.
The bobby setter band played on saturday night: the bobby setter band played on saturday nightWim Du Ville