UCI Masters World Championship – report by Phil Harris
Race Report. UCI Gran Fondo World championship, Varese 2018
The NFCC was well represented in this year’s world championship road race in Varese with four riders taking part in different age groups. Elliot Chilton 19-35 year age group, Phil Harris 50-54 year age group and Robert Sweatman and Neil Stevenson on the 55-59 age group.
All four had qualified at the Tour of Cambridge in June on a very flat and fast 127K course. Varese offered a similar distance at 130K but a very different challenge with over 1900 metres of climbing and some highly technical descents.
Phil had arrived a few days in advance but any hopes of a course recce on Friday were thwarted by a storm of biblical proportions. Neil and Robert both arrived on Friday giving plenty of time to check their bikes, register and once the rain had finally abated late on Saturday afternoon check out the first big climb of the race. Neil had booked his trip through a specialist cycling travel agency so had the opportunity to meet with other riders over a good meal and talk race tactics.
Sunday was race day and the weather was now thankfully excellent for racing. With only 2500 riders in ten separate pens, the pre-race was much calmer than we have grown used to at the larger UK closed road events.
Team GB was very well represented here as were Italy, France, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Belgium, South Africa, Japan, Russia, Poland, Croatia and the Scandinavian countries but many more countries took part too from Mexico, china to the UAE.
The first 12K of the race was an average 2% rise on excellent open roads. Unsurprisingly it was fast and furious. Phil witnessed several serious looking crashes including one in the first 1K of the race.
Robert and Neil fared well on this section, Robert reporting that he had managed to position himself in the top 1/3rd in the pen and was in the leading peloton for the first 12km. Phil’s group spread out quickly but he managed to find a good sized group to work with and reached the base of the first hill in reasonable time.
When Robert’s group hit the first climb (4km @ 7%) the field started to spread out, he really enjoys the long hills and used his power meter to good effect to control his enthusiasm. Neil reported that It was critical to judge the pace well at this stage, to get over the climbs with enough to spare and then to use good descending skills to join the group that then formed for the next flat section. Phil also measured his effort with care and was keenly aware that if he tried to attack the hills he would come undone pretty quickly.
The route took us over 5-6 significant climbs including a couple of short sections of cobbles. On one of these Phil dropped his chain and ended up running that section Froome style. All of the climbs were followed by technical descents with a couple of flat sections around lake shores thrown in. The course also passed through numerous small villages with some lethal drains, corners and tight bends but was also populated by some enthusiastic locals cheering the cyclists on.
There was criticism from some that the descents were too dangerous for this type of race. Robert who is relatively new to cycling was understandably nervous,‘The downhill was particularly challenging with blind 90 degree corners and unhelpfully place road furniture’.
Neil saw the aftermath of a couple of crashes but felt the key turns were well marshalled and the risk was not too high.
Phil had a few close calls and at one point made the rookie mistake of following the line of another rider resulting in a little involuntary off-roading. He was keen to make up time on the descents and was perhaps a little reckless at times.
Not surprisingly many riders had over cooked it in the first 50km. The race included almost 2000m of climbing which resulted in a much more tactical ride than the qualifying event in Cambridge. From about a third of the way in Neil and Robert started to pass guys who had been dropped by the lead groups many of them looked as though their race was already over.
The significant climbs were at 12K (4.5K @ 7%), 33km (5.3km @ 5%); 71km (2.5km @ 5%); and 81km (4km @ 5%). But lots of smaller climbs in between.
The next part of the race (until 100Km) followed a similar theme for Robert, up the hills he would overtake lots of people, on the downhills they would overtake him and then on the flats in between he would work hard to catch-up and then cycle together. At 65km Robert led a breakaway from a larger group. Phil would all too often find himself isolated and attempted to find a sustainable effort level, when groups came through he would work with them until the next hill and then inevitably they would pull away.
The last 15km or so was flatter but with a serious sting in the tail. The pace stayed high in Neil’s group, with riders from Belgium, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Slovenia, Italy and several Brits. Working well together. However, no one wanted to bury themselves before the final 3km climb to Varese which included some sections of up to 16%. Some riders who were riding with big gears at this stage fell back quickly and the race broke up before the last flat 600m race to the finish.
Robert was in a group of about 20+ at this stage but he said made a tactical mistake leading the group for the last 2+ km on the flat, and then slightly lost touch up the set of hills meaning he was 20m off the group for the final sprint in.
After completing the final climb of pain Phil was so excited that he dug deep for a respectable 600 metre ‘sprint’ to complete the course.
The finishing times and positions are as follows:
Elliot Chilton 19-35’s in 3.57.36 201st out of 260
Robert Sweatman 55-59’s in 4.05.43 125th out of 250
Neil Stevenson 55-59’s in 4.11.11 146th out of 25
Phil Harris 50-54’s in 4.40.28 329th out of 354
Following the race Varese town centre was taken over by the race village where the pasta party was soon in full swing followed by the much hyped but rather protracted awards ceremony. A volley of ticker tape was fired into the sky at the finale as were approximately 14 balloons. Phil (his wife Louise), Robert and Neil gathered to exchange stories over a beer and a cup of horrid coffee under the shelter of the food tent as another un-forecast biblical downpour ensued .
Monday morning was a great opportunity for Neil to take a recovery spin around Lake Varese with a proper Italian coffee stop in the sunshine.
I think all of us enjoyed the experience. Most of all meeting and competing with riders from other parts of Britain and all around the world not to mention the privilege of wearing the the GB jersey.
If you are interested in competing at the event next year in Poland or the following year in Vancouver then I would thoroughly recommend it.
Primera TeamJobs 10 mile TT
Six New Forest riders entered the event, which unfortunately clashed with one of our own club’s events and meant that it had to be cancelled with only two riders turning up, outnumbered 3 to one by marshals and timekeepers!
Peter Weaver was disappointed with his ride of 27.18, chasing the 71 year old’s record of 26.48, Bob Jolliffe also missing out with a time of 26.33 chasing a 66 year old’s record of 25.15; both set by Vic White in the early 2000s. Vic’s records were likely set with little aero assistance on a slow course, so stand as achievements that may be hard to beat.
Sacha Ring was unfortunately a DNS, Stewart Ward was pleased with his time given his recent lack of training and recorded a 22.09. Most pleased of the day was Stuart Peckham, taking 15 seconds off his PB and 22nd overall with a 21.40 – well done Stuart! Antony Green recorded 20.08 for 9th overall and 3rd Vet on standard.
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