The Worlds week was like no other. Its the only race of the year that Junior racing really is part of the professional bandwagon and it makes the hunt for the rainbow jersey all the more special.
My week started with the individual time trial on Monday the 17th September. Dibben and I had been chosen to ride the 28km test. It culminated up the Cauberg climb that we would later ascend in the road race, with a further two kilometers of flat immediately after leading up to the finish line. Whilst Jon had been training specifically on his TT rig for a number of weeks since his return from the Junior Track Worlds in New Zealand, I had not touched my Condor 'Ultima TT' since the build up to the Team Pursuit at the Track Euros in June however whilst I was a little short on specific training, I was hopeful for a good result after a really solid weeks training in South Wales with Jon and the rest of the team.
The course was pretty tough, with a strong headwind making even the fast straight roads hard going. I was cautious not to start to quickly, bearing in mind there where two tough climbs in the last six kilometers. The result didn't quite fall the way I had hoped, crossing the line an eventual one minute fifty behind the winner. This isnt the place to delve into deep analysis of the ride, however I was very disappointed with my 35th on the day. (See pictures of the TT below). Whilst I had the process off the bike nailed, I lacked a little something in the ride itself.
Jon and I had three days in the (luxury) team hotel before the rest of the Junior team arrived, so, neither of us over the moon with our days work, we decided to turn a new leaf away from the TT. Attempting to bring up the moral and switch focus to Sundays road race. Tuesday gave us ample motivation as we watched our team mate Elinor turn on the class to win the Junior Womens TT by a country mile. This was followed by a ride with Matt Winston - our coach (see below), and plenty of feet up time in the hotel. One of the added bonuses of Worlds was having the whole team in one hotel, giving us a chance to talk to some of the U23's and a few of the Pro's about their experiences this year and of racing in general. Its a pretty special thing to be able to share a dinner table with riders and coaches from the best team in the world, just observing first hand what the top guys put in food-wise was pretty cool!
After nine days in the hotel Dibben and I were itching to go. Race day itself saw a six am breakfast in order to be ready to race at nine. This unearthly hour was due to us racing just before the Senior Men's race, giving us the luxury of their crowds, just with a little earlier than normal alarm!
With over one hundred and eighty riders on the start, from all manner of nations, we knew that it was going to be as important as ever to be well placed in the bunch. With a super fast descent leading straight into a dead turn up the final climb, the Cauberg, placing into the finish and throughout the race really would make or break a result. I was on breakaway alert from pretty early in the race, marshaling moves and trying to make one of my own stick up the legendary 'berg' (see video link below). Over the finish line with one lap to go I found myself in a four man break with a slender two second advantage, however from that moment on the race was groupo compacto and not going anywhere until the final climb. With eight or so kilometers to go I picked up Jon about thirty back in the bunch and started my second role of the day, a leadout coming into the sprint. We moved up along the right hand side of the bunch and elbows readied battled to stay at the front, riding with a protected sprinter in my wheel is something I love and have really relished alongside Dibben, we worked like clockwork for the upteenth time this year, right at the front of the bunch coming into the descent, despite a few hair raising moments! Coming into the final corner Jon slipped one wheel ahead of me and hopefully out of danger. I readied myself to stick like glue to his wheel before coming round on the hill and (hopefully!) keeping him at the front. At this moment a french rider decided to cut up my inside before half skidding round the corner and correcting his line, I lost momentum and about ten or fifteen places around the outside. It was digging in time and I worked hard to get back to Dibben. Moving up on the climb I was almost next to him with about a kilometer to go, just two or three riders separating him from my side. By this time Alex had started to rev it up on the front of the drastically reduced bunch and I knew the moment was gone to help Jon into the sprint. I tried until two fifty meters to go to get across too him, eventually rolling in twenty first. Dibbo sprinted to a fantastic fifth place and Alex and I celebrated leading, in parts, to a brilliant result.
It was a race of lessons and revelation. Reminding me that at this level you have very few metaphorical bullets to shoot, but that I most definitely have the legs to hopefully try and carve a result or two for myself sometime next year. Florence, the home of the 2013 worlds is already on the horizon.
A huge congrats to Lucy and Elinor, giving Great Britain the road race and time trial Junior Women's world champions and showing, alongside Dibben's top five, what the ODP and GB junior team are made of. I must also say a huge thankyou to all the carers and coaches at the event who make it really unlike any other race on the junior calendar.