The farming town of Wartburg came alive today (Wednesday) as top road cyclists from every continent converged to try out the 25km course that will decide the new amateur time trial world champion when the UCI World Cycling Tour Final get under way on Thursday.
One hundred and fifty four riders will contest for the coveted UCI time trial rainbow jerseys in seven women’s veteran and master classes and nine men’s age groups, with many of the defending champions having made the trip to South Africa to try and retain their titles.
It’s the first time that the UCI World Cycling Tour Final, formerly known as the Masters World Championships, has been held outside of Europe, presenting a gilt-edged opportunity for local riders to challenge for the prized rainbow striped jersey and at the same time posing challenges to European riders who had to make the long haul trip to be on the start line.
With over 500 riders converging on Pietermaritzburg for the event, many have opted to focus on the 61km, 96km and 112km road races on the weekend, while the time trial specialists who have been training on the Wartburg layout say it will sort out the wheat from the chaff.
“The time trial is the race of truth,” said 53-year-old Hout Bay resident Uwe Schmidt. “You are out on your own and you just do what you have to do and the fastest wins!”
With cooler weather and a gusty wind brought by the cold front facing the riders, the consensus amongst the title hopefuls is that the time trial course is fast and hilly and will be affected by the wind on the day.
Many riders were agonising over choices of rear wheels for the time trial, with many considering changing their solid disk wheels, should the windy conditions persist on Thursday. The time trial route ends with a long fast descent followed by a tough uphill close to the finish, which will be critical to the outcome of the time trial.
American rider Molly Van Houwering is out to defend her world title in the women’s 35-39 year age group that she won in Belgium last year, and agreed that the wind on the open sections of the course will be critical.
“It’s a fast fun course with some really quick descending, and there are some tough climbs,” said the Berkeley university professor, one of four friends from Northern California who travelled to the event, one of them being her husband Rob who is also a professor at Berkeley.”
“We have had a really great time here,” she added. “We really enjoyed the traditional South African braai on Tuesday evening with the other riders. That is what this UCI World Cycling Tour is all about.”
The time trial starts in central Wartburg outside the Wartburger Hof hotel at 10am when enthusiastic German rider Marianne Krolow begins her time trial in the 60-64 year age group, after which riders leave at one minute intervals.
Krolow and her husband Mike both work at the Justice department in Frankfurt and made numerous sacrifices to be able to make the trip to South Africa. “I didn’t have any leave due to me so my boss told me that I could go and said that if I won a world champion’s rainbow jersey will it count as special sport leave!”
Programme of Events – UCI World Cycling Tour Final 2012