For a while in the U23 time trial it looked as if Denmark might just take the first three places, especially when Olympic omnium champion, Lasse Norman Hansen blasted home and into the ‘hot seat’ on his trademark big gear.
With the man he displaced also a Dane – Rasmus Sterebo, and the 2011 silver medallist in the event, Rasmus Quaade still to finish, it was possible.
But say what you like about the UCI, they don’t often get the seeding wrong and the medallists all came from the last six starters.
Russia’s Anton Vorobyev put three quarters of a minute into Aussie pre-race favourite, Rohan Dennis and a further six into surprise bronze medallist, Dennis’s team mate Damien Howson.
We caught a shot of Hansen just after he finished as he headed for the hot seat.
As we waited for the rest of the fast men to thunder home, we did a lap of the pits to see what the earlier starters had to say.
First on the hit list was Swiss track flyer, Sylvain Dillier fresh from a recent stage win in the le Tour de l’Avenir;
“I think my ride wasn’t bad but it could have been better (Sylvain finished 28th @3:09 but still averaged 45.664 kph for the 36 kilometres).
The thing is that the season is so long that by now you start to get tired.
This winter I will ride the six days of Gent and Zurich, but I don’t know after that. I’m pretty happy with how my season has gone, I had a successful European U23 Track Championships – I won gold in the individual pursuit and madison and we took silver in the team pursuit.
And on the road I’ve had good results – I won a stage in the Tour de l’Avenir and had the yellow jersey for three days.
I’m not sure if I’ll be with a full professional team for next season, we’re talking to people at the moment – but if not I’ll be with an elite amateur team.”
Kiwi James Oram is a former Worlds junior TT silver medallist and was drowning his sorrows with Haribos when we chatted to him;
“I finished on my road bike; I got a gear change wrong at the top of the Cauberg and had to change bikes when the chain jammed up around the front changer.
I’m still on the learning curve in time trials over this distance – I’ve only done three or four so far. The whole season has been a learning curve, actually.
I’ve ridden Cascades, Utah and Colorado and finished in all of them – but they’re hard races. If I finish top 35 or thereabouts today then I’ll be happy, you should always aim for at least top 20, but you have to be realistic.
(James was 37th @ 3:43 on a 45.110 average speed – doesn’t sound too bad with a bike change and the Cauberg!)
I’ll be back with Livestrong for 2013 on pretty much the same programme.
But first I’m going home – I’ve been away since February so I’m looking forward to that.”
Out on the tarmac, Aussie Howson was collapsing off his bike after his effort to shave Hansen’s time by two seconds.
And in fairness, he did look pretty wasted when he passed us – lest there be allegations of ‘drama.’
Former world junior TT champion and 2012 Fleche du Sud and Triptyque des Monts et Chвteaux winner, Bob Jungels wasn’t ‘on it’ and tried to slip quietly away – fat chance.
And then it was Vorobyev, re-writing the script and not looking up nor down about it.
Dennis was favourite, as Australian champion and winner of the recent Chrono Champenois – but the Russian was at a different level.
Last year’s silver medallist Quaade was another man trying to slip quietly away – fifth, this year.
Hansen was disappointed to miss a medal by two seconds but was philosophical in defeat;
“It’s been difficult to focus since I came back from London – but I was focused for this event, it’s been a big goal all year.
It’s disappointing to miss a medal by two seconds but that’s the way it is.
I haven’t signed a pro contract for next year but I’ve had offers – I’ll ride the winter track season then I look forward to a good road season, next year.”
The Russian suits a rainbow jersey and doesn’t quite have that air of ‘inscrutability’ which those from east of the Volga are meant to have.
He smiles a lot and has an aura of cheekiness – that’ll get knocked out of him when he turns pro, no doubt.
His press conference was via translator – he speaks nothing except Russian – but that wasn’t a bad thing as she had those high cheek bones . . .
He’s raced against Dennis before and felt that the Aussie was beatable.
His last time trial was the Russian championships, which he won and he rode the Limburg course twice beforehand.
When I asked if he saved anything for the Cauberg, his answer was clear; “No, I gave it everything from the first metres.”
When the question came; “Will you be turning pro, next year?”
A loud voice from Katusha boomed from the back of the room; “Yes! He will!”
And he hadn’t been world champ for 20 minutes when they had him signing jerseys.
Rohan Dennis took time to show PEZ his shiny silver medal and answer our questions;
“The transition from track to road was difficult the first couple of weeks and I found it hard. I won my first time trial back and I’m happy I did what I could in the time I had.
The team video-ed the parcours and I was pretty familiar with the last 15/20 K from the time I spent racing with Rabobank, last year.
My race tactic was to set myself up with a fast first 15/20 K, but whilst carrying my speed into the hills, not come into them at 110% then blow. The bigger gears not really a problem because we’re using big gears on the track – it’s more getting used to the distance.
After the road race my season is finished and I’m back to Australia – for one day. Then I have a three week holiday in America.
I’m pretty happy with today, it was good to get a medal.”
And that was the U23 time trial.
And if you thinks that it’s all a bit of a waste of time – Luke Durbridge, Taylor Phinney and Jack Bobridge are the last three winners of this race.