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WORLDS’16: What The PEZ Crew Think!
Worlds'16: Now the dust (sand) has settled, the PEZ Crew have got together to air their thoughts on the rainbow races in Doha. We have a special addition to the gang: US and LottoNl-Jumbo's Alexey Vermeulen who rode the time trial and the road race in the desert of Qatar. The 2016 World championships, good, bad or...? Here is what the PEZ Crew think.

Doha - Qatar - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Alexey Vermeulen (USA)   pictured during ITT men Time Trial Individual of the UCI Road World Championships 2016 in Qatar - photo LB/RB/Cor Vos © 2016Alexey under the Qatar sun in the time trial

Alexey Vermeulen - (US & LottoNl-Jumbo) Worlds'16 Rider:
Racing in the desert was a unique two weeks. For me, in the past years, the World Championships has always been a memorable week because of its grandeur... In some sense that was missing this year in Qatar due to a lack of fans and a population seemingly uninterested in cycling, but the absence of grandeur was made up in other ways. The city was impressive and to hear about how much it has grown in the past 5 years makes it even more unique. It is a difficult place to get around without a car, so for most of the week we found ourselves stuck in the hotel rooms or at the one coffee shop below our hotel. The races themselves were difficult with intense heat and high winds. I think many people complained about these conditions, but we all prepared to race in this weather and in the end, these are the factors that broke the races apart and gave us our 2016 World Champions!

Alexey at the Doha Worlds, not his usual smiling self:
Doha - Qatar - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - abandon Alexey Vermeulen USA -   pictured during the Road Race men of the UCI Road World Championships 2016 in Qatar - photo Anton Vos/Cor Vos © 2016

Stephen Cheung Ph.D. - Toolbox Editor:
Worlds 2016 was a big personal highlight for us here at PEZ Toolbox, as we had an integral role in the outcome. That's because our own Toolbox contributor Tim Cusick is the coach for Women's TT Champ Amber Neben, and he and Amber can be justly proud of her performance in peaking perfectly for the race after first targeting the Olympics, which was her original season target but where she ultimately did not get to ride. Then there was and also her perfect pacing strategy, where she did not fade in the second half as many of her competition did. As for myself, my highlight was in working with Tim to integrate a heat adaptation program into Amber's training in the month leading up to Qatar. So when I turned on my computer Tuesday and saw the result, there was definitely a bit of a victory salute happening, and it reinforces how helping others to achieve their goals is just as satisfying as you doing so yourself.

Congrats to Amber and to Tim. Keep training smart and you too can achieve your cycling goals!

World champion Amber Neben:
Doha - Qatar - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Amber Neben (USA / Be Pink)  pictured during ITT women Time Trial Individual of the UCI Road World Championships 2016 in Qatar - photo VK/PN/Cor Vos © 2016

Ed Hood – PEZ Chief Grand Tour and One-Day Race Chaser
When PEZ Euro Capo, Alastair Hamilton asked for the views of his scribes on the 2016 Worlds Elite Road race in Qatar, one of the first to get back to him was PEZ's man in Italia, Ale Federico; 'sorry, I didn't see it' was his contribution.

My amigos - chauffeur on many a PEZventure and friend for 40-odd years, Dave; and Ivan our resident guru on 'all things East European' didn't watch either. All three are men, who, like me would normally crawl over broken glass to watch the Worlds on TV - but not this year. Passion, history and soul should decide where the Worlds go - not PR and moolah. The paucity of fans was surreal and sad - the parcours beggared belief. Doha from the air looked like a huge building site.

The Belgian pogrom out in the desert apart, the race itself was processional. Tom Leezer's late 'dig' got big coverage, normally it would have got a line or two in our notebooks.

But there can be no complaints about the podium - three of the hot favorites for the win now with four titles between them and in Sagan a worthy, self effacing, humorous, colorful champion who honored the jersey during his first spell in those beautiful bands. To paraphrase that old 'Monks' song from the 70's; "Nice podium, shame about the parcours. . .

Will that do, Al?

It should be nice when it's finished:
Doha - Qatar - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme -    illustration - sfeer - illustratie pictured during  roadrace U 23 of The UCI Road World Championships 2016 in Qatar - photo Davy Rietbergen/Cor Vos © 2016

Chuck Peña - Washington, US Bureau:
Last year, I was in Richmond to watch the Worlds. This year, I was at home in Arlington, VA. And there was no live TV coverage in USA so that sucked. But that’s what SteephillTV, YouTube, and the internet writ large are for.

I admit to not seeing the Women’s Elite Road Race on Saturday because I had to drop my daughter off for a practice round of golf (in preparation for the Girl’s Regional Tournament on Monday) in the morning and then went out for a bike ride after that. Old guy doing his best to keep up with a couple of young guys for 50 some odd miles. But at least I knew they wouldn’t totally drop me and leave me for dead because (a) I’m the only one who knew the route and (b) AJ and Zach are great riding buddies. But once again, Fausto Coppi was proved right: Age and treachery will overcome youth and skill. But enough about me … I did watch the replay of the finish of the Women’s Elite Road Race. I had picked Kirsten Wild to win and her Dutch team was riding at the sharp end to put her in a position to do just that. With a lead-out by Marianne Vos no less! But, in the end, Denmark’s Amalie Dideriksen (and yes, I admit I had to look her up on Google to learn who she was) nipped her at the line. Wild had to be gutted. Lizzie Deignan (nee Armitstead) wasn’t able to recapture her rainbow stripes, but that’s two years in a row for the Boels-Dolmans team. So sort of a repeat.

I wasn’t going to wake up a o-dark thirty to watch the Men’s Elite Road Race (which began an 0300 Eastern time), but I was up early enough to watch the last 75km live streaming on Rai One Sports while making breakfast and having my usual triple latte. Thank god for high speed FiOS internet. At that point, what would be the winning group was already away with the Belgians and Italians driving the train. Just like last year in Richmond, Sagan was a ghost and hid. But this time, instead of an attack in the closing kilometers, he waited until the closing 200 hundred meters to out-sprint Cav and Tommeke. What can’t Sagz do??? Of course, given how close he was to beating Greipel on the Champs Elysees at Le Tour this year, it shouldn’t have been a surprise. After the finish of last year’s Worlds, Tom Boonen smiled and wagged his finger at Sagan as if to say, “You sneaky little f**k!” After being outfoxed and out-sprinted this year, both he and Cavendish must have thought, “You amazing little f**k!" BTW, despite the Doha road course being described as a classic sprinter’s course, I actually picked Sagan (or is it Sagain?) to win. How could I not? He may not be the strongest or fastest sprinter in terms of raw power or speed, but he's certainly the sultan of surfing wheels for the sprint. Next year’s Worlds road circuit in Bergen, Norway doesn’t look like it’s suited for Sagan with two climbs that will be negotiated 12 times, so we’ll have to see if a three-peat is possible (four men have won the Worlds three times but none of them three times in a row). But it would be foolish to rule him out.

One final note... With the murderous heat dominating the Worlds this year - most notably affecting the German team with Kittel abandoning early, Degs abandoning late in frustration after losing it and squirting his water bottle on Belgian rider Jens Debuscherre, and the Gorilla admitting he just didn't have the legs - perhaps the UCI should consider Antarctica as a future venue. They’d probably have the same number of spectators.

John Degenkolb got a bit over heated:
Doha - Qatar - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme -  John Degenkolb (Germany / Team Giant - Alpecin) pictured during the Road Race of the UCI Road World Championships 2016 in Qatar - photo Cor Vos © 2016

Mark McGhee – Race Report Writer:
The Worlds was a strange affair this year: big wide roads, roundabouts, dead-turns and extreme heat. And then there was the almost complete lack of spectators. UCI President Brian Cookson posted a short video that he thought showed interest from the small group gathered around the finish line but really, I’ve seen more people cheering home time triallists on a wet Sunday morning.

For me, the main interest was the Women’s Elite road race as Scotland was represented by Eileen Roe, the current British National Criterium Champion and Scottish National Road Race Champion... and a top rider all round. Eileen has a killer sprint and I was hoping that she’d be there at the end but she’d been on the front all day, along with Dani King and Hannah Barnes, covering the aggressive Dutch attacks.

For Scotland to get to the Worlds, and for Eileen to be there as part of such a strong squad, is testament more to her hard work, and the hard work of her coach James McCallum, that to any part of a development process. She’s made all the running herself and I hope to see her going onto ever-greater successes... but I also know that she’ll be home riding the local cyclocross events as well this winter.

Ironically, for all the negative elements that made up the Doha Worlds, we were actually treated to two great road races, even if they weren’t quite what we had wanted in an epic one-day event. But that’s bike racing and now we move onto Bergen and the hills that will feature once again. And we hope Eileen Roe will make the team!

Eileen Roe will be back to Scottish cross from Doha:

Leslie Reissner – Literary Editor:
Another year, another Worlds but what a difference! Having been present in Richmond, Virginia last year, I enjoyed the buoyant crowds, the genial hosts, the tricky course with its cobbled climbs and the dramatic finish as Peter Sagan made his mark. In 2017 we at least had Peter Sagan again in the rainbow stripes but otherwise Doha offered up a lot of heat and not quite as much fun.

Although I enjoy seeing new faces come forward or old ones succeed unexpectedly, the highlight of this year’s World Championships for me was the return to form of Der Panzerwagen as Tony Martin added to Germany’s excellent medal haul with a superb performance in the Elite Men’s Individual Time Trial. He has not had the greatest season in 2016 and had a pretty miserable result at the Olympics in Rio in August, coming in 12th. He had spent some time in a wind tunnel and changed his position to become more aerodynamic but, as it turned out, also much slower. There is a specific German term for this, which should exist in English: Schlimmbessern, which means to make something worse by trying to improve it.

So apparently after Rio Tony Martin went back to his old position and trained for conditions in Doha by riding the turbo trainer in his bathroom with a space heater turned on. Doha presented the kind of course that works for time trialling: flat and boring, with no scenery to distract one and nice asphalt to keep the rhythm intact. It requires that a rider goes totally within himself, a test of limits one can truly appreciate only if one has done time trials oneself. It was a course for a power rider and from the beginning Martin rode a steady pace, never deviating from the aerodynamic tuck, leading at both time checks and in the end outpacing last year’s champion, Vasil Kiryienka of Belarus, by 45 seconds. A beautiful ride, averaging 53.651 km/h, in the desert heat. Tony Martin has now tied Fabian Cancellara with four World Champion titles in the Individual Time Trial but is not finished yet.

The medal ceremony was pretty ridiculous as there were lots of press photographers but almost no fans. This fan, however, applauded mightily and looks forward to the Worlds in Norway, Austria, England... anywhere but Qatar. What was the UCI thinking?

Leslie's Doha high point - Tony Martin the TT King:
Doha - Qatar - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Tony Martin (Germany / Team Etixx - Quick Step) pictured during ITT men Time Trial Individual of the UCI Road World Championships 2016 in Qatar - photo VK/PN/Cor Vos © 2016

Sam Larner – PEZ London Office:
When it was announced that Qatar would be selected to host the 2016 World Champs I was actually looking forward to it. I enjoy the Tour of Qatar and racing in crosswinds is the next best thing to watching mountain stages. Unfortunately, the championships were so late in the season, and given the temperatures, arguably not late enough, that it was hard to build up much enthusiasm. That wasn't helped by some sub par racing earlier in the week; World Team Time Trial, genuinely who cares about that?

However, I woke up on the day of the men's road race, safe in the knowledge that the wind would be blowing. Unfortunately, the organizers decided to spend the last 106km on the inner city finishing circuit so that you would have to have been watching the racing with at least 150km left to ride to see the decisive crosswind split. No matter who you are, watching 100km of circuit racing is not going to ignite much of a passion for cycling. In the women's race, Amelie Dideriksen took a massive, and mature, win at just 20 years of age. Defending champion Lizzie Deignan managed fourth to close the book on a tumultuous year. Whilst in the men's race Peter Sagan manage to outpace some pure sprinters to take his second win on the trot, and with a favorable course in Bergen next year, he could well make it three in a row. In the end though, when the largest one day race in the whole calendar is failing to excite cycling aficionados, something has gone wrong.

The wind and the Belgian team split the race:

Gordan Cameron – Reporter at Large:
The most interesting Doha result was Amalie Dideriksen joining that elite club of junior world champions who go on to take the elite crown, too. The 20-year old’s smart ride, coupled with the support of two other young ladies who got her back into contention after a mid-race crash saw Denmark punch above their weight and take home the rainbow bands. The average age of that winning team – Dideriksen, Julie Leth and Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig - was not even 22.

That’s three worlds road wins out of the last four for Dideriksen after her junior triumphs in Florence and Ponferrada. Denmark also placed second (Mikkel Berg) and fourth (Julius Johansen) in the Junior Men’s TT, and had Simone Eg go 7th and 10th in the Junior Women’s TT and road race respectively. They also put two in the top 20 in the U23 Men’s race against the watch. Mads Pedersen and Mads Wurtz Schmidt missed out in the U23 Men’s road event, but they are on the right path to bigger things. We also have to give the other Scandinavian youngsters a shout – Norway took the U23 Men’s road gold, and a bronze in the Junior Women’s event, among a host of strong performances.

However, while there has clearly almost always been a deep talent pool in Denmark the challenge is bringing it through to the elite ranks. For every big name that has made it, there is a Danish equivalent who just never translated junior ability into a long-term career. Dideriksen looks to have ‘made it’ already, and will be a key part of the Boels-Dolmans super team over the next few seasons … and she’ll still be young for the Rio Olympics in 2020.

A great win by Amelie Dideriksen:
Doha - Qatar - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Dideriksen Amalie (Denmark / Boels Dolmans Cycling Team) - Wild Kirsten (Netherlands / Hitec Products) - Lepisto Lotta  (Finland / Cervelo Bigla)    pictured during the Road Race women of the UCI Road World Championships 2016 in Qatar - photo Anton Vos/Cor Vos © 2016

Alastair Hamilton – Editor, Spanish Office:
The heat, the lack of spectators, no climbs, the wind, where was the atmosphere - all this has been said and in the end all the races had worthy winners. Maybe all those negative points don't matter to a World championships. OK, you needn't have watched the any of the races until the final half hour or so to see the best bits, except when the Belgians split the men's elite race, but that gave you time to go out on your bike and still have an opinion. Was it a Classic Worlds? No, but it can't be great every year and there were no surprises on the podiums. The clear success story has to be for the UCI and the organizers of the championships. Rearrange these words: The, all, way, the, to, laughing and bank. Let's hope it doesn't affect the price of petrol.

Doha - Qatar - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme -    illustration - sfeer - illustratie startzone pictured during the Road Race women of the UCI Road World Championships 2016 in Qatar - photo Dion Kerckhoffs/Cor Vos © 2016

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