The entire European racing season culminates in one race, the World Championships! This year the World Championships took place in Copenhagen, Denmark. This was my first year representing South Africa. I enjoyed my first Worlds experience! Copenhagen is a beautiful city with a wonderful vibe. It is a city passionate about cycling, with thousands of people using bicycles as their main mode of transport.
Time Trial, 20 September – 27.8km
The time trial consisted of two laps of the same circuit, in and around Copenhagen city centre. The lap was as flat as a pancake and included many corners, cobble sections and even a pavement drop off.
This kind of flat, technical time trial is not suited to my small build on the best of occasions, but adding to the equation wind and rain, I knew it was going to be hard to get a great result.
Knowing that the course didn’t suit me very well and being my first World Championships, my objective for the time trial was to use it as a learning experience and an ice-breaker before the Worlds road race.
I finished 30th on the day, not the result I would have liked, but I learnt a lot. Seeing the TV coverage helped me realise that I have a lot of work to do to improve my position and aerodynamics on the bike. Time trialing is a very specialist discipline and I look forward to building on this for World Time Trial Championships 2012.
Road race, 24 September – 140km
The road race consisted of a 14km loop in one of the suburbs of Copenhagen city, which we did 10 times. The loop was mostly flat, with two noticeable drags, an uphill drag to the finish line and another small hill.
After watching some of the junior and U23 races on television, it became quite clear that although the loop included tough sections, it was more than likely that our race would end in a bunch sprint.
Our South African women’s team consisted of four riders, namely Robyn de Groot, Joanna van de Winkel, Cherise Taylor and I. Our tactics going into the race was for Robyn and Jo to take part in any racing that took place early on in the race, i.e. to ride up front and neatralise or go with any attacks, while Cherise and I were to save ourselves for the final sprint.
Looking back, I feel I rode a good race. I held a comfortable position in the bunch, not to far back, but also not too high up, as not to waste any unnecessary energy. Entering the last lap, we all knew that it was important to be placed high up in the bunch to contend the sprint. Jo and Cherise worked well together, however, with Robyn going down in a crash in the final 5km, I was left to battle it out on my own. With more crashes happening in the last kilometer, I was forced to pull breaks numerous times in the rush to the finish line and I never really managed to sprint properly. I finished 23rd, Jo 32nd, Cherise 34th and Robyn 100th. I found myself feeling very frustrated after the race. I had the legs for the sprint, but not the bunch position.
It is not often that a World Championships race comes down to a mass bunch sprint. The Copenhagen course was just not hard enough to split the field. World’s is always a very tactical race. No one wants to see anyone else go off the front, there is just too much at stake and without a meaningful climb in the circuit, the race finished with too many girls having fresh legs.
In hindsight, this year’s World Championships was a great learning experience. Robyn, Jo and Cherise rode incredibly well and South Africa can be proud of what we have built so far. I am very positive about the future of South Africa women’s cycling. Next year is a big year with South Africa hosting its first UCI women’s tour in May, The tour de Free State and the London Olympic games in July. I look forward to next year and am excited about the potential it holds for us as South African women cyclists.