“How flat is it?”. Or in other words, “will Cav win?”. The question on everyone’s lips. Some say it’s flat. Others say not so flat. David Millar reckons it ‘looks good for a sprint’ after riding the course. But most say it’s flattish, and not hilly, but definitely not flat-flat.
So will Cav win? Well, if it comes down to a bunch sprint then you wouldn’t bet against him. The gradients of the Copenhagen course may decide whether this will be Britain’s most successful Worlds ever.
So far this week Elinor Barker has collected a silver medal in the junior women’s time trial, which was followed up by a spirited defence of her world title by Emma Pooley, who finished third on a course that shouldn’t, on paper, have seen her challenging for the top spots. Then on Wednesday we had a dramatic Big Ring Showdown in which Bradley Wiggins came out first loser to the totally dominant Tony Martin.
Our women’s team is looking good for a shout in Saturday’s road race; can in-form Pooley throw up another surprise? Will Cooke re-find her winning ways? Or will teamwork carry young Armistead into a position to sprint for the win? Gerard Vroomen (of Cervelo, and definitely not even British. As far as I know) is tipping them for success.
And then of course on Sunday we put forth a full-strength men’s team that will no doubt be focussed on protecting Cavendish and providing a formidable leadout train to fire him towards the line. Jez Hunt’s experience will be called on to guide him around the peloton, and then Cavendish has the services of a lead out train of a calibre even HTC would struggle to match – Thomas, Wiggins and Millar.
Ordinarily I’m very poor at being British, but even worse at being English. It’s such a prescriptive term – ‘English’. I think of insufferable Old Etonians, St George’s flags fluttering from white vans during football World Cups, of a suffocating class system, of Morris Dancing and inedible slabs of roast beef. But ‘British’ is a more forgiving term, it still allows us all to indulge in the desire to be slightly foreign and exotic whilst still being nothing of the sort.
In fact it’s very lucky we enter the World Championships as Great Britain, not least because it means we can claim Mark Cavendish as our own. And David Millar who is Scottish after all. And Welshman Geraint Thomas. To be honest I’m not sure how Chris Froome fits into this all, but we seem happy to claim an African as long as he’s a bit handy on the bicycle.
Nationality is a peculiar concept. It’s not about where you happened to pop out of the womb and into the world – even the utterly English Bradley Wiggins was born in Belgium – or even where you grew up (I remember Cycle Sport magazine feature where they gave Chris Froome a tour of London – he didn’t seem very familiar with his ‘home’ country). It’s certainly not about where you live, with most British riders spending most of their time either on the road racing, or in Europe in places such as Spain and Italy where the climate is more temperate.
But you can bet that if – when? – Cavendish is first cross the line in Denmark, his pride will practically be bursting through his Great Britain jersey. In an interview with the BBC he said the World’s is special, that “It’s all about pride… it’s all for national pride”. And back home – in England, Wales, Scotland, and even the Isle of Man (where ever that is) – we’ll be bursting with pride too.
Women’s Road Race Saturday 24th at 1.30pm, 140km
Lizzie Armitstead, Katie Colclough, Nicole Cooke, Sharon Laws, Lucy Martin, Emma Pooley, Catherine Williamson.
Men’s Road Race Sunday 25th at 10am, 266km
Mark Cavendish, Steve Cummings, Chris Froome, Jeremy Hunt, David Millar, Ian Stannard, Geraint Thomas, Bradley Wiggins.
Both races will be shown live on the BBC, go here for more details.