You may not have heard of the UCI World Tour, I know I hadn’t until I rode the Tour of Cambridgeshire back in June 2015. The Tour of Cambridgeshire is one of the fifteen UCI sanctioned events that take place all over the world and are qualifiers for the UCWT World Championship.
The idea behind the UCWT World Championship is to promote high level competition for amateur and veteran racers. There are other federations offering similar events, but this is the UCI’s version and it’s nice to see them recognising us weekend warriors and old-timers. It is also part of the UCI’s programme to spread the cycling word to countries outside of the European stronghold. To this end there are races in the UAE and Brazil.
I hadn’t intended to race this year, I was thinking of a summer of road and ‘cross sportives to keep me ticking over until next season. However a chance to ride the first Tour of Cambridgeshire Gran Fondo, the UK’s first continental style event with fully closed roads and the chance to qualify for a entry into the world championships, whetted my appetite.
At eighty-three miles the ToC was going to be longer than any race I had ridden before. I had been brought up on a diet of an hour plus five lap crits and sixty mile road races, racing for more than a couple of hours, as opposed to riding a long sportive was going to be a challenge. So I was more than happy to find that I had qualified for the worlds in my age category.
I was even more surprised to be given the go-ahead by She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed to ride the final in Denmark! It seems that as this year is my 50th, I am allowed a certain amount of freedom when it comes to cycling. Within moments of permission being granted, I was online and had my credit card out, I was in!
The next day realisation struck, what had I done? I had just entered myself for a UCI World Championship race! My cycling palmares consist of reaching second cat and almost winning a Surrey League road race, what was I thinking? I was going to be racing one hundred miles against some of the top amateurs in the world? Ok, the ones who could be bothered turning up, but you get the gist!
Of course entering was only the tip of the organisational iceberg. There were flights to book – not forgetting to book your bike on – accommodation to find, licenses and Letters of Authority and bike boxes to beg, borrow or rent. And once you get all that done, you have to get training!
I had done no racing this year, got a few gold standards in some sportives, but beyond that? This was going to require some work. First up would be getting me up to the race mileage. This was fairly straight forward, head out early before the weekend club run, then add that mileage and voila! you’ve done a century. I also added a couple of long sportives, the CX Century and The Prudential RideLondon events had me getting in the right frame of mind.
The Prudential RideLondon was particularly useful, as I was able to ride at race pace and try out kit, also I wanted to see if two large bottles would be enough for an event of this length. On the day of the championships, although there will be neutral feed zones with volunteers handing up water, I can’t imagine dropping out to collect one while the bunch zooms past. No, two large bottles for a four and a half hour event in warmish conditions is fine.
I used Pro-Lites Bortola A21W wheels that I ran with Schwalbe’s One tyres and found them perfect. The wheels were light and fast, the tyres performed perfectly with the added benefit of puncture protection. Hopefully the added security of tubeless will mean I can forget about a puncture ruining my day. It was also my first proper outing on my new Handsling RR1.
The RR1 is my first new bike in five years and has been a revelation to me. I had gone for a size smaller than usual and found the tight, fast handling frame to be surprisingly comfortable. Fellow team riders had confirmed how good it was, but there’s always that little niggling voice. I needn’t have worried, she performed flawlessly and saw me through the Prudential RideLondon in four and a half hours without too much effort.
So I’m up to race distance, but it was time to get race fit. I find I can get so far using the turbo, but I need to get out on the road, in a chain-gang or even better actually racing, to reach my version of peak performance. Unfortunately this was August and there wasn’t a lot of racing going on. I managed to track down a few events and even smuggled my bike onto the family holiday to Dorset and, thanks to Mr Internet, found a couple of local chain-gangs to ride with!
So here we are, my flight leaves tomorrow. Training has been ok, I could have done with more, but got as much as could be expected with family commitments and even managed to get the usual summer cold over and done with in less than five days. The bike is packed and ready to go, there was a last minute change of plan as far as the wheels go, but that is sorted.
This is going to be an amazing experience for me, I hope. The chance to compete in a bona fide world championship race. How often do you get to say to your cycling buddies “this weekend? Oh I’m riding the Worlds in Denmark”! In my wildest dreams I envisage myself staying with the front of the group and fighting it out for a top 10 position, but in reality? Well my age category, 50-54, has something like two hundred riders, I have no idea what the quality of riders will be. I imagine most will be regular veteran racers, with some sportive riders. Amongst them could well be retired ex-professional riders keeping themselves fit, for whom this will be a jolly little outing.
But hopefully there will also be a fair amount of busy dads, who squeeze in their training and racing amongst the hustle and bustle of family life. And it’s against these guys, my peers, I’ll be measuring myself. Whatever happens I’ll be loving the racing and will let you know how I and Team GB get on. Wish us luck!
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