World Championships Road Race,Report from John McDowall
World Championship Road Races, Stuttgart, Germany - September 26 - 30th 2007
Report by John McDowall
Three North Roaders, John McDowall, Nick Harris and Richard Somerset took the short flight to Stuttgart to enjoy the annual carnival that is the Cycling World Championships. As the organizer, arranging accommodation had proved to be very difficult as the good Burgermeisters of Stuttgart had also arranged a major tennis tournament and a beer festival for the same weekend. I was somewhat relieved that the only rooms available, in a one star Gasthause, turned out to be very comfortable if located a little away from the center of town. We arrived early on the Thursday and planned to catch some of the action from the Men’s Time Trial as well as the U23 and Women’s race held on the Saturday, with the big boy’s elite event on the Sunday. With CSE grade 5 schoolboy German under my belt, we set out to flex my linguistic vocabulary to procure a stadtplan (map) to find our way across to the course. With Richard in control of the map it was decided, rather unwisely, to walk to the course. It immediately became obvious that Stuttgart is hilly, well actually very hilly. What seemed like a pleasant stroll to the course quickly turned into some sort of re-enactment of Hillary’s accent to base camp. After what seemed an age, we arrived at the course just a few minutes before David Millar appeared, followed a little later by Bradley Wiggins. Having walked round cheering on the odd cyclist, and having picked our preferred watching positions, we wandered away to catch the efficient local trains to get back to the hotel. With limited choice of local restaurants a small local Italian seemed the best on offer. Once seated and with several Dunkel (dark) beers ordered we noticed that we where sharing the restaurant with the American cycling squad, the more informed members of the party then spent the evening playing spot the cycling superstar.
With Friday free we took a trip into the heart of Stuttgart. Set in the cleft of a wooded valley, and with a historic main central square, the ingredients are all there for a vibrant and interesting city. However, with a central shopping district that has that has that generic ‘globalised’ look, a post war rebuild that pays homage to the excesses of fifties and sixties architecture and with industry dominating the city (both Mercedes-Benz and Porsche are based on the outskirts) I must admit to finding the place just a little disappointing, akin to a Teutonic Stevenage. A trip to the Porsche museum completed our day as we prepared for the weekend racing.
The course was set in and around a large park in the center of Stuttgart. The whole area is very hilly, with some fast descents that all contribute to what appeared to be a difficult and technical course. On the course outline was a ‘pimple’ that took the riders down to a sweeping right hander and then up a climb called the Herdweg. At 700 meters’ long and at 13% it reminded me of some of the Flanders climbs, fortunately not cobbled but much longer! The fast descent provided some exciting viewing as the peloton thundered down at full bore, just a few feet from our position, and applied the brakes before the climb leaving the air heavy with the smell of burning brake blocks. The Herdweg was like applying gradual torture, especially for the racers on the Saturday, as you could see the physical pain of the riders as it became more of an obstacle as the race wore on. While the Saturday racing was fun to watch it was the main event on the Sunday that bought the crowds out en masse. With spectators from all round the world the more popular locations became difficult to access, but our pre-race reconnaissance enabled us to wander effectively round getting some good views and a real feel for the race helped by a tri-lingual race commentary. With three laps to go we planted ourselves in front of a big screen and watched the finish as Paolo Bettini out-sprinted four other riders to win consecutive World Championship’s, much to the delight of the large number of Italians who had traveled to Stuttgart.
With a weekend’s exciting racing viewing, and some superb German beer ‘necked’, the North Roaders headed home already thinking of the World Championships’ 2008 in Varese Italy.