By Dede Demet Barry, T-Mobile professional cycling team
This is the one and only time during my cycling career that I have had the opportunity to race the world championships on home soil (or almost home). The host city, Hamilton, Ontario, is just 30 minutes from the center of Toronto, where my husband, Michael Barry, grew up and just a stone’s throw from my own hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
For Michael and me, it is a dream to race a world championship with our friends and family on site to push us up the hills.
Michael grew up riding along the Niagara escarpment that we will race up and down in Hamilton. He has shared these roads with me since we met six years ago.
The road race and the time trails have the same finish line in downtown Hamilton and go over the same climbs, although the time trial courses are extended to include some flat and rolling sections of road.
Kristin Armstrong and I did a pre-ride of the course on Monday. We studied the hills, the corners and descents. We scoped out the best lines and gathered as much information in our heads as possible so that we could visualize the whole course and decide which gears would be most suitable. We both agreed upon a 54-42 front chain-ring setup with an 11-23 rear cog set.
Our greatest fear going into the race was foul cold weather. After a few cold days here in Canada, the sun came out for our race and it was actually quite hot. The leaves are quickly changing here and their colors are starting to paint the hillsides.
At the start of the time trial yesterday, I was surprised to see so many familiar faces. I wanted to hang out and socialize, but had to stay focused and warm up for my race. The weather was beautiful, so warming up did not take long. I broke a little sweat, had my bike measurements taken by the UCI officials and then headed off down the road.
The first climb came just one kilometer into the race. It was a little leg breaker, but all the fans cheering erased the pain and soon I was over the top and in a good rhythm, cruising through the winding roads on the top section of the course. The next obstacle was leading up to the first time check at 8.2km.
It was a couple of long drags uphill that did not look particularly steep, but this section was open to the wind and it required a big effort to push through. After the first time check there was a hard left turn and the course headed slightly downhill on a cross-tailwind section with several turns.
For the next several kilometers, the course felt cruisy, as we then flew down a 2km-long steep descent. From here, we did a quick turnaround and headed straight back uphill for 2km and then it was nearly all downhill to the finish.
Because of all the hills and the technical nature of the course really required intense concentration. It seemed the race flew by. The spectators all knew each rider that passed, as we each had follow vehicles with our names pasted on the front. I heard “Go Dede” all over the course and this propelled me.
I finished having no idea where I stood, as I could hardly hear my radio in my ear due to the blowing wind, but I was happy to have had a solid ride. Most of the spectators along the course have the start lists and our names are also posted on the front of the following cars. As a result the crowds are yelling our names all the way around the lap; which is extra motivating. Michael was also allowed to follow in the team car behind me and he encouraged me over the radio in the last kilometers of the final climb and even made me laugh a bit….on the inside or course, as I was gasping for air. It was the distraction I needed to forget about any painful sensations in my legs.
It seems the world championships always provide surprises as they are late in the season and the stakes are high. Last year, it was the great revelation of Karin Thürig, a former duathlete from Switzerland who finished fourth in the time trial. Karin repeated her fourth place finish this year, but last year’s World Champion, Zulfia Zabirova, was not so lucky, as the course did not suit her as well as the one in Belgium, last year.
This year, we faced many more climbs and therefore it was fitting that Joanne Somarriba, one of the best climbers in the world, won. She rode tremendously strong, finishing 11 seconds ahead of Judith Arndt and gaining nearly all of her advantage in the uphill sections at the start.
At the finish, there were some surprises in the top ten and many top seeded riders did not ride to expectation. This is normal, as the season is long, many riders tire before the World Championships, while others climb to new heights. In the end, I ended up eighth and Kristin Armstrong finished 13th, impressive for her first world’s.
Now our thoughts are directed toward the road race on Saturday.