By Michael Barry, U.S. Postal Service professional cycling team
Hamburg is probably the easiest of the World Cups…but it is not easy. The race draws massive crowds and is always a welcome home race for Jan and the Telekom team after the Tour.
The race starts out with a large flat loop and then several smaller loops with some tight turns and a steep climb. It is not the difficulty of the climb that splits the race up, but the fight for position going into the climb and the tight corners after the climb.
As the World Cup script pretty much dictates, the race started off quick, a break got away, the peloton settled down and cruised along, and then teams that had riders in contention for the victory chased the breakaway down.
The roads in Germany are smooth, well paved, and therefore fast. At times today we were flying along at well over 60 km/h on flat bits of road. The peloton would be across the road, curb to curb, flying along; when you’re in the midst of the mass you just hold on and hope nobody goes down.
And a few crashes did happen but amazingly we got through the obstacle courses on the roads fairly intact and there were not too many serious pile-ups.
It is quite incredible to race 250 km and see people all the way around the course; in some sections there were only a handful but in others there were crowds thirty deep. There is also a fun ride where the citizens of Hamburg can ride their bikes around a set course in the city streets. BBQ’s, bikinis, and bikes lined the course for most of the day as well.
USPS didn’t really have a leader today, as we are all just getting back into racing again and are simply looking to find our race legs. I felt good throughout the race and was comfortable on the climbs. I wasn’t really comfortable with all the pushing and shoving going into the climbs and in the end I ended up missing the front group by a gnat’s whisker, which was disappointing as the fitness was not the limiting factor. Max is coming back into fitness again as well and is looking to find form by the Olympics.
Stuart O’Grady came out of the Tour with good legs and did some solid training in the last week while most of the other Tour riders were still celebrating or riding criteriums. He made the front group and then punched his pedals in the sprint and took the victory. Not only will Stuey be one to watch for the Olympic road race but he might also be a hot contender for a few of the track events. While riding behind him, he looks super smooth on the bike; he still pedals like a track rider and turns over the pedals quickly but powerfully.
Last night Dave Zabriskie was commenting on how he thought Laurent Brochard is a bit of a legend as he pulls off some unique styles: a teased mullet, multi-colored demim matching top and pants, etc. Dave doesn’t know Brochard, but bumped into him in the elevator and simply nodded his way and said, “Broccchhhe!” Brochard gave him a weird look and a nod. I bit my lips and tried not to laugh aloud.
Tomorrow we are off to the Tour of Denmark that will start on Wednesday. This will be a big block of racing for most of us as we just finished Region Wallonne last week. We are all getting better with each race and a block like this one will certainly be good preparation for the Olympics and Vuelta.