After riding the BWC Finals in London and the BWC in Vienna last year, I decided that in 2017, I was going to ride as many Brompton races (in Europe) as I could possibly cram in my schedule.The BWC Barcelona in April was only my third race ever, but in spite of the considerably hefty climbs on the Montmeló circuit, I managed to squeeze out a 19th place, something I didn’t expect.
Then and there I decided to ride the BWC in Monza near Milan too. Riding a Formule 1 Circuit for one turns out to be heaps of fun. Smooth asphalt, nothing but broad lanes that easily fit a large pack of Bromptoneers… what’s not to like. The fact that the Monza track is mainly flat and thus one of the fastest circuits on the globe, was something else to look forward to. I managed to book a considerably reasonable priced flight to Milan which allowed me to spend 30 some hours under the Italian sun. A quick in and out as they say, but at least I didn’t have to take a day of at work which is always a plus.
After I checked in to my hotel, I unbagged the bike, screwed the pedal and levers back on and went for a ride around town. Those big Milanese cobblestones sure made me feel like I was still in Flanders. Black Betty took me to some cool cycling hotspots like the Brompton Junction, the Rapha pop-up, UpCycle (which was closed) and bike shop / winehouse Ciclosfuso amongst other. I arrived at CiclosFuso in time for ‘aperitivo’. Wine, olives, a selection of cold cut, Italian cheese… the works. When Strava told me I casually rode approximately 25 kilometers through town, it was enough to call it a day.
Now I definitely like my fair share of food, drinks and sightseeing, I came to Milano with one purpose and one purpose only: to race the Italian leg of the widely acclaimed Brompton World Championship on the iconic Monza Circuit 20 km north of Milan. As soon as I got up (I actually slept in till 9.30h) I took a quick shower, helped myself to a typical store bought chocolate pastry and made my way to the station to arrive in time for the competition. From Monza station it was another 7,7 km ride through the picturesque city to the ‘Autodromo’ as the track is aptly named. One thing was sure, tension was building up already!
I’ll spare you the details about the pre-race pasta I ate or how I somehow managed to miss the start of 60 Ferraris ‘cause I was fiddling with my Iphone. Let’s cut to the chase race shall we? Now I was a bit nervous ‘cause we didn’t get to recon the track, but as long as I managed to keep up with the front group, I would be fine, no. Once again my dash towards the bike and the unfold was spot on and in no time I found myself amongst the first 20 riders. Stoked! From that point on, I only did three things:
– I pedalled as fast as I could
– I counted riders and tried to be among the first 20 at all times
– I tried not to fall in the peloton and its ever changing dynamics
With the first round nearly finished I somehow managed to take the lead. A foolish and unnecessary action which nearly had me forfeit when the pace picked up in the beginning of the second round. But hey, I got a good picture out of it so it was totally worth it, no?
In the second lap I proved to be my friendly self by offering a fellow rider who was suffering from heat a little sip of my water. I shouldn’t have, but I did, ‘cause that’s how I roll. Not so friendly was the abrupt move of another rider that made me choose between a full on collision or riding off-track and losing momentum. I chose the latter, which also meant I had to work my way up in the group of + 30 riders. Luckily for me, there was still one more lap (a junior lap of +/- 3 km) to go.
When we started our final lap it dawned upon me that it was very likely that I was in the pack that was going to sprint for gold. Now I had seen my fair chair of road bike sprints on television, but never was I in one. Our speed was gradually picking up and by the time we reached the last stretch it was each man for his own. In the last kilometer I found myself in the wheel of World Champion Mark Emsley, who didn’t even move when some prematurely started their sprint. When some 10 riders went for it, I tagged along, overtaking three of them. This was happening, I was sprinting for a top 10 position!
From the corner of my eye I could see Mark Emsley pass me by at break neck speed, going for certain gold. He surely waited long enough to start his sprint! With the odd 100 meters to go, this made me wonder if I might have jumped too soon. At that point, one should not look over his shoulder, but that’s exactly what I did? I looked once, twice and one last time to be certain the gap with the followers was big enough. And it was! I finished in eight position, a mere 5 seconds after the winner. Could not have been more pleased with that result.
Now what a ride that was. With an average speed of 35.8 km/h and a maximum speed of 54km/h it’s no surprise my heart rate went through the roof. Extra credits for self for wearing long trousers in the blistering heat. Keeping it classy!