The weekend before last saw the UCI World Championships descent on Harrogate in God’s Own Country, Yorkshire. It just so happens that part of the world is Milltag’s spiritual home. We felt compelled to make the pilgrimage from Shoreditch up the A1 to see one of the greatest spectacles cycling has to offer.
The Worlds on home soil isn’t something we felt we could miss. Who knows, it might be another 37 years before it happens again. Though that feels unlikely considering how many people were up there - a level of support for every nation, not just Great Britain and the quality of course on offer. That being said, the UCI might have been put off by the biblical weather served up. Who knew Yorkshire could be wet in late September?
Our excitement had been whipped into a frenzy by Friday afternoon having watched the racing throughout the week and running our second Tour de Trivia of the year. This was a World Championships’ special after our Tour de France debut and tested Milltag followers’ knowledge of everything from the medal table to chalybeate water.
A couple of dominant time trials in the elite men’s and women’s were merely an amuse-bouche for the professional slip’n’slide championships that the men’s U-23 field contested. The gold medal went to the Danish rider Johan Price-Pejtersen who managed to fully submerge himself in a puddle. As any club rider will tell you, puddles in Britain hide nasty, terrible things. If they were on a pirate map they would say “dragons be ‘ere”.
Despite the forecast of the impending apocalypse, Saturday provided perfect riding weather before the women’s elite road race. The Dales were empty, calm and beautiful. It was certainly a welcome change to London commutes. The finishing straight was packed four deep to see Annemiek Van Vleuten casually pull off a 105km breakaway. Chloe Dygert had the downright lack of respect to attempt a chase, at which point AVV even more casually put another minute into her lead.
Watching cycling live is as much about people watching as it is about the racing itself. The Belgians, Dutch and Norwegians certainly never disappoint. If they aren’t dressed head to toe in national colours, usually in the format of a suit, they’re making one hell of a racket. In fact, the Dutch took over an entire pub that naturally had Euro-trance pumping out all day. We were lucky enough to pick a spot on the barriers just past the finish. It just so happened, right next to Van Veuten’s parents. A genuinely beautiful thing to see post race was AVV jumping the barriers to give them a hug and share a few words before she darted off to get her medal. Her parents simply turned to each other, nodded and wandered off. No big deal...
Sunday was an altogether different affair. A big night saw Team Milltag consume more carbohydrates for breakfast than the elite men did in preparation for their near 7-hour slog in the literally never-ending rain. The racing was bitterly attritional with some of the finest gurning since Thomas Vockler retired. We made our way to the finishing straight and managed to stay relatively dry thanks to the makeshift tent made up of hundreds upon hundreds of golf umbrellas. It was a fittingly British spectating attitude to a distinctly British World Championships, nothing would get in the way of people enjoying the race. Nowt but a bit of rain, you can dry off at home.
Seeing the Milltag logo out and about over the weekend was a real source of pride for us, especially the number of Yorkshire national jerseys we spotted from over the years. All in all it was a great weekend. Next year Aigle certainly has a lot to live up to.