Somebody’s gotta win

4 10 2010

Vos looked like crying. Her 4th Silver Medal at the World Road cycling Championship in as many years was proving difficult to wear. All the attention and questioning was naturally aimed at the girl with the rainbow stripes sitting just to her right; but I felt for Marianne. I had a question for her intending to cheer her up, but she was somewhere else, and didn’t elaborate enough to realise.

Vos tried to lie down and hope that it was all just a bad dream

“Marianne, does Silver ever get easier? And how will you look to the future to rebuild and improve?”

Not again...

 

With resignation she shrugged her shoulders and simply replied “No it’s never easy… I guess there is always next year” Her voice trailed off as she realised it would be a long wait to get another opportunity; Oh would someone give the girl a hug? Hang on a second a second here Ms. Vos. The all-mighty, all-conquering female cyclist of her generation. With a deadly finish that has caused sleepless nights for many of her contemporaries, this time it didn’t fall her way.

OK, granted she had come close and we are talking about the World title, but no need to hang yourself. Maybe its cultural. It seems all the Dutch women I know, love a laugh and a good time, but once the flag drops it becomes all or nothing. This does make them great racers, but it can’t be easy to live with. The psychological side of sport has always fascinated me, and I love seeing the tension of the beginning and how the champions conduct their victories and losses. Marianne was the first place loser and it hurt to watch.

Cath Cheatley came to Melbourne with great form and confidence but in the end it just hurt too much

 

In the pit area after the finish New Zealand’s Cath Cheatley was more philosophical; despite having to resign herself to survival mode just to make the finale and the sprint for victory. After having a phenomenal season dominating the U.S pro scene, the wick had been torched one to many times for her on the finale lap, yet she still manged to put up a fight and sneak into a credible top ten position. “The last couple of K’s very pretty hard… I wanted to go up the home straight but I had no choice really!” She said with a laugh. Her reaction was one of honest reality but also content. What’s done was done. She had raced as hard as she could on the day and rolled in six steps from the podium, also matching her performance at Mendrisio last year, but still proud to be there after a tough race.

The Italians and Dutch were ranked 1st and 2nd in the World at the start line

Indeed the circuit used for the laps around Geelong had been rated very tough by all the teams upon close inspection during the build up. Yet both the Under 23 Men and Elite Womens races ended with a bigger bunch gallop than many pundits have anticipated.

Of the women the fastest was Italian Giorgia Bronzini. While we’re looking at post race reactions she had a different excuse for not hiding any emotion. While Vos lay on the road shattered, Bronzini sought out her teammates and one by one embraced them all with heartfelt thanks for a victory she openly could not have achieved by herself, “Without them… impossible… and for Franco (Ballerini the late Italian coach)”. It was then equally interesting to see her flamboyant Italian celebration toned down for the following press conference. Resplended in the unbroken bands of Blue, Red, Black, Yellow and Green she was gracious and respectful in the company of the defeated sitting either side of her; though I imagine the team would’ve painted the town Red (White and Green) later on.

Italy still on top - Champagne girls?

The World’s is unlike any other in many regards. Witnessing the top flight Women cyclist give it their all really underlines the difficulties in this great sport. At its most basic, it is one of the original endurance sports, with that an attractive mix of beauty and suffering. But in modern time it manages to respect its history, and it’s a game played with high emotion. No other race brings this out as much. Riders toss aside their commercial trade team kit and take on the pride of their National Federations. For some it is do or die. Others take honour and privilege in the uniform and for the lucky one, the celebration and prize of the day will turn into eternal greatness. How will the Men behave?

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