The beginning and end of the Worlds takes place in the space of four days very, very soon. For the riders, the fast ones any road, four days gets squeezed into four of the tightest minutes imaginable. Nothing on earth is a race quite like a World Championship final.
Luck will already have played a major part in this event. For Steve Peat that was luck of the wrong kind (again) and a slither of mud of the wrong consistency, probably (although not certainly), left by the tyre of a rider that had gone before him on the root of something at the National Champs has left him spending much of the past month one legged farming with his great friend and neighbour, ‘Farmer Jack’. The Worlds is never easy for Peaty.
For others that luck has come in other forms. The weather for one, the wild World Cup weather has seen the fortunes of many rider rollercoaster their way into late summer this year. World selection is reliant on world results, and it’s been a funny old year…and a great one for Britain. Almost half of the current top 25 are British. Home advantage in the Fort has never been so good. But why no Jo Barnes? The local boy, surely to get the crowd behind him, sometimes a variable in itself.
Talking of variables, there will be a lot up on that hill come early September time. The first of those variables will be which Sam Hill turns up – the one that rides a sublime line on a different wavelength or the one that just beats everyone to pulp leaving them to look oh so pedestrian. The second factor will be what bike you ride and what shock settings you run…oooooonnnly joking.
There will be no room for hot air up on Aonach Mor that’s for sure, in fact it’s unlikely there will be any warm air up there at all, but should the air that is there start getting itchy feet to go somewhere where the pressure is less…then luck will again come into the picture…what price a gust of wind on an open heather moorland? Skinsuits will be worn, but the advantage will be less because everyone will be the victims of fashion and part–time managers.
Where then will the race be won? Tyre choice? Pedal choice? Fitness? Tactics? Line choice? Team orders? The crowd? The weather maybe? No one wants an unlikely winner. The reality of the greatest race on earth in 2007 is that there are ten riders who could wear that jersey. Only three of those have ever done so. It’s going to be frantic…or not.
(We just found out that Fabien Barel is the latest victim of bad luck, after a pair of riders sitting in a Whistler track forced the Frenchman off–route and into a bank, breaking three bones in his foot in the process. So that makes nine).