Whilst perched on a moss covered wall waiting for the men’s elite time trial in Yorkshire the Breakaway team got chatting to some of the locals who had come out to watch. Veterans of the sport with an omniscient knowledge of the area we had plenty of questions to ask. Top of our list was a query into exactly where all the water that had drenched us all week was going? We assumed that the local fire brigade had to pump out flooded sections of the road. But when prompted, our new and remarkably down to earth friend responded unequivocally with “When it rains, water flow down hill and runs away”. As simple as that eh?
As we drive down from Yorkshire neither of us can quite believe this enlightened explanation can be true. The scenes of abounding waterfalls, knee deep puddles and saturated not so waterproof waterproof jackets from the men’s elite road race can’t help but further our scepticism that in fact when push comes to shove water doesn’t run away!
The Yorkshire World Championships will forever be remembered in the Breakaway teams minds as being wet, more wet and even more wet. Camera lenses would fog up, jackets wouldn’t dry out and the wet made us, or at least me, eternally hungry. Our worlds didn’t match the glamour and glitzy nature of the finish town Harrogate. Instead we took ourselves off in search of the more wild and unpolished side of the Yorkshire Dales.
Five days in and we had forgotten what polished was. Staying in the eternally precipitous village of Kettlewell, 30 miles out of Harrogate we took to our bikes early on in the week. Looking for a taste of the championship route, we certainly found it. Tackling the hardest climb not in the world championships and also it seems the two climbs that were excluded from the elite men’s race because of severe floods. Buttertubs pass and grinton moor.
Following our course recon which, to be fair to Yorkshire, did involve a couple of hours of sunshine we got stuck in with shooting the races. First up the U23 mens and the elite womens TT’s. Time trials are great events to shoot. With riders conveniently rolling off the start ramp every couple of minutes you have plenty of opportunities to try out different shots and see what works and what doesn’t. It looked more like a sailing race given the depth of water on the roads, and I am sure if you asked Johan Price-Pejtersen the young dane who went for a swim mid TT what happens to all the water in Yorkshire his response wouldn’t be that it simply ‘runs away’.
A break in the weather on Wednesday for the men’s elite TT felt like a godsend. Albeit a brief one as no sooner had we swung right up the dale towards ‘fill up your kettle-with-rain-water-well’ after a long day of shooting you guessed it, it started pelting down. The same can be said for the following day as we perched on the corner of the descent from Cray waiting for the Junior men’s race. Water somehow flowing up the back of our waterproof jackets we were really starting to question our decision to be based out of town capturing the races in their rawest sense.
On Friday morning we rolled into Harrogate for the day and were greeted with tarmac, other humans instead of sheep and to our relief coffee shops a plenty. I liken the feeling of taking off our wet boots in favour for some seemingly vulnerable trainers to the sensation an astronaut has when they return to earth and discover you can actually breathe without a mask on. It felt like heaven.
Friday became our opportunity to get stuck into the worlds spirit in Harrogate. First stop the Zwift Draft House where we hooked up with our friends at Hunt Bike Wheels and devoured a couple of flat whites. Then we moved on to the Rapha Canyon pop up store and once again made short work of their excellent coffee making facilities before checking out Prologue bike shop and cafe, who had been commandeered by Sram, where we bumped into our buddy Notchas who was helping to run a cycling cap painting workshop. Each place buzzed with energy and anticipation as the men’s under 23 race was approaching town. We watched in admiration as those brave riders tackled the tricky conditions. Like many we were shocked to hear of Nils Eekhoff’s disqualification post race.
Whether or not he should have been disqualified is one question but why the UCI hadn’t made that decision mid race and spared him the torment at the end of the race is another, and one we can’t understand. He certainly wasn’t at any advantage having dislocated his shoulder in the crash and it is foolish to claim no one has ever surfed the wheel of their team car before. Once again the litigious nature of the UCI rule book weighed in and in my mind spoilt a great race. We at Breakaway just hope that Nils bounces back from this next year and shows everyone why he should have won that race, because he is clearly one hell of a bike rider.
I accept that this weather heavy take on the worlds might all seem a bit melodramatic and perhaps we are just ‘wet’ southerners who, on making their way up north for a whole week, were thrown in the deep end and couldn’t quite work out a way to avoid sinking. Either way, I feel I can relate to the elite men who battled their way round the course on Sunday. The water clearly didn’t just ‘run away’ for them and neither did it for us.
The whole festival surrounding the championships was marvelous. Either in town near the fan zone and our favourite cafés or out on a random corner of a country road. People were mad for it. The enthusiasm was infectious and given the severity of each race route and indeed the final circuit round Harrogate everyone who donned a rainbow jersey had battled hard and were deserving of victory.
So what is the legacy of these world championships? For starters Yorkshire is an incredible county for cycling and as such I will definitely be back for the Tour de Yorkshire next year. The boisterous fans, gritty roads and unpredictable style of racing is so refreshing and mustn’t be taken for granted.
With that in mind I would also love to see the road races as individual events in the world tour calendar, for both men and women. Imagine the men’s elite route in March with the addition of Buttertubs and Grinton Moor, crosswinds, splits and a scintillating fight for one day glory. For me it has the making of a proper classic.
As for the rain. Well, I am no expert in flood management or puddle pumping, nor do I know a jot about road drainage but I do know that at some point water doesn’t actually ‘run away’ and perhaps were there a few more pumps out on the most northerly section of the elite men’s course we would have had an even tougher race on our hands. I don’t really care about the rain anymore though because for now I am warm and dry, sitting at my desk with a coffee and a roof over my head. So until next time Yorkshire, stay wet!