The 2002 world championship in Kaprun saw the toughest course ever. I have been at all 13 world championships, the first in 1990 in Durango, Colorado, but never was a course so demanding, both up and downhill. And I’m talking about the way the track presented itself during the week, when it was dry.
Sunday morning changed the situation dramatically for the worse.
The noise of heavy rain woke me up Sunday morning 7:30. Until now I hadn’t got nervous at all, which is unusual for me before world championships. But after seeing the weather conditions that changed fast: Now I had a good reason to get nervous. Mud and bad weather are the conditions I’m best at, and I really started to believe that this was going to be my day, my chance, to finally get that damn jersey.
So that’s the way I was racing for the first half of the race, to win that jersey. The tough conditions with lots of running sections suited
me perfectly and most of the time I was in the lead, but I could not get rid of defending champion Roland Green and Olympic silver medallist Filip Meirhaeghe. Choosing good lines and getting
on and off the bike faster always gave me a few seconds advantage, but both my competitors were stronger on the climbs and closed the gaps each time.
With four and a half laps, the race was going to be a lot longer than usual and the third time up the steep climb I had to let go. With a 20-second gap from the lead I went into a difficult off-camber grass section, where thanks to my 10-year-old 1.9 Ritchey Z-Max SC tyres I was able to hold a line that no-one else was
able to ride. Suddenly I was back in the lead again. Unfortunately I
could feel my power was slowly draining away. After I had a small crash on the
switchbacks I wasn’t able to close the gap to the leading duo any longer and
had to switch to cruise control to make it to the finish.
I lost by 1 minute 45 to a superb riding Roland Green, which is really not that much in a 2 hour 19 minute race. I had a comfortable 4:25 minute gap on 4th place rider Lado Fumic coming in behind me.
Green became world champion last year in Vail in totally
different conditions. To repeat the perfomance this year to me shows he is the best rider there, so it’s no a shame to lose against him, even though I was hoping to get more than “just” a bronze medal this time.
On the other hand I’m very proud to still be good for a medal after 13 years of racing at world championship level. If you include the medal I won on Wednesday in the team relay, I’ve got 7 world championships medals (1 x gold 96, 4 x silver 90,91,92,01 and 2 x bronze 02). With the 5 world championship
medals from cyclo-cross (2 x gold 88 and 91, 1 x silver 97 and 2 x bronze 90 and 92) the
dozen is now full.
But until I get that damn rainbow jersey
I won’t give up and will keep trying.
Maybe next year at the world championship in Switzerland, on the course I
To keep up with Thomas’s medal-winning performances check out his website.