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Notes From the Bergen Desk

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View of Bergen
Gili Yaari

So much for getting a breather after the Vuelta — the action is fast and furious now, as the road season winds down and the cyclocross season revs up. But more immediately, there is the small matter of an imminent World Championships. To Norway we go!

Did You Know!

That Bergen, the host city, is the northern-most locale to host a UCI World Championships? It’s a record that might stand for a while. The previous holder was Oslo, just east and slightly south from Bergen, and the candidates for hosting further north are cities like Anchorage and Oulu, Finland. Anchorage would be a disaster unless the UCI were willing to work moose or guns into the competition somehow, and I don’t know anything about Oulu. If you want to geek out on latitude, you might note that Bergen is also roughly level with Stockholm, Tallin, St. Petersberg and Helsinki (some sort of freezing line?), so while this might be the very northernmost race for a while, there could be future championships not far off.

But the subject is a red herring (the first of many references to herring), as “latitude” is really shorthand for “weather,” and the forecast for Bergen...uh, sucks. The coming weekend looks pleasant enough for the team time trials, but the rain starts on Tuesday and promises to hang around right to the very end of next week. Temperatures will struggle to reach 60 degrees at any time. Not sure how much confidence there is in the forecast this far out, but if it doesn’t change, then we really won’t be discussing northern latitudes at the Worlds again until everyone involved in Bergen ‘17 has retired.

A few more factoids about Bergen:

  • Its history dates back to 1070, and it was founded by King Olav Kyrre as a consolation prize for his father’s disastrous attempt to hone in on the Norman Conquest of England. I’m not sure just how connected those two events are, but it does seem a little conspicuous that once the foreign adventurism came off the board, they started forming new cities at home. So there you have it, a link from Normandy to Bergen. Oh, and it was called Bjørgvin back then.
  • The city is at sea level but is surrounded by nine hills known as the Seven Hills. Presumably this is another misdirection thing, like Greenland or Iceland. And that it’s not at all funny to Swedish people. However many there are, they are good at trapping marine weather over the city, which is why it will be raining the whole time.
  • It looks stupefyingly beautiful, which is to say, it’s part of Norway. I’m sure there’s a reason why Seattle is full of Norwegian immigrants and their descendants — it’s not too bad here either, at the moment -- but I’m not all that clear on why anyone would leave Norway. Maybe the sucky weather?
  • The official description of the course (using the extra-long men’s elite route) says that it starts in Øygarden and Fjell, then says it rolls out from Kollsnes to Blomvag, while the map shows the starting point as Rong. So that’s five different names for the starting point, which is by definition one place. Maybe this is like that game where you are supposed to guess which items on the list are made up? Rong definitely sounds fake, and anything starting with øy sounds like a joke from a Catskills standup routine. I’m going with Kollsnes as the actual start, but I sure am glad I don’t have to drive anyone’s team bus to the start.

More on the Worlds as the week goes on... though I will note that the host team is home to the single hottest scandal of the worlds so far on the men’s side. [The Aussie women’s team selection is probably a bigger row.] Basically, Edvald Boasson Hagen and Alexander Kristoff will occupy separate camps within Team Norway after two straight Worlds races where they disagreed about who was working for whom. It has been a particularly violent battle for control between the two, involving long periods of silence and words of mutual support that sound... dare I say it... half-hearted. Expect more of the same fiery lack of eye contact during the race itself, as the scandal threatens to engulf the entire country.

Renovo whiskey bike

This and That...

Whiskey and bikes, together at last! Portland*-based Renovo Bikes have been making frames from wood for a while, and it’s very cool. So to top that, they have gone and made some bikes out of wood taken from whiskey casks at Glemorangie, the Scottish maker of notable single-malt firewater. It’s a versatile frame, meant for the road but able to accommodate tires of up to 40mm in width, so the imagination wanders to gravel and maybe even... cross? Anyway, the bike looks great, is built up with Ultegra components, and has notes of cherry and peat with a strong, sharp finish. Check out the site, there’s lots of very interesting info.

[* I know.]

Boom in top TT form
Tim de Waele

Meanwhile, in that part of the world, Lars Boom is a top cyclist again. The Dutch former national champ and cobbles ace came good at the time trial for the OVO Energy Tour of Britain, which gave him a cushion he held all the way to the line in Cardiff, over Boasson Hagen and Stefan Kung of BMC. The big LottoNL classics man is quietly having... more or less the same season he has every year. He’ll be on the list of riders who are suspected of liking anything about the Bergen course that feels like a Sunday in early April, though Boom’s climbing ability probably isn’t good enough to keep him in contention.

One rider who does get up and down pretty well would be Diego Ulissi, whose opening season at Bahrain-Merida was something of a disaster until Sunday’s GP Montreal, where he took the sprint from Jesus Herrada, Tom-Jelte Slagter, and Jan Bakelants, all of whom had gotten away from the peloton late in the race to contest the finale by themselves. Ulissi has been killing people’s FSA DS teams all year, but gave a hint that perhaps a bit of late redemption is on the way. Notably, the finale featured Peter Sagan and Greg Van Avermaet discussing who should chase, an argument that’s older than the pneumatic tire, but which in this case says that the rivalry is maybe about to replace Boonen-Cancellara for the next five years or so. Montreal’s results list might be a good starting point for anyone contemplating whom to watch for in Bergen. And every such list should start with the reigning World and Olympic champions.

Ulissi wins in Montreal
Tim de Waele

Earlier today Tim Wellens won the GP de Wallonie with... you guessed it... the same solo escape that never works in the Fleche Wallonne. Only it did this time, and his teammate Tony Gallopin got free for second, with the Lotto-Soudal team just missing a clean podium sweep when Cofidis’ Julien Simon nudged Tiesj Benoot for third. Also, in the Coppa Agostoni (which I’m pretty sure I’ve been calling the Coppa Agostini for a decade or more), Michael Albasini took the bunch gallop from Marco Canola and Francesco Gavazzi, to kick off the Italian fall classics season. Tomorrow is the Coppa Bernocchi, then it all goes on hiatus until after the worlds, when the full deluge of Italian classics kicks in, taking us into October.