Rainbows are funny things. Making rainy days more exciting, they often ignite fuzzy feelings, which if you’re like me, can only be shared with people you feel ‘safe’ with. After all, the rainbow brings back childhood memories of nursery school art classes, and isn’t usually favoured around grown-up sporting circles. There is one significant exception, and that’s the reserve for champions – World Champions.
Winning races is a goal for each professional cycling team. It means more than the contract; more than the glamour and arguably more than the memories. It is a tangible show of what each professional has trained for – victory.
Like the champions wreath of old, it is a chance to strive for excellence. From rapid one-day racing, to gruelling 3 week stage races of the Grand Tours, the victor is recognised and celebrated by being awarded a leader’s jersey, but these moments are temporary and only last the duration of the event. As riders start feeling more ‘familiar’ with the idea of competing, the race calendar turns their sights to national road race championships, where the very best compete for the honour of wearing their native colours with pride for the whole new season to come.
Here comes the Rainbow
Provided your nation has enough race winners, you get the chance to field a team at the World Championships. It’s an international affair that is the climax of the racing calendar. This can mean that the very same combatants who battled it out at national level get to race together as a team for international glory and win the Rainbow Jersey. Unlike leaders jerseys, the nationals and the world champs recognise the winner for the whole season; this means you get to wear the Rainbow for a year – giving you the chance to feel fuzzy all over again.
Winning this race with your fellow country men/women can be a remarkable show of diligent preparation, outstanding skill, and raw strength. Michael Kwiatkowski’s recent win with his CCC team demonstrated this to full effect. Exhausting eight team members, the Polish team were able to command the race and catapult the Etixx-Quick Step rider into a position where he out manoeuvred his rivals. This year will be a hard ask. Kwiatek is down to only five team mates, but maintains a certain exclusive advantage: where, unlike some nations, who have two, or even three possible leaders, the Polish team will once again be working exclusively for him.
The Low Down
This weekend’s World Championships in Richmond, USA, is going to be a demanding affair. It boasts Classic-like contours that will favour the Benelux masters, as well as sharp ramps to allow the grimpeurs a chance to make a break. This year’s favourites are more than ever an international affair; with the likes of Denmark’s Alexander Kristoff; Michael Matthews of Australia; and the Baroudeurs two favourites – Slovakia’s Peter Sagan, who has been dubbed all too often the ‘Second-Man’, but is truly much more. His tenacity, bike skills, and colourful maturity into adulthood, makes him such a likeable rider and person off the bike. Similarly, John ‘Dege’ Degenkolb of Germany, with a smashing year that includes the Milan San Remo, the Cobble Classic of the Roubaix, and a magnificent win in Madrid from the Vuetla, we hope that one of these Baroudeurs wears the Rainbow this year!
Route Review via C-Cycling
The Contenders via INRNG