What's Cool In Road Cycling

WorldsTT: PEZ Rides With Irish Champ

Like Billy Joel says: “there’s a new band in town but you can’t dig the sound from a story in a magazine.” With this in mind, PEZ duly tucked-into the passenger seat of Irish team manager, Kurt Bogaerts’ Skoda and waited for blast-off.

“Relax David, everything is done,” Kurt said quietly into the mic and half a minute or so later 28 years-old, current Irish time trial and criterium champion, David O’Loughlin roared past our windscreen as seventh man down the ramp.

David has a smile as he warms up for his hour of power on the hard roads around Salzburg.

The UCI guy waved us out and we were off and running in the 2006 world elite time trial championship. The race started in the heart of Salzburg, snaking left and right through the old streets, big crowds lined the barriers as David showed why he’s the Irish criterium champion, cranking that Navigators’ Colnago round those bends with no trace of hesitation.

The bike certainly looks the part – damn fast.

Under a blazing sun he settled into a good rhythm on the long straight boulevards heading out of town; “very good start David, your cadence is perfect,” Kurt reassured him.

The crowds thinned as we left the city but those that were there cheered and clapped our boy enthusiastically. He was in the centre of the road and on top of the job, but you couldn’t help but feel that the real big-hitters would have been a cog or two higher on the cassette.

There were Austrian flags everywhere as the road dropped and Kurt urged; “make speed, make speed.” A 90 left and we were out of town and in the green-stuff – straight into a climb; “keep the cadence high David, keep spinning,” Kurt told him as David changed his grip onto his tri-bar arm rests. “Come-on, out of the saddle, you are almost at the top.”

The road levels-out, he gets back into the tuck but then it drags again and he has to lift himself out of the saddle. It drops a little now and we’re passing picture post card cottages to the drag up to the Shimano sign where it drops steeply; “recover on the descent David,” Kurt tells him as he drops down the sweeping left like a brick.

The road is shaded from the hot sun so it’s still wet and slick, but his line is perfect and he certainly has nerve. The road climbs again immediately through Tiefenbach and the first time check, where David is third. “Very good David, best time,” – a white lie from Kurt to boost the morale. It’s a plateau now but by no means flat; it twists and turns through beautiful Swiss-style chalets with flower boxes, balconies and wide eaves.

“Go to the right side of the road now.” Kurt turns and explains to me that the wind is coming from the right and David needs to find all the shelter he can. David battles his way back up through the cassette as Kurt tells me; “I
think he was geared a little too high on the climbs, but he will go better on the way back € I hope!”

There are open fields on the right and beyond them are stunning mountains, There’s forest on the left and still it drags-up. David changes down as it steepens and gets out of the saddle to keep his cadence up. His legs are cut and taught but you know that the real bears will be a cog or two higher on this part.

“Go!” says a sign beside the road as that chain begins to edge further to the right. “In the descent you can recover,” says Kurt but it’s not a long gradient and
there’s another drag right away so it’s more of that out of the saddle stuff.

The lake is in sight now, that’s where they turn and head south for Salzburg and it’s a real “falling off a wall” job now. David runs-out of revs, tucks-in low and freewheels down, there’s a roundabout at the bottom and he flicks through it with panache, nobody is taking time from him on the technical bits anyway.

The spectators are lounging in the sun here as ponies graze in the fields unaware of the drama on the other side of the fence. It’s round the lake now, but it’s still rolling and snaking; “cadence is very good David, you’re doing well.”

The lake is bigger than it looks and it’s not flat € he regularly has to stand on the pedals to keep things rolling. “Keep the cadence high David € keep pedalling.”
The tar drops as the turn approaches, there’s a big group of fans here who are very enthusiastic.

“Half-way man, 25 k done, you are doing very good,” Kurt tells him as David picks-up the only true tail wind section of the race across the north end of the lake. As the road flattens and drifts south we can see Austrian Thomas Rohregger who started two minutes ahead of the Irishman.

David immediately lifts; you can see a new fire in his riding as he goes for the Austrian. It’s almost too charming to be true here, green fields, mountains, the lake and villages where Doris Day would live in a 60’s movie.

There’s 20 k to go now and it’s a better-looking rider we’re seeing through the windscreen, powering on the straights, inch-perfect on the bends. The big climb rears-up, no freewheeling now, on the bottoms punching, then on
the tops; “make speed, make speed,‚ implores Kurt.”

It’s still dragging but Rohregger is well in sight now, a Belgian and a Flanders flag at the side of the road stand stiff € the breeze is largely helpful now and as the road drops the car speedo shows 70 kph plus. At 10 k to go we almost demolish a motor cycle marshal who cuts in front of us as David catches his man.

“What the f**ing hell are you doing man?” enquires Kurt.

It’s 80kph plus now then we’re into five to go; “everything now David, go through the limit!” It’s lumpy, twisty and technical now but David is coping well, keeping the gear down and pedalling.

Back onto the wide, fast urban road and it’s 70 on the clock as we drop to Salzburg centre. “Full gas over that bridge, come-on, give it everything!‚ Kurt is roaring now. The speed slips to 45, but he cranks it back to 55 with two to go and it’s fast now, he hardly eases for the bends at all.

“Last kilometre € give it full gas man!”

The Skoda tyres scream as we follow him through the streets. At 300 to go we wheel right with a final scream of: “full gas!” as David rises from the saddle and gives it everything up the finishing straight.

The result for our hero? A 46.747 kph ride over a tortuous course but only 30th place in this company for a time some 5 min. 2 sec. behind winner Cancellara.

So, what did he have to say about his ride?

“I felt sick on the way out, maybe it was the gels I had before the start or I didn’t warm-up enough. I felt better on the way back and once I had the Austrian in my sights. I went for him. I didn’t find it too technical on the way out but the climbs just kept coming at you which made it very hard. I’m reasonably pleased with my ride – hopefully I’ll be top 25.”

Not quite David, but not a bad ride anyway from where I was sitting.

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