The 2012 Master’s World Time Trial Championships was contested on a never-flat 25k loop through sugarcane fields outside of Wartburg, South Africa than included over 1000 feet of climbing. The course rises for about 10k to a high point at the end of the first leg. On race day a constant headwind blew down this stretch, making it a small ring grind for even the strongest riders. After this is a section of incredibly slow chipseal of a kind the road workers along Putah Creek have yet to dream up. The final 8k of the course are marked by an 80+ kph descent, a sharp climb, and a 1k drop to the finish.
A strong NorCal contingent of riders toed the line: including defending World Champions Rob Anderson (Specialized) and Molly Van Houweling (Metromint), defending Bronze medalist James Mattis (Cal Giant), and an on-fire Cale Reeder (Echelon) seeking revenge for a crash in last year’s test in Stavelot Belgium.
Van Houweling was first off of this group, racing in the Women’s 35-39 category. Out the long first leg, it became clear that her main competition was a South African standout Cashandra Slingerland. The former SA Elite National Champion had started two minutes ahead of Van Houweling and built a 15 second advantage by the top of the outbound leg, passing multiple competitors on the way. When the false flats, tough pavement, speed bumps, and scorching downhill arrived, however, Van Houweling was in her element. She quickly caught her minute woman and erased her losses to Slingerland. Digging hard up the final hill, Van Houweling eked out a 15 second advantage by the line to defend her rainbow stripes.
Rob Anderson was next of in the Men’s 55-59 category. The long uphill drag on the first leg would normally be a strength for Anderson. But a bum hip neutralized this advantage, as Anderson had to spend most of his time out of his aero bars fighting slowly into the headwind. Nevertheless he managed small gains against his minute man, South African Paul Furbank.
As the course flattened out and began to roll downward, Anderson locked himself onto his aerobars, and gained enough on Furbank to catch him at the line. Anderson claimed Silver, Furbank Bronze. The win went to Michael Barfoed of Denmark, a newcomer to the age category, but multi-time World TT Champion in younger groups, who bested Anderson by 19 seconds.
Cale Reeder rolled off the start ramp in the Men’s 45-49 full of confidence. He has been cleaning up in NorCal this season against competitors he knew to be among the best in the world. He flew over the course, which he had rounded at least a half dozen times in the company of Van Houweling and Anderson in the days leading up the event. Confident in his ride, but with no news about the results he waited at the finish. It turned out that he had won his stripes, but by only 2 seconds!
James Mattis suspected from the start that his main competition would be Igor Kopse of Slovenia. The two had finished third and second, respectively, in last year’s TT in Stavelot, Belgium. And the man who had bested them, Michael Olheiser, had moved on to a late-life pro career. Time checks from the follow cars indicated that the two rode figuratively neck-and-neck over the undulating course. By the end Kopse had gained a small but winning advantage of 14 seconds.
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