Road World Championships team time trial preview

This year’s Road World Championships are taking place from 16th-23rd September in the Dutch province of Limburg, home to the Amstel Gold race and whose finale will feature prominently in all of the elite, under-23 and junior races for the men and women.

The Championships start with the trade team time trial, which is making a welcome return to the World Championships after a four-year hiatus. Its predecessor, the Eindhoven trade team time trial, ran from 2005-7 over a circuit with six-man teams, expanded to eight in 2006. Conceived as part of the UCI ProTour it was open to the 20 ProTour teams and five wild-cards. The winning teams over the 48.6km circuit were as follows:

2005: Gerolsteiner 53:35

2006: CSC 52:28

2007: CSC 53:36

It’s worth remembering that the 2007 edition took place in the rain  – the other two were held in fine conditions – and the CSC teams included a number of noted exponents of the fine art of time-trialling such as Bobby Julich, Jens Voigt, Dave Zabriskie and Christian Vandevelde.

How does it work?

Before digging back into the archives, it’s perhaps worth reminding ourselves of the basic principles. All the riders on the team – using the most aerodynamically advanced equipment and clothing – start together, quickly forming a nose-to-tail pace-line to maximise the slipstream advantage. Riders take their turns at the front before swinging aside and returning to the end of the pace-line to await their next pull. The team’s time is taken when the fourth or fifth rider (depending on the rules) crosses the line. So it’s imperative that whichever tactic the team uses, they keep a minimum number together. Well-honed teams are a beauty to behold while those who underestimate its importance handicap their star stage racers. Who can fail to remember the abject performance of some of the French teams in Montpelier in the 2009 Tour de France?

Here’s Fabian Cancellara explaining the key issues:

Background

The discipline had been established in the Grand Tours as early as 1927 when the Tour’s organiser Henri Desgrange turned all 16 of the flatter stages into team time trials to force riders to ride flat-out. Unsurprisingly the formula wasn’t popular with either the riders or the spectators. The tactic was abandoned in 1929 and reintroduced along with national teams in 1930, which featured a huge 222km team time trial from Bordeaux to Hendaye. The Giro introduced team time trials in 1937 and the Vuelta followed suit in 1946.

The discipline was a feature for many years in both the Olympics and the World Championships using four-man national teams starting in 1960. From 1972 onwards, the event wasn’t held at World Championships during Olympic years. The distance was always approximately 100km.

Sadly the first event in 1960 was marred by the death of Dane Knud Enemark Jensen who overdosed on amphetamines, fell and fatally fractured his skull.  The maiden event was won by the Italians who were the most successful team in this discipline – winning nine out of 36 events – until the UCI disbanded the amateur championship in 1994.

What kind of race will it be?

The team time trials open the World Championships tomorrow (Sunday). The professional trade teams of six will race from Sittard – 53.2km for the men and 34.2km for the women – to the finish up the Cauberg climb, the same finish that will be used in all the road races later in the week. The clock will stop on the fourth team member across the line.

The UCI has had to adapt its rules as the teams will contain a mix of nationalities. It will play the national anthem of the winning team on the podium, where it will award each rider with a medal and the sports director a trophy. Riders will not receive rainbow jerseys, but the team will wear a distinctive logo on their jerseys the following year. The racing aside, it’s a good opportunity for teams to invite and entertain sponsors at the World Championships.

The race

The routes chosen for the team time trials are neither flat nor easy. The women’s 34.2km route includes two climbs; the Lange Raarberg, at around 20 km, and the finale on the Cauberg. The men’s 53.2km route adds the Bergesweg in Voerendaal before finishing just past the summit of the Cauberg. Teams must ensure that riders stay together to remain in contention, particularly on the challenging climbs.

Who to watch

With UCI WorldTour, Pro-Continental and Continental teams eligible, it’s likely to be a World Tour team atop the podium but it should prove an attractive spectacle for spectators.

Based on their performances in this year’s Grand Tours and stage races, Sky, Garmin-Sharp, BMC, Orica-GreenEDGE, Liquigas-Cannondale, Movistar and home team Rabobank should be among the favourites for the men’s title.

Certain teams are known to have set winning this event as one of their key objectives and competition to get into the set-ups has been fierce. Orica-GreenEDGE has held specific training camps, as it did before winning the Tirreno-Adriatico time trial in March, as have Liquigas-Cannondale and Garmin-Sharp who are both bringing star-studded teams.

Garmin-Sharp on their way to victory in the Giro d’Italia 2012 team time-trial (image courtesy of Garmin-Sharp)

We shouldn’t overlook the benefit of home advantage. Rabobank, Vacansoleil-DCM and Argos-Shimano are all hoping to shine, demonstrate a solid team ethos, raise their profiles and replicate the success enjoyed by other Dutch teams in earlier reincarnations of the event.

In the women’s race, there are fewer teams taking part. The Specialized-Lululemon squad looks particularly strong with Ina Teutenberg but we shouldn’t discount the ladies’ defending individual TT champion Judith Arndt and her GreenEdge-AIS team, nor local team Dutch AA Drink.

The Road World Championship team time trial events take place on Sunday 16th September. Live coverage and highlights will be shown by Eurosport in the UK. For other live coverage check cyclingfans.com.

Link: Official website

4 thoughts on “Road World Championships team time trial preview

  1. Kim says:

    I would like to think BMC have a reasonable podium chance as well, with a recent good TTT showing at the Vuelta, also a win at the Giro del Trentino TTT. Book end TT winners at the Giro with Taylor Phinney and Marco Pinotti as well as Philippe Gilbert coming into form and looking to perform on his home roads.

  2. Sheree says:

    Kim

    Good call. They turned in an impressive performance in the Vuelta’s opening team time-trial which I was fortunate to witness, without the talented Taylor Phinney. To be honest, it’s probably easier to say who’s not going to win than who might.

    It’s been fairly overcast today in Limburg but it’s cleared up this evening so I’m hoping for a dry day tomorrow and no crashes. May the best team win!

    • Sheree says:

      Sean
      Thank you so much for pointing that out. I’ve corrected the error. I’m not as au fait with the ladies teams as I am with the men’s. However it’s one of the reasosn why I love attending the World Championships you get to see the elite women and all the promising youngsters race too. It’s going to be a fab week!

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