Road World Championships team time trial reviews

The first day of the Road World Championships dawned with near perfect conditions: sunny, but not too warm and practically no wind. The scene was set for an exciting day’s racing as the crowds thronged the route, particularly at the base of the Cauberg where business in the bars and cafes had been brisk from early morning and, I suspect, continued long after the racing had finished.

At points along the Cauberg and beyond, camper vans had staked out their territory and were flying flags to show their allegiance. Hopes were high in the Dutch camp with plenty of local sides to cheer and a smattering of home riders in many other teams. Surely their hopes wouldn’t be dashed? Well, in the end they had to be content with a local rider on each of the victorious teams.

The elite woman’s race

The German-registered pre-race favourites Specialized-Lululemon lived up to their billing with an emphatic victory in the inaugural women’s trade team time trial from Sittard to Valkenburg. The team of Charlotte Becker (Ger), Amber Neben (USA), Evelyn Stevens (USA), Ina-Yoko Teutenberg (Ger), Ellen van Dijk (Ned) and Trixi Worrack (Ger) finished the testing 34.2km course, with a well-drilled performance, in a time of 46:31, 24 seconds quicker than runners-up Orica-AIS – Judith Arndt (Ger), Shara Gillow (Aus), Loes Gunnewijk (Ned), Melissa Hoskins (Aus), Alexis Rhodes (Aus) and Linda Villumsen (NZ). They in turn had posted the previous best time of 46:55 to depose Dutch team AA Drink-Leontien.nl – Chantal Blaak (Ned), Lucinda Brand (Ned), Jessie Daams (Bel), Sharon Laws (GB), Emma Pooley (GB) and Kirsten Wild (Ned).

The winning Specialized-Lululemon team (image courtesy of Specialized-Lululemon)

The girls were thrilled with their victory and directeur sportif Ronny Lauke confirmed:

We’re all very excited. This has been a goal for us since it was announced last year and it’s really nice that we have been able to make it happen.

The 34.2km course started in Sittard with a fast flat stretch where the main contenders proved to be evenly matched. It was here that Specialized-Lululemon, last off the ramp,  made best use of their sprinter Teutenberg – later dropped – to keep them in close contention. It worked. At the first time-check after 11km, they were almost a second up on Orica-AIS. However, the team demonstrated their power and greater experience when they started to pull away over the hillier terrain, particularly after Stevens had set a fast pace up the climb of the Lange Raarberg.

At the second time-check their advantage had grown to 13 seconds and by the time they hit the Cauberg it had increased to 20. Stevens again came to the front up the Cauberg but measured her effort to ensure her teammates could stay on her wheel. Once over the summit, Neben, Worrack, Becker and local favourite Van Dijk made the final push for the line and a historic well-deserved victory.

The UCI had thoughtfully provided the girls with their own podium boy to present the flowers, the legendary Eddy Merckx who tackled the task with relish. After all, it’s not often you get to kiss eighteen women. Still it’s a fitting reward for all those races he’s won.

Result

1. Specialized-Lululemon 46:31

2. Orica-AIS +0:24

3. AA Drink-Leontien.nl +1:59

4. Rabobank +2:20

5. RusVelo +2:30

6. BePink +3:14

7. Michela Fanini-Rox +4:37

8. Hitec Products-Mistral Home +4:38

9. Dolmans-Boels +5:00

10. Lotto-Belisol +5:31

The elite men’s race

The ladies’ race followed the form book but the men’s didn’t. Belgian outfit Omega Pharma-Quick Step, comprising Classics King Tom Boonen (Bel), Sylvain Chavanel (Fra), world champion time-trialler Tony Martin (Ger), Peter Velits (Slo), Kristof Vandewalle (Bel), and Niki Terpstra (Ned)  – fourth-from-last to set off – turned in a superby disciplined performance and the best time but then had a nervous wait to see whether they had indeed secured victory. They had. BMC crossed the line as runners-up, pushing Orica-GreenEDGE into bronze medal position.

Men’s team time trial victors (image courtesy of Omega Pharma-Quick Step)

You could tell how much the team relished the victory as Boonen strode onto the stage punching the air. After the race OPQS directeur sportif Wilfried Peters confirmed that together with Tom Steels and Jan Schaffrath they’d worked hard for this result:

A few months ago we did the first recon and we recorded everything for our riders. Then we came here again after Eneco Tour with the riders and we did the course. Then in the last days we really put everything into preparing as best as we can this race. Tom Steels put really a lot of energy into it and everything went well. It was a great team effort even on the staff side. Mechanics, masseurs, everybody on the team has to be proud of it and feel as if they are a part of this great victory.

OPQS posted the fastest time at each of the time-checks, impressively finishing the 53.2km course with all six riders in a time of 1:03:17. Closest challengers BMC – Alessandro Ballan (Ita), Philippe Gilbert (Bel), Taylor Phinney (USA), Tejay van Garderen (USA), Marco Pinotti (Ita) and Manuel Quinziato (Ita) – had four riders at the base of the Cauberg but Phinney struggled to stay in contention as Van Garderen and Gilbert rode up the climb and, despite their best efforts to regroup, finished three seconds down to the better-organised Belgian team.

Orica-GreenEDGE  – Sam Bewley (NZ), Luke Durbridge (Aus), Sebastian Langeveld (Ger), Cameron Meyer (Aus), Jens Mouris (Bel) and Svein Tuft (Can) also turned in a consistent performance and, although they only finished with four, they held it together on the Cauberg and did enough to see off Liquigas-Cannondale with a time of 1:04:04, 47 seconds down on the winners.

Top-seeded Sky started last but, with many of its top riders either riding in the Tour of Britain or unavailable, they finished a lowly ninth. While home favourites Rabobank possibly went too fast over the first part of the course, burnt too many matches and were found out on the Cauberg.

It is also worth noting that there was one entity enjoying a dual celebration: Specialized, who delivered both teams to victory.

Result

1. Omega Pharma-Quick Step 1:03:17

2. BMC +0:03

3. Orica-GreenEDGE +0:47

4. Liquigas-Cannondale +1:04

5. Rabobank +1:08

6. Movistar +1:18

7. Katusha same time

8. RadioShack-Nissan +1:21

9. Sky +1:32

10. Garmin-Sharp +1:35

Links: PreviewOfficial website

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World Championships individual time trial preview

Including the junior (men’s and women’s) and under-23 (men’s only) versions, the five individual time trial events included within the Road World Championships commence on Monday and conclude with the blue riband event, the elite men’s race on Wednesday afternoon.

The most recent winners of the elite men’s event are:

2007 Stuttgart: Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland)

2008 Varese: Bert Grabsch (Germany)

2009 Mendrisio: Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland)

2010 Melbourne: Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland)

2011 Copenhagen: Tony Martin (Germany)

What happened last year?

Germany’s Tony Martin blitzed the course at an average speed of 46.4kph to take his first gold medal and the World Champion’s rainbow jersey after leading at every split. Throughout the season, he’d been at the top of his game, winning time trials in the Tour de France, Vuelta a Espana and pretty much any other stage race with a time trial. Defending and four-time world champion Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland) looked to have landed silver but he overshot a bend, brushing the barrier in the process, and lost out to Bradley Wiggins (Great Britain) who turned in a solid and consistent performance. When 26-year old Martin caught David Millar (Great Britain) –  no mean time-trialler – who’d set-off 90 seconds ahead of him, he must have known it was a gold-winning performance. 2008 champion Bert Grabsch (Germany) finished fourth after pushing his customary huge gear.

World Championships individual time trial podium 2011 (image courtesy of official race website)

Afterwards, a jubilant Martin said:

In the last kilometre I was sure that I was going to win. It’s such a good feeling. It’s a dream come true. It’s amazing for me.

David was one of the favourites and for sure when you pass him and you are 1:30 faster, you must be having a good ride. I gave my all, so I was really happy. I felt under pressure but I’ve learnt to work with the pressure.

1. Tony Martin (Germany) 53:43

2. Bradley Wiggins (Great Britain) +1:15

3. Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland) +1:20

4. Bert Grabsch (Germany) +1:31

5. Jack Bobridge (Australia) +2:13

6. Richie Porte (Australia) +2:29

7. David Millar (Great Britain) +2:45

8. Lieuwe Westra (Netherlands) +3:18

9. Alexandr Dyachenko (Kazakhstan) +3:19

10. Jakob Fuglsang (Denmark) +3:30

This year’s race

The 2012 edition will be a more testing event than last year’s. It starts in Heerlen – home to the 1967 World Championships – covers 45.7km and features three climbs, the toughest of which is the first in Simpelveld before it finishes just past the summit of the Cauberg.

Who to watch

Last year’s winner Tony Martin will be back to defend his crown, hoping that he’s already had more than his fair quota of bad luck this season with punctures, mechanicals and falls. Although it’s a hilly course, it shouldn’t cause him too many problems. Remember his winning performance in the 2011 Tour de France time-trial in Grenoble?

Sylvain Chavanel record equaling 4-times national time-trial champion (image courtesy of Omega Pharma QuickStep)

Sylvain Chavanel, record equaling 4-time national time trial champion (image courtesy of Omega Pharma-Quick Step)

This time he won’t have to contend with those who stood with him on the  2011 podium [is that Kitty I can hear weeping and wailing? – Ed] but there’s still plenty of stiff opposition from established riders such as France’s Sylvain Chavanel, who will be looking for at least a podium spot, Spain’s Alberto Contador, fresh from his win at the Vuelta, gunning for more victories and Britain’s Chris Froome looking to cement his credentials after his Olympic bronze.

But it’s just as likely that Martin’s strongest opposition will come from that brigade of young Turks who not so long ago were competing and winning in the under-23 category. I’m thinking the all-American Taylor Phinney, Aussie turbo Luke Durbridge, Martin’s compatriot Patrick Gretsch and Kiwi youngster Jesse Sergent. Not forgetting, of course, a pair of Vacansoleil teammates: local boy Lieuwe Westra and Belgium’s Thomas De Gendt, who’ll be hoping their time has come in front of partisan crowds.

However this unfolds, we can be assured that it’ll be a thrilling battle with the outcome much less predictable than it’s been for many a year.

Race details

September 17th: Junior men, Landgraaf to Valkenburg aan de Geul, 26.6km

September 17th: Under-23 men, Landgraaf to Valkenburg aan de Geul, 36km

September 18th: Junior women, Eisjsden Margraten to Valkenburg aan de Geul, 15.6km

September 18th: Elite women, Eisjsden Margraten to Valkenburg aan de Geul, 24.3km

September 19th: Elite men, Heerlen to Valkenburg aan de Geul, 45.7km

Daily live coverage and highlights of the Road World Championships will be shown by Eurosport in the UK. For other live coverage check cyclingfans.com.

Link: Official website

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