This year, the World Championships span two Sundays, with the first hosting the inaugral Team’s Team Time Trial, if that makes any sense. In other words, the trade, rather then the national teams, will be doing battle in six man squads around a quite hilly 53.2km course. Sound odd? It does in a competition, the Worlds, that has always been contested by national teams. Add to that some confusion over what exactly the point is, and it could be a bit of an anti-climax.
The UCI has long wished for some kind of trade team TTT, with its earlier effort being the Eindhoven Team Time Trial, back in the good o’l days of 2005-7, which died a death after its three editions because, frankly, no body cared, and saw the event as simply the UCI pushing its new fangled ProTour invention onto the teams. It didn’t help that the last running was in appaling conditions either, although mid-June was never really the best place for such an event anyway, with riders preparing for the Tour. After victories for Gerolsteiner, and two for CSC, Eindhoven’s council pulled the plug, and the UCI said they would look for an alternative, then announced in 2009 that 2012 would feature the event in the world championships. It seemed like the perfect solution – the best riders would be there, and they’d have a rainbow jersey to aim at.
Except, they dont. For some reason, the UCI has decided not to award rainbow jerseys to the winning team, presumably because of the issues seen in Team Pursuit, where a rider who didn’t compete in the Worlds winning team cant wear the jersey, and so teams can end up with say, two world champs jerseys in a team of four. A situation could thus arise where only one member of the Worlds winning sextet is in a team time trial, and it would appear that they are the the normal Time Trial world champion. Personally, if I’d had three years to think of this, I’d have hoped to have come up with a better solution then they have managed – say, a different coloured jeresy, just as ParaCycling worlds jerseys are green, etc- but instead, they’ve gone with, quote ‘A prominent logo’ for the winners. Which isn’t really that much to get the teams excited. It’s a bit like being a child and thinking something is going to be brilliant, then being told it’s not quite what you hoped, being deflated, then finding out it really isnt as good as you hoped. The teams will at least get a medal, the director a trophy, and the team’s national anthem played. This could be awkward for Farnese-Vini, an Italian team registered in Britain for Tax reasons, as well as for Astana, who I’m pretty sure are still registered in Luxembourg despite being the Kazak national team in essence.
Still, the teams are all roped in, so here, in some form of order, are the top 10 teams most likely to have a chance in the inaugural event. They form six man teams, and the time is taken on the 4th man.
Omega Pharma Quick Step
Squad: Tom Boonen, Tony Martin, Niki Terpstra, Kristof Vandewalle, Peter Velits and Sylvain Chavanel
It could be argued that they pretty much recruited purely for this event last winter, bringing in Tony Martin, Rabon, Leipheimer etc to supplement Chavanel and Boonen, who can do a decent time trial when he needs to. The team they have assembled is ridiculously strong – 4 national time trial champions, one of whom is the World Champion, and the other two are the champions of their countries on the road. If they don’t get on the podium, they will be extremely disappointing, and even that will not be enough – they are clearly out to win this.
Squad: Brutt, Menchov, Ignatyev, Kuschinsky, Smukulis and Vicioso
This could be a long shot, but Katusha always seem to pull a good team time trial out of the bag somehow. The team doesnt have the big name appeal of OPQS, but will still be strong when stoked by the Menchov-Ignatyev core.
Squad: Andrew Talansky, five from Bauer, Dekker, Masskant, Millar, Roessler, Van Summerun, Navadasuskus, Martin
Hypocrite of the month Jonathan Vaughters already says his team probably won’t win, which is a good thing – they’d probably celebrate it as a victory for ‘clean cycling’, which given recent team revelations would be fairly laughable, but then now most of their history is. The team still looks strong, aside from Dan Martin – maybe he’s there for the hills, but really, in a Team Time Trial? No doubt he’ll suprise me!
Squad: Nibali, Sagan, four from Oss, Moser, Sabatini, Paterski, Koren, Bodnar, Dall’antonia
Like Katusha, Liquigas usually perform above expectations in TTT’s, so no doubt will let me down and crash and burn. This will be the last true outing for the team, which is losing many riders at the end of the year as well as its sponsor – lets hope they retain the lime green kit which as become their trademark. A team built around Nibali and Sagan will still be strong, and they could be the suprise package.
Squad: Boassen Hagen, Dowsett, Flecha, Henao, Thomas, Stannard
Sky must be ruing that the discipline wasn’t in the Tour de France – they could have added another 10 minutes to their winning margins, and would probably have won the Team classification. Whilst their team doesnt include Olympic medalists Froome and Wiggins, it is still superbly strong, with men like Stannard and Boassen Hagen capable of burying themselves for hours on end. Sky do have a poor history in TTT’s though – as far as I can count, they’ve only won one, in Qatar in 2010, and since then have a history of near misses – (https://sicycle.wordpress.com/2012/08/19/the-sky-paradox-why-cant-team-sky-win-a-ttt/) – it will be interesting to see whether they can finally deliver in the field they should be best at.
Squad: Six from Cameron Meyer, Durbridge, Hepburn, Lancaster, Bewley, Langeveld, Vaitkus, Tuft, Mouris
Phenomenally strong on paper, I probably have them too far down this list – Orica have snuck under the rader on TTT’s this year, winning a couple with ease. Whether they can combine all their strong individuals, from ‘Turbo’ Durbo to the quiet but powerful Tuft, will be the key to whether they succeed or not. At the least, they’ll want to win the Ashes battle with Sky.
Radioshack Nissan Trek
Squad; Gallopin, Klöden, Popovych, Seargent, Voigt and Zubeldia
Another strong team on paper, and the older legs amongst them will be glad of the longer distance, which has historically been this team’s favoured terrain – US Postal and Discovery destroyed the field in long Tour tests in the noughties, and the slightly dislocated but still related RNT will be keen to revitalise those glory days, especially after such a disastrous season. Cancellara won’t be there to drive them along single handedly, but they will have The Jens, so they could still win!
Squad: Lars Boom, Stef Clement, Rick Flens, Robert Gesink, Wilco Kelderman, Luis León Sánchez
The home favourites, given the Worlds are in Limburg, Holland, have done quite well in time trials recently, and are sending a team that is definitely capable of stealing a good result. Boom, Clement, Sanchez and Kelderman are very strong, and Gesink can time trial when he hasn’t been unlucky with injuries, which saddly is most of the time. The dark horse.
Squad: Six from Ballan, Bookwalter, Van Garderen, Phinney, Morbiato, Gilbert, Pinotti, Quinziato, Schar
BMC should be able to assemble a team easily capable of winning given the star studded range of their squad, but they havent improved on their second place in the 2011 Tour TTT, led by Cadel Evans, this year. Still, Pinotti and Phinney will be strong given their target will be the following individual race, and Van Garderen, Bookwalter and Gilbert have all shown they can lay down the speed when needed.
Squad: Lars Bak, Gaetan Bille, Jens Debusschere, Bart De Clercq, Adam Hansen and Jürgen Roelandts
This team is better then it looks on paper – Hansen is, as they say, a beast, as is Bak and Roelandts. Whether they can carry through Bille and Debusschere, as De Clercq adds hill speed, will be interesting.
Squad: Lieuwe Westra, Martijn Keizer, Marco Marcato, Gustav Erik Larsson, Tomasz Marczynski and Thomas De Gendt
Another deceptively talented line up, with Westra, Larsson, Marcarto and De Gendt the power houses. They should get into the top half of the race at least, but it will depend on the fitness of these guys.