The World Championship Team Time Trial – Success or Failure?

See, I told you that OmegaPharma QuickStep would win *smug look*. Joking aside, most people could have predicted that the team was aiming for the event as soon as they began signing strong men like Tony Martin at the end of last year, and their potent mix of time trialling talent, with four national time trial champions and the World Champion, combined with the classics riders capable of powering over the lumps and bumps of Valkenburg, with the  Belgian and Dutch road race champions, proved to be the perfect combination for the course ending on the Cauberg. It also gave a good indication of how the World’s will shape up, as well as adding more evidence to great banks that now no longer suggest but surely confirm that Sky can’t win a team time trial.

But more on that OPQS team. Tony Martin (World and German Time Trial Champion, Olympic TT Silver Medalist), Tom Boonen (Belgian Road Champion), Sylvain Chavanel (French Time Trial Champion), Niki Terpstra (Dutch Road Champion), Peter Velits (Slovakian Time Trial Champion) and Kristof Vandewalle (Belgian Time Trial Champion) was, as evidenced, tremendously strong on paper and on the road, one of only two teams to fufill their own hype, the other being BMC, who missed out by just 3.23 seconds – a ridiculously small margin given the length of the course, 53.2km. To put that into perspective, that means that BMC completed the course at 99.915% of the speed of OPQS (Last placed Saur-Sojasin, 5.24.54 behind, were at 92.126% of the winners speed) – showing that very fine margins were to blame/laud for the victory of the Belgian squad.

The obvious explanation is the Cauberg, or more accurately, what transpired upon its slopes. OPQS arrived in a block of six, and rode up steadily, ensuring they didn’t drop any men. BMC also arrived in a group of six, but crucially, blasted off as indivduals. Thus, Taylor Phinney was dropped, and Tejay Van Garderen was left to wait for this classics friendly team mates up one of their favourite hills. Such a delay in waiting for men to get back may have ended up costing them the Inaugral Team Time Trial, but then as the incident shows, they simply weren’t the best team – they became individuals at the end, and so the team that performed best as a unit triumphed.

It seems silly to say, but the teams that actually were a team at the end did the best – those that arrived at the foot of the Cauberg not having lost the two riders were in a position to push on and still drop a rider if required, whilst those who arrived with four had to ride at the pace of the slowest man. OPQS were a slight exception in that they waited for everyone, but arguably this is what won them the race, as they then had six men to hammer the finishing straight. Sky, who seem to swear by the tactic of burning off riders, were left with the ignomy of 9th place, losing out to RadioShack’s aging Time Triallists, yet again failed to win a Time Trial in what must be becoming a serious elephant in the room, along with the inability to win their home Tour, the Tour of Britain, for almost precisely the same reasons – they spend so much time burning men off or playing tactical faux pas that they forget to just keep it simple. Still, at least they beat Garmin!

How did my predictions go? Reasonably. I got first place correct, which as they say, is all anyone remembers, and I got the Liquigas/Katusha conondrum about one always doing better then expected the wrong way round, but I got 9 out of the top 10 correct, which isnt bad out of a field of 32, although admittedly, Team Time Trials were always going to be dominated by the big budget ProTeams who could afford the wind tunnel testing etc.

My Prediction                                                  The Result

1. OmegaPharma-QuickStep                   OmegaPharma-QuickStep (=)

2. Katusha                                                       BMC (+6)

3. Garmin-Sharp                                          Orica-GreenEdge (+3)

4. Liquigas                                                      Liquigas (=)

5. Team Sky                                                    Rabobank (+2)

6. Orica-GreenEdge                                    Movistar (N/A)

7. RadioShack                                               Katusha (-5)

8. Rabobank                                                   RadioShack (-1)

9. BMC                                                              Team Sky (-4)

10. Lotto-Belsiol                                          Garmin-Sharp (-7)

 

As for looking forward to the big tests later in the week, the Time Trial and road race, we have a few names to add to the melting pot of potential victors. Time Trial wise, Tony Martin looks very good, especially with no Wiggins or Cancellara around, and a weaker Froome, but he could face strong opposition from the American duo of Taylor Phinney and Tejay Van Garderen, although whether the course suits a big, classics orientated rider like Phinney is now questionable. Of those the course suits more, Chavanel must be in with a shout of a medal, after some strong performances over the summer. It’s still tricky to see past the big German though.

This image looks likely come Wednesday

As for the road race, the way Nibali dropped members of Liquigas on the Cauberg was ominous, whilst BMC’s crown jewel, Gilbert, showed he was strong after his successful Vuelta. Tom Boonen however, seems to be able to do no wrong this season, taking his second World Title with OPQS to add to another phenomenally succesful season were his only ‘failure’ was his inability to take an Olympic medal, which when we consider he was second in the bunch sprint after Greipel and ahead of Cavendish, doesnt look so bad.

But is it really a second world title for Boonen? This is the question the purists will be asking. To be honest, I thought this would be the first and last TTT in the Worlds, but after seeing this one, as with all Team Time trials, the poetry in motion that is a squad in full flight won me over. It would certainly be nice to see, but the big question could be money: given it needs to take place on the preceeding Sunday to the road race, this requires the hosts to close roads for over a week. Whether they’ll be prepared to do this is a concern, as is the still undecided prize – a ‘prominent logo’ of design as yet unknown. They should just give the six winners rainbow TT helmets and rainbows on their sleeves with a blue splodge a la Cyclo cross etc.  Solved. The event never did feel like a world championships though, because it wasn’t national teams competing. If Boonen had won in a Belgian squad, but ok, but for the moment, this is definitely the runt of the World’s litter.

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