MILAN (VN) — After a 22-year hiatus, the team time trial returns to the UCI Road World Championships on Sunday, opening the worlds as part of a standalone event in the Limburg region of the Netherlands.
Fans are used to seeing the event open a stage race or feature midway through, playing a key role in delivering riders like Alberto Contador and Ryder Hesjedal to grand tour victories. Team time trials kicked off the Tirreno-Adriatico and Vuelta a España this year. The Giro d’Italia visited Verona on day four, when Garmin-Barracuda won and put Ramunas Navardauskas in the pink jersey. That stage win made up a significant portion of Hesjedal’s final winning margin in Milan.
The UCI ran the team time trial in Eindhoven, an hour’s drive north of the worlds’ Valkenburg finish, without much success from 2005 to 2007. Before that, the team time trial featured for 34 years in the Olympics and worlds as an amateur event. Italy won the 100km event on home turf in the last worlds edition, in 1994.
What changes this year? Professional trade teams of six, both men and women, will race. Sky, Garmin, Orica-GreenEdge, Liquigas-Cannondale and home team Rabobank are some of the favorites in the men’s tilt.
“We set it as one of our season targets,” Orica’s general manager, Shayne Bannan told VeloNews. “Our guys are motivated for it. We had about eight-to-nine riders trying to get into the team. It was competitive.”
Orica recently held specific training camps, as it did before winning the Tirreno time trial in March. The team scheduled its riders’ programs so that they would be fresh heading into the race. Svein Tuft and Cameron Meyer are among the riders for the Aussie squad.
How long is the course? It is not as long as before — only 53.2km for the men and 32km for the women — but it should be just as or even more exciting with a finish up the Cauberg climb, the same finish used in the road races later in the week.
Liquigas is bringing a punchy team for the parcours, including Tour stars Vincenzo Nibali and Peter Sagan. Garmin prides itself on time trials, but team boss Jonathan Vaughters admitted the team will not be as strong as it could be.
“We love team time trials,” Vaughters told VeloNews, “but the way the guys’ form has worked out — we burned a lot of matches at the Giro — I don’t think that we are quite sending a team that can win it.”
He said Andrew Talansky would be one of the six, but he is still selecting the others.
American Evelyn Stevens will ride the event with her Specialized-lululemon squad before joining the U.S. National Team for the other road events. Specialized, Tibco-To The Top and Exergy Twenty12 are scheduled to represent the U.S. in the women’s race.
For the men, ProTeam Garmin-Barracuda is an automatic invitee. Other American squads qualifying by way of their UCI America Tour standings are Pro Continental teams Team Type 1-Sanofi (fifth) and UnitedHealthcare (second), and Continental team Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies (third). The latter will bring riders like Tom Zirbel, Michael Creed, Jesse Anthony and Reid Mumford to the event.
The winners’ spoils
What happens with the winning team? Because the teams are going in with mixed nationalities, the UCI had to adapt its rules. 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” in the following year.
Will all the riders then race the worlds? No. For example, Liquigas’ Tiziano Dall’Antonia will not race in Italy’s road team. It makes for an odd mix of trade and national teams, but most teams are happy.
“It goes with the modernization of the sport,” Bannan said. “The event is very much based on physiology. It shows the team’s ability to prepare riders technically and based on physiology.”
“For our sponsors, it’s great to open the worlds this way,” Liquigas general manager Roberto Amadio told VeloNews,” “Some teams, of course, have never prepared much the event. So, for sure, you need the right attitude.”
The team time trial world championship takes place on Sunday September 16. The women start at 11:00 a.m. Central European Time, with the men kicking off at 1:30 p.m.
Ag2r La Mondiale
Omega Pharma-Quick Step
Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank
Acqua & Sapone
An Post-Sean Kelly
Ccc Polsat Polkowice
Farnese Vini-Selle Italia
Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies
Real Cycling Team
Team Type 1-Sanofi
Aisan Racing Team
Hitec Products-Mistral Home
Tibco-To The Top
China Chongming-Giant Pro
S.C. Michela Fanini Rox