Friday, September 14, 2012

Extra focus on the team time trial

The World Champions Team Time Trial is already this Sunday and therefore I decided to repost the article I wrote about the event earlier this year. Here you go:

Since the UCI revealed there would be a team time trial for sponsored teams on the menu for the World Champions in Limburg this year, every team with ambitions has been rearming their roster with strong time trialists.

Given the fact that the World Champions takes place in Holland, Dutch Vacansoleil-DCM is naturally one of the teams with an extra focus on the team time trial. With strong riders like Stijn Devolder and the two season-sensations Lieuwe Westra and Thomas De Gendt on the team, Vacansoleil-DCM were already set to clock in a decent time on home soil. Still, to increase their chances, they went out and signed Swedish time trial specialist Gustav Erik Larsson (who started out winning the opening time trial in Paris-Nice this year) and Danish Martin Mortensen who is always among the best time trialists of his country.

Swedish time trial specialist, Gustav Erik Larsson, is signed to
give Vacansoleil-DCM a better chance of succes in the TTT.
"Gustav [Erik Larsson] is a great cyclist who can give us joy all year long, but of course we had that [the World Champions TTT] in mind when we signed him. Martin [Mortensen] is also on our 10-riders list [for the TTT]. Valkenburg is definitely a goal for us and we already went to inspect the course last January. We also had our team presentation in the south of Limburg, near to the track”, Press Officer of Vacansoleil-DCM Ard Bierens tells me.

It’s not only Vacansoleil-DCM who have been reinforcing their roster. For this season BCM Racing signed super time trialists like Marco Pinotti (winner of the individual time trial in Giro d’Italia this year) and Tejay van Garderen together with Philippe Gilbert (Currently national time trial champion of Belgium) and Thor Hushovd, while Astana signed Janez Brajkovic and Andrei Kashechkin. Team Sky got Richie Porte and Konstantin Sioutsou and Movistar signed Vladimir Karpets, Jonathan Castroviejo, Giovanni Visconti (and Alejandro Valverde).

One of the strongest teams in the first half of 2012, OmegaPharma-Quickstep, already had a strong lineup for the team time trial with riders like Sylvain Chavanel, Niki Terpstra, Dario Cataldo and Tom Boonen. Those riders probably wouldn't have been able to win the World Champion Team Time Trial, but with the new signings of Tony Martin, Bert Grabsch, Levi Leipheimer, Peter Velits and young-gun Mikael Kwiatkowski they will be among the top favorites together with Team Sky.

One could argue that the lack of training together and oiling the machine before the World Champions would be a problem. Lately we have seen more and more team time trials in the stage races but without a long one in the Tour de France this year and only two very flat ones in the Giro (32 km) and Vuelta (16,5 km) there won't be many chances for the teams to practice in races. According to Vacansoleil-DCM’s Ard Bierens that won’t have much influence on the team’s preparations though.

It’s not a problem. Eneco Tour also has a team time trial now and together with the others during the season it’s enough. At the end it all comes down to the day itself and the performance then. It isn't easy to ride many races with the expected WC-selections, so that [not training together much]won’t be a problem”, he says.

Vacansoleil-DCM aim to end in the top10 in the World Champions Team Time Trial on home soil this year.

The World Champion Team Time Trial course in Limburg - 53,2 km.
One of the only teams that breaks the pattern of signing strong riders for the team time trial is Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank. Bjarne Riis has always been very fond of the discipline and even though he gets Alberto Contador back in time, he still let go of both Richie Porte and Gustav Erik Larsson. On paper Riis shouldn’t be very optimistic but after a good performance in the Giro d’Italia (Saxo Bank taking 4th place) the Danish team owner is now confident he can put together a strong team.

Team Saxo Bank taking 4th place in
the TTT in Giro d'Italia this year.
That's the plan - to have a good team there, come out of the Vuelta in good shape and then do well. We have proved that even with a team that is absolutely not favorites, we can go fast in the team time trials. We have a lot of experience in that. You saw we were fourth in the Giro team time trial recently and that was a surprise for many.  I’m confident we're going to be strong”, Bjarne Riis tells Eurosport.

The World Champions Team Time Trial 2012 takes place on Sunday the 16th of September with the first team starting at 14:30. The distance is 53,2 km and the course features three climbs; Lange Raarberg (1300 meters with 4,5%), Bergseweg (2700 meters with 3,3%) and the legendary Cauberg (1200 meters with 5,8%).

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