Preview: Teams gear up for worlds team time trial in Florence

After Orica-GreenEdge won the TTT at the Tour de France, the Australian squad has its sights set on gold

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MILAN (VN) — The team time trial returns to the world championships this year in Florence, Italy. Several superpower teams are gunning for the event, which only returned from hibernation last year.

“Everyone knows it’s a big event, it’s the worlds,” Orica-GreenEdge sport director Matt White told VeloNews. “It’s a great marking tool for all of our sponsors; you can say you are the world champion.”

Omega Pharma-Quick Step won the event last year in Valkenburg, Netherlands in a close, three-second finish with BMC Racing. Orica took the bronze medal.

Belgium’s Omega Pharma team tied several aspects together for the team, from equipment to riders. As White explained, it showcased sponsors’ gear.

“[We] put a lot of effort in the bikes,” Omega Pharma sport director Tom Steels said. “We started winning a few and the guys started to love it again.”

The team time trial sticks out like a sore thumb. It is the only trade team event in a week devoted to national teams. Six men (and women, in their event) race in team colors before unzipping and putting on their national gear. Or, if not selected for the national team, they go home.

“Let’s be honest, the trade teams are the ones who can invest in the material to put together a time trial team,” UCI President Pat McQuaid said when he announced the event’s return in 2009. “With national teams, a lot of them don’t have the ability to invest. Trade teams can, and are willing. It’s more spectacular.”

The team time trial appears regularly in stage races. Orica recorded the fastest average speed for a Tour de France stage with its win in Nice this July. The event was featured in the Olympics from 1912 until 1992 and in the worlds from 1962 to 1994. At the Worlds, it ran as a four-man amateur event over 100 kilometers and Italy and the Soviet Union dominated.

“Omega is the favorite this year. Tony Martin counts as two guys!” White added. “Afterwards, Orica, BMC, Garmin-Sharp. … I wouldn’t put Katusha or Astana in there. … Sky is at a loss with Brad Wiggins and Ian Stannard at the Tour Britain and Chris Froome off the list.”

BMC is warming up in Tuscany this week. Lampre-Merida trained on the Formula One circuit in Monza for two days. Several other teams are also putting a lot of resources behind the event.

White filmed the course a few months ago and when the GP Plouay finished, he switched focus to preparing the team. His seven men (one to be eliminated soon) often simulate the team time trial at their base in Girona, Spain.

After a 4km climb, the worlds team time trial is a flat, 57.2km run from Montecatini Terme to Florence. Besides its Florence finish, it hardly resembles what is being called the hardest worlds circuit in years.

“It was an interesting concept last year with the Cauberg climb,” White said. “Team time trials are normally relatively flat, so this is a more traditional, fast one. I’m not familiar with the road climbs this year, but I’d imagine they’d be too hard for a team time trial.”

The team that wins will not receive six rainbow jerseys but medals and the right to wear five-centimeter rainbow logos on their trade tops for the following 12 months.

“I’d be icing on the cake,” White added, “to win the worlds [team] time trial in the same year that we won in the Tour de France.”

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