Close TTT finish provides dramatic worlds opener in Florence

Omega Pharma-Quick Step edges Orica-GreenEdge by less than a second to defend its title

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FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — The 2013 world championships continue through Sunday, but the organizers are already smiling this morning.

It shoehorned in the team time trial last year at the Valkenburg worlds. The event stood out like a sore thumb: trade teams in an event filled with national teams. What it did this year, however, was provide drama that even the city’s famous poet, Dante Alighieri, would have enjoyed.

The organizer had Sky, with Tour de France winner Chris Froome, and a split-second duel between Omega Pharma-Quick Step and Orica-GreenEdge. Froome’s team set the fastest time in the 57.2-kilometer run from Montecatini Terme. That alone, having the Tour winner win gold, would have been ideal. But there was more.

Orica pushed Sky off the top of the leaderboard by 22 seconds. Just as its six riders sat down in the waiting tent, Omega Pharma arrived with a faster time. The defending champions were not 30 seconds or two minutes faster, but 0.81 seconds. In comparison, Omega Pharma rode 3.23 seconds faster than BMC Racing last year.

“It’s a bit ridiculous to be so close,” Orica’s Luke Durbridge told VeloNews. “It’s good to be second, but no one wants to be second when it’s by eight-hundredths of a second.”

Omega Pharma rode the course in 1:04:16.81, Orica in 1:04:17.62. To get an idea, if the teams started at the same time, Orica would have been 12 meters, or 39 feet, down the finishing straight while Omega Pharma crossed the line.

“Over that length of course, a one-hour ride, every team could’ve done something better,” Orica’s sport director Matt White told VeloNews. “That’s just how it is. You could always go back.”

Omega Pharma knew the race could come down to a split-second. At the Tour de France, it lost the team time trial in Nice to Orica by 0.75 seconds.

“Our disadvantage at the Tour was that we had to start as the second team. We had no time references,” Omega Pharma’s general manager Patrick Lefevere told VeloNews. “Here, we were the last team off.”

Two-time reigning individual time trial world champion Tony Martin said the team had settled into a rhythm that was off target for a gold medal. The squad adjusted, however, and used the time checks in the tug of war.

Omega Pharma’s sport director Tom Steels relayed information through the riders’ earpieces after the last time check at 42.8km. They were down 1.5 seconds and had to regain as they entered Florence.

“It really hurt, it had to hurt,” Martin said in a press conference. “We either were going to gain time or blow up.”

Martin sacrificed two of his men, Michal Kwiatkowski and Kristof Vandewalle. They took their last and long pull on the front and swung off to watch the team’s needed four head into town. Martin explained the reduced train could maneuver faster through the ancient streets of Florence.

Martin, Niki Terpstra, Sylvain Chavanel, and Peter Velits stopped the clock outside the local soccer stadium 0.81 seconds faster than Orica. They collected another world title, revenge for the Tour loss, and gave the worlds an ideal opener.

“It was a thriller,” Steels said. “It was good for the cycling fans.”

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