The historic UCI Road World Championships Doha 2016 will kick off on October 9, with the women’s and men’s Team Time Trial events. Far from being a mere appetizer, they are regarded as the climaxes of an exciting week of competition, as the Team Time Trial is considered one of the most beautiful disciplines of road cycling.
After being a regular feature in the UCI Road World Championships between 1962 and 1994, the Team Time Trials were reintroduced to the programme in 2012. They are the only trade team races of the schedule, as the remainder of events are contended by national teams.
Three teams have been victorious in this event in its recent history. In the women’s version, the current Canyon-SRAM team has won four straight titles with its different incarnations. In the men’s version, Belgium’s Omega Pharma-Quick Step netted the first two titles, and USA’s BMC Racing Team got the following two, thus being the reigning champion ahead of Doha 2016.
Besides the rainbow logo they proudly wear on the chest of their outfit, members of the BMC Racing Team regularly prove why they are kings of Team Time Trialling. This season, they’ve triumphed at prestigious events such as Tirreno-Adri?tico and Eneco Tour, two stage races that form part of the UCI World Tour, road cycling’s top-notch circuit.
And, when they don’t succeed, they diligently analyse why.
This was the case at the first stage of the Vuelta a Espa?a, the final Grand Tour of the season. The 28-kilometre TTT, tricky but with several straight sections of road where raw power was important, seemed ideal for the American team. However, the team lost by seven seconds to Team Sky, placing 4th in the final standings.
The team’s coach, Marco Pinotti, one of the best time triallists of the world in the last decade, was clearly disappointed by the result.
He had assigned a specific task: use the team’s strong roster of rouleurs to earn the World Championships TTT the following year.
They succeeded immediately: in Ponferrada in 2014, the squad defeated Australia’s Orica-GreenEdge and outgoing champions Omega Pharma-Quick Step, duly becoming world champions of the discipline. They confirmed their excellence by winning an outstanding four races the next season.
That’s why Pinotti was devoted to find an explanation to why they hadn’t won that Vuelta TTT. He spent 10 minutes speaking to every member of the team, even the team mechanics.
The attention to detail revealed that one brief spell under a bridge made the crucial difference.
While the team had accomplished most of the necessary factors for a successful TTT, such as remaining as a compact squad, getting as much draft as possible and saving energy, and powerful and well times pulling. Even the lighter rider hadn’t pulled until the end, “not because he is not strong enough to keep the necessary speed,” Pinotti pointed out, “but because he is so small he doesn’t shelter the guy behind him and therefore makes the whole team weaker.”
Yet there was one box the team hadn’t ticked; maintaining its compactness under the bridge. Some riders didn’t hold their teammates’ wheels, creating a gap others weren’t able to close.
“We basically lost three riders in 400 meters, losing their power and many seconds that cost us the TTT,” Pinotti diagnosed.
Even with this disappointment fresh in his mind, Pinotti wasn’t shy of stating his love for this discipline. “It’s the most beautiful race in road cycling because it highlights the relevance of the team. Cycling is a team sport, yet usually is one guy who gets the victory and stands on the podium. Meanwhile, the TTT recognises the collective nature of victory.”
Pinotti and his team will defend their World Championships TTT crown in Doha on Sunday, October 9, against a field that includes another eight UCI World Teams. The course, between Lusail and The Pearl-Qatar, is ideal for the most powerful cyclists of the world to shine. Yet the difference won’t be made by strength, but by technical excellence and team spirit.