Omega Pharma-Quickstep bulldozered the hills of Limburg this Sunday afternoon on their way to winning the inaugural men’s team time trial at the World Championships.
The Belgian outfit finished with all six riders and did just enough to deny BMC the gold medal by three and a half seconds. Orica-GreenEdge took third 47 seconds back as Team Sky’s challenge faltered and they finished ninth.
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“It was brutal, absolutely brutal,” puffed Sky’s Alex Dowsett after the finish. “I was real nervous before the start. Here you’re relying on five team mates and they’re all relying on you. I haven’t felt that much pressure since the junior team pursuit world championships.”
Dowsett recovered from a dropped chain on the start ramp but the team were forced to ride the final
20km with just four men, the minimum required to finish. Sergio Henao,
who rode the Vuelta, dropped off the pace while Geraint Thomas suffered a further
“It’s a shame, we dropped Sergio [Henao] early on and G [Geraint] had a couple of mechanical issues, because we were looking good. I think we were up against it,” Dowsett added.
The bergs, made famous by the Amstel Gold Race each spring, lived up to their hype as teams struggled to find the balance between maintaining speed and retaining riders. Liquigas-Cannondale, complete with road race hopefuls Peter Sagan and Vincenzo Nibali, got the formula just right and seemed to be enjoying their long stay in the hotseat as they watched their rivals’ challenges fall short.
It took the combined might of Tom Boonen, Tony Martin, Sylvain Chavanel, Kristof Vandewalle, Niki Terpstra and Peter Velits to knock them off their perch. Soon after, as BMC crossed the line in provisional second, the men in ‘blizzard blue’ let out a roar of delight; poor intermediate splits from Sky and Orica meant they knew the title was theirs.
Pooley and Laws bring back first medals for GB
Emma Pooley and Sharon Laws meanwhile picked up the first two medals of this year’s World Championships with a bronze medal in the women’s team time trial for their AA Drink-leontien.nl squad.
The Dutch team was unable to overhaul the standout favourites Specialized-Lululemon and Orica-AIS, but an early mechanical for rivals Rabobank, which included Olympic road race champion Marianne Vos, helped secure third place and a bronze medal.
“It feels really great,” said Pooley, who adds a third World Championship medal to her collection. “A team time trial is a really difficult event, certainly in terms of organisation and stress. In many ways it’s more fulfilling because it’s a really satisfying team feeling.”
Laws, a late replacement for Lizzie Armitstead who withdrew due to illness, was equally pleased with the result and the performance.
“It was really hard,” she said, “and I only flew in yesterday!
“I trained [for the TTT] in May but that was such a long time ago and it was with a different combination. I was really nervous but I think it went so much better than I expected.”
Just 12 teams were present to battle it out for the medals but they included both Orica-AIS and Specialized-Lululemon who have regularly proved themselves to be the best at the discipline in 2012.
It was always going to be a race where preparation and practice on the technical and hilly course would count for double, and sure enough the hopes and ambitions of a number of teams were smashed on the dull grey tarmac of South Holland.
Skil-Argos were one team to find the climbing tough, while Rabobank were hindered by an early mechanical and soon found themselves down to the minimum four riders.
Indeed it was the Specialized team of Trixi Worrack, Ellen Van Dijk, Ina-Yoko Teutenberg, Evelyn Stevens, Amber Neben and Charlotte Becker that did their homework and finished a comfortable 24 second ahead of Orica-AIS.
For Pooley and Laws it was a poignant goodbye to their time with AA Drink. The Dutch team was unable to find a sponsor beyond 2012 and announced last month that it would cease to operate at the end of the year.
Road World Championships 2012: Men’s TTT, 53.2km
1. Omega Pharma-Quickstep (Bel) 1hr 3-17
2. BMC Racing (USA) at 3 secs
3. Orica-GreenEdge (Aus) at 47 secs
4. Liquigas-Cannondale (Ita) at 1-04
5. Rabobank (Ned) at 1-08
6. Movistar (Spa) at 1-18
7. Katusha (Rus) at 1-18
8. Radioshack-Nissan (Lux) at 1-21
9. Sky (GBr) at 1-32
10. Garmin-Sharp (USA) at 1-35
Women’s TTT, 34.2km
1. Specialized-Lululemon (Ger) in 46-31
2. Orica-AIS (Aus) at 24 secs
3. AA Drink-leontien.nl (Ned) at 1-59
4. Rabobank Women (Ned) at 2-20
5. Rusvelo (Rus) at 2-30
6. Be Pink (Ita) at 3-14
7. S.C. Michela Fannini Rox (Ita) at 4-37
8. Hitec Products-Mistral Home (Nor) at 4-38
9. Dolmans-Boels (Ned) at 5-00
10. Lotto-Belisol Ladies (Bel) at 5-31