Does being in the unusual position of going off first in the Tour de France 2019 stage two Brussels team time trial make any difference to Ineos? Yes and no, team boss Dave Brailsford told Cycling Weekly before the 27.6-kilometre test got under way.
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“Normally we’d be going a bit later on and that does make it different. It means that the routine of the day changes. It compresses the time in which the riders have to prepare, the time in between the meal they have in the morning and the time trial getting under way,” he said.
“When planning out their day, you’ve got to factor in travelling to the race, getting out on the recon, which they’ve got to do when the course opens at 12. Then they’ve got to get back to the bus and make their final preparations, and that makes the timings a little tight. Once they get back here after the recon, they’re pretty much straight into their warm-up and then straight into the race.”
He explained, however, that the fundamental task remains the same no matter what time the team starts. “Everyone’s got to do half an hour’s work today. It’s like an Olympic final, in as much as you don’t think about what time it’s taking place. They’re thinking about getting their preparations dialled, building up to the point when they’ve got to be ready to perform,” explained Brailsford, who added that setting time references for rival teams was not a concern.
“You’re not racing anybody in these events. Everybody has simply got to go as hard as they can. In a team time trial, nobody is using other teams’ times as references, I can guarantee you that. Nobody’s saying, ‘You can ease off a little bit here.’ Everybody is on, if not beyond the limit, right the way through.”
Acknowledging that it would be great to claim the team’s first-ever TTT victory at the Tour, Brailsford said the most important thing is for his leaders not to lose significant time to other GC contenders.
“People are going to gain or lose time today, but as long as it’s within a certain margin it doesn’t really matter hugely because there’s so much time left to make up any gaps, especially in the final week with all the climbing that there is,” he said. “It’s important to get the mindset right, so the delivery is right, to have a nice, tidy, neat performance.”
Brailsford says the TTT is the first key test in what looks like to be an interesting opening few days to the Tour.
“This first block of the race up as far as La Planche des Belles Filles is not easy. There are a couple of days, including that summit finish, that are up and down all day, big days in terms of climbing. It’s good that those days are coming early, we’re quite excited about those days. They should give some pattern to the race.
“Some people will be slightly better at the start, some will be slightly better at the finish, so it’s hard to say whether La Planche des Belles Filles will be an indication of what’s going to happen in the whole race or not,” he said.
“But the riders can’t be thinking about that yet. The job today is to make sure the riders forget what’s ahead, that they do this half-hour job, get it right and then we can reflect on where we are tonight.”