The UCI surprised everyone in 2009 when they announced that the 2012 World Championships would feature a team time trial for trade teams, the first time the event will feature since 1994.
Back then it was national teams of four riders that fought it out for the honours over a 100km pan-flat course. An Italian team came out on top in the men’s event while Russia won the women’s race. This year however the race will have a very different flavour.
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The TTT will kick off proceedings in Limburg this Sunday and Cycling Weekly‘s explains just what will be going on during the first weekend of the competition.
Where and when
When: Sunday, September 16, 2012
Women’s race: 10:00 – 11:30 (UK time)
Men’s Race: 12:30 – 15:40 (UK time)
Where: Sittard/Geelen to Valkenburg, Limburg, The Netherlands
Coverage: Live coverage on British Eurosport from 13:30, highlights at 19:00 (UK time)
So how does it work?
The World Championships team time trial will work just like the TTTs that take place in Grand Tours and stage races throughout the year.
The teams will be made up of six riders each from the trade teams which race throughout the year. This was seen as essential to the event; team time trials are highly technical and delicate affairs requiring significant training.
Pace and precision: TTTs are tests of speed, endurance, teamwork and tactics
Put simply, riders with diaries fit to burst means that national squads spend far too little time together to prepare effectively for a TTT. The solution? Trade teams. It also keeps the sponsors happy to open the show at one of the biggest events of the year.
Like any other TTT the race will be a delicate balance of riding hard enough to win, but not too hard so that some riders get distanced or forced to sit on the back.
What is the course like?
The courses are relatively short at 34.2km for the women and 53.2km for the men, but they pack a mean punch.
The Limburg region of the Netherlands plays host to the annual Amstel Gold Race and the organisers of the World Championships have spared little when it comes to incorporating the infamous hills into their races.
Limburg: Hunting ground for the peloton’s ‘puncheurs’
Both races will finish one mile after the summit of the Cauberg hill, the traditional finish of the Amstel Gold and a brutal 1,200m ramp of 5.8%. They also both included the Lange Raarberg (1,300m at 4.5%) while the men will tackle the Bergseweg (2,700m at 3.3%).
“You know, back in the old days team time trials were basically up and down the freeway on the flat,” explains Orica-GreenEdge manager Shayne Bannan, whose team will line up as one of the favourites for the men’s race.
“What makes them fantastic events is the ability to have a really good technical component and also a bit of undulation, which makes the preparation for a team time trial quite important.”
Who will win?
The big WorldTour teams have made no secret of their extensive preparations for the event and the three biggest, Orica-GreenEdge, Sky and Garmin-Sharp, will be ones to watch. Don’t count out Katusha, BMC or Movistar either – all of whom have posted impressive results at TTTs during the season.
In the women’s race defending individual TT champion Judith Arndt will head her GreenEdge-AIS team but they’ll face stiff competition from the likes of Specialized-Lululemon, with Evelyn Stevens and Ina Teutenberg, and the Dutch AA Drink team.
The AA Drink squad is home to four British riders: Pooley (r), Armitstead (c), Martin and Laws (l)
Marianne Vos, surely favourite for the road race, will also have her eyes on the inaugural title as she lines up with her Rabobank squad.
What about the rainbow stripes?
So you’d think that because it’s in the World Championships that the winners get to wear a rainbow jersey for a year? Well, not quite.
Each member of the team that wins will win a medal, as will the teams in second and third. The sports director of the winning team will receive a trophy while the national anthem of the nation in which the winning team is based will be played. British fans, look out for Team Sky and… British registered Farnese-Vini!
As for jerseys, no rainbow stripes will be on offer at all. Instead, all the riders on the winning team will be able to wear a small logo on their jerseys during the next year (from January 1 to December 31) to denote the TTT winning team.
Medals but no jerseys for the winners of the TTT
With the emphasis on the teams, that rule will remain the same even if riders leave or join. So if you win the TTT but leave the team then it’s tough luck, you won’t be allowed to wear the logo.
With no national teams taking part we’ll have to keep our eyes peeled for the Brits in their professional teams.
David Millar should be taking part for Garmin-Sharp while Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas, Alex Dowsett and Ian Stannard have all made the longlist for the Sky squad.
The AA Drink squad is the one to watch for British interest in the women’s race; it’s the home of Lizzie Armitstead, Emma Pooley, Sharon Laws and Lucy Martin. Don’t forget however that Katie Colclough is in the running to race in the Specialized-Lululemon team and Emma Trott will be on course with Dolmans-Boels.