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Running Out of Time

Tom Dumoulin

No wonder Esteban Chaves was smiling on Sunday. He’d won a Monument and a World Tour race and the hilly course was perfect for a rider who styles himself as a colibri, a hummingbird because he’s so light. The World Tour is over now and along the way there are chances for many with with races for the sprinters, stage race specialists and more. There’s almost something for everyone in the World Tour… except the time trial specialists. In fact there’s not a single dedicated time trial which means they lack the opportunity to win the precious ranking points associated with their specialism. A stage win here or there only offers a fraction of what’s available to other specialists during the season.

The Chrono des Nations takes place later this month on Sunday 23 October. Held in Les Herbiers in western France and enjoying a 1.1 UCI label you could be forgiven for ignoring its presence on the calendar as it’s not the most high profile event. It will clash with the glitzy big budget promotion for the as yet unloved Abu Dhabi Tour and the curious Japan Cup where legions of passionate fans turn part of the Japanese countryside into scenes resembling the Paterberg or Tourmalet. Les Nations has neither the budget nor the fans.

It hasn’t always been this way: A lucky find in a flea market of the 1989 Miroir du Cyclisme annual review looks back at the GP des Nations and Laurent Fignon’s win as he “pulverises” Bernard Hinault’s record over the 89km course (eighty nine kilometres, no typo) in part thanks to the “miracle handlebar” better known as tri-bars. That was the year Fignon had famously finished second in the Tour de France by eight seconds but he’d also won the Giro d’Italia and Milan-Sanremo and ended the year atop the world rankings.

The GP des Nations can trace its history back to 1932 when it created by sports journalist Albert Baker d’Isy who had been impressed by the previous year’s world championships in Copenhagen where the title was decided in a sadistic 140km solo time trial. Baker d’Isy thought this one-off format was something worth keeping and so created the Grand Prix des Nations, a time trial world championships in all but name but even the label sailed close with its suggestion of nations competing. Over time this race grew into a very prestigious event that attracted the world’s best riders with a list of winners that includes Fausto Coppi, Jacques Anquetil, Felice Gimondi, Luis Ocaña and Bernard Hinault.

Decline: The event began to slide in the 1990s and became a smaller race for specialists like Uwe Peschel, Michael Rich or Serghiy Honchar as the grand tour contenders skipped it. One reason was the establishment of the official UCI Time Trial World Championships in 1994 meaning the GP des Nations lost some of its lustre and in 2005 the creation of the Pro Tour, today’s World Tour, was the final nail in the coffin as this new pro calendar scheduled the Worlds within four days of the Nations and the clash made the Worlds an inevitable choice. The small Chrono des Herbiers time trial later incorporated the “nations” label in 2006 to become the event on the calendar today but the glory days of the event and the prestige of a standalone time trial race seem long gone and the result is a World Tour calendar lacking specialist time trial races.

The upshot is that the Worlds is the only event left standing and the discipline is unloved during the rest of the year. On average they’re declining in importance for stage races with 2015 as the nadir with just 14km against the clock in the Tour de France. This year’s Tour had more again but the prologue seems to be on the wane too.

A trial to watch: One reason is the TV ratings flop for time trials, the lack of a mano a mano contest between riders means that the story of the stage is harder to tell. You can see people pedalling but it’s hard to tell much more; even the connoisseur who might look at a rider’s pedal stroke or tuck can only infer things about their progress rather than see who is winning until the rider reaches a time check along the way. For the millions who make up the bulk of the audience 95% of the video output features a rider tucked into an aero position, face masked by a visor. Rather than witnessing a virtuoso performance it’s the TV equivalent of watching a metronome set to 93 bpm. Glance at the results of a time trial and, accidents aside, you can tell what happened.

Should there be a World Tour time trial? Why not but it’d be a hard sell as a standalone event given the TV ratings issues. It’d have to be something special, a scenic course with a stellar startlist that includes the specialists like Tony Martin, Tom Dumoulin and Rohan Dennis up against the stage racers who can win a TT on their day like Chris Froome, Nairo Quintana, Alberto Contador and Thibaut Pinot and all with just the right amount of climbing to ensure an even contest. Easier typed than done.

New TT bike rules: One factor to help a time trial recovery is a push from manufacturers following the proposed relaxation of UCI rules for time trial bikes. Currently the UCI regulations restrict frame design meaning many triathletes have faster frames and so their sport has become the shop window for time trial bikes; it’s also become the larger market too. But an easing of the bike design regulations – not a free for all – could see manufacturers keen to promote their bikes and therefore send riders from their sponsored teams to time trials.

Conclusion
The Worlds is practically the only specialist time trial race left on the calendar, for the rest of the year it is a specialism contained inside a stage race. It wasn’t like this in the past, the GP des Nations was a prestigious event contested by the top riders but its fall is a story of substitution by the Worlds. Given TV is consumed these days mainly by television it seems hard to imagine a revival as it’s unlikely to be a ratings hit. Still the specialists must regret the lack of standalone World Tour race with the consequent points scale available rather than the meagre haul on offer for a stage during a race.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jerome Tuesday, 4 October 2016, 1:31 pm

    Although I agree that a days worth of time trialing is a dull day I feel that it breaths life into the GC battle which too often becomes a best climber comp. Have the skinny weight weenys loose 3-5 minutes in the first week and watching them claw it back in the mountains in the final week is what grand tours should be all about.
    A story is best when the heroes have weakness they overcome and this is being lost in the monotonous GT’s of the last few years.

    • Chris James Tuesday, 4 October 2016, 1:57 pm

      I agree, although I really dislike watching time trials, and have never summoned up the interest to even enter our club 10. This year’s Vuelta (amongst many other races) was feted by many, but I thought I think numerous MTF setting GC gets tedious after a while, and I like a battle between a climber who can TT and a time triallist who can climb.

      I suppose the problem has been when the best climber is also the best time triallist!

      • tedba Tuesday, 4 October 2016, 2:47 pm

        It’s a difficult one – the TT will create big time gaps in the field which will lead to more attacking racing in the mountains. It also widens the field a little. However there are a lot of climbers who fall too far behind the likes of Froome/Contador in a TT which reduces the field of contenders down significantly.

        Race organisers have a much harder job than they’re given credit for.

      • Morten Reippuert Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 12:07 am

        And whenever that happens i get supicious: Hilnault, Indurain, Riis, Ulrich, Armstrong, Landis, Rasmussen, Contador, Evans, Wiggins, Froome…. ups that only leaves us with Lemond, Sastre and Nibali – 2nd ups: 2 danes on that list.

        • Morten Reippuert Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 12:08 am

          (forgit Pantani… but his inclusion would sort of beat the purpose of my 1st ‘ups’

        • J Evans Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 11:28 am

          Wasn’t Lemond pretty good at TTs and Rasmussen not so – or is my memory hazy?
          Also, Contador and Evans were never the best TT riders in a GT (unless it was hilly) and Evans was also not the best climber.

          • Anonymous Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 4:46 pm

            Lemond wasn’t the best climber. I assume that’s MR’s point there. But yes on Evans, not best climber, but close to best TT’r in a GT.

          • Morten Reippuert Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 10:00 pm

            Both Lemond, Evans and Contador where pretty close to the very best i both TT and on the Climbs. I’ve always seen Evans as a temporider who for a few years climbred remarkable well (Like Wiggins). Lemond and Hilnault would be a fenomonal TT’ers who could climb too. (in a different time though). Indurain, Riis, Ulrich and Armstrong where suspiciously the best in both diciplines – and their weight would suggest that they should be able to climb…

            Rasmussen – like Pantani shouldn’t be able to do anything on a TT – yet in 1998 and 2007 their performance on TT’s where remarkable impressive.

          • CA Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 10:10 pm

            Contador won a flat 40km ITT in the 2009 TdF and Evans was a really solid ITT rider.

            Rasmussen usually was horrible on a TT bike.

      • Splat Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 10:34 am

        agree. its gonna be interesting to see the TDF course this year. Each year theyve tried something to make it difficult for froome, cobbles, very small amount of TT km and then downhill ends to mountain stages. There isnt much left to try.

    • Louis Tuesday, 4 October 2016, 6:40 pm

      I agree ITTs are boring to watch on TV but they’re great to attend live. You can spend hours watching all the racers go by one by one, take pictures, move around and catch them at different points of the course and you still have time to get close to the arrival line to see the leaders come in and possibly upset GC at the end of the day. I have great memories of doing just that at the 2005 Deutschland Tour and seeing local favourite Jan Ullrich win in front of an ecstatic crowd.

      • BigSigh Tuesday, 4 October 2016, 7:35 pm

        I’d agree with this.

        ITT’s during GT’s are virtually another viewing rest day (always good to catch up with any stages I might have missed) but roadside, they’re a full day’s bikefest!

  • tintinbike Tuesday, 4 October 2016, 1:48 pm

    Not a new thought, in fact it’s already been mentioned on INRNG but how about making the TV coverage better?

    * Virtual riders on the screen every so often?
    * Graphics of relative locations – Strava does it
    * More timed segments – Strava does it, and you could see how you compare 🙂

    Not quite the same but I watched Tour of Britain coverage on ITV4 in UK and they mentioned the Strava segments in the preview but then IMHO missed an opportunity by failing to mention how fast the riders completed them. Personally I found the coverage was in general poor but at least they tried.
    This was not time trial specific but demonstrated how you could start to engage more with the enthusiast rider.

    • tedba Tuesday, 4 October 2016, 2:49 pm

      This would be interesting… make it a free for all with race tech… let the broadcasters try out every toy that they could conceivably want to employ which will be possible as the course is lighter and there isn’t an unruly peleton to contend with.

    • Adam Bowie Tuesday, 4 October 2016, 8:10 pm

      There’s definitely room for improvement in the televisation of TTs.

      * More timing points surely isn’t that expensive to do, and it’d be better than the GPS based split screen times we sometimes get today which are much rougher.
      * Multiple riders passing the same point allows some much more interesting camera shots than just the rear of the rider from a motorbike. How about a wire-cam for an interesting section as they do in MTB races? Or drones? Did I hear that CX races are getting some of this now?
      * Better GPS trackers to show relative positions on a CGI version of the course. A fixed route again helps ensure that data flow from the tracker works.
      * +1 on virtualisation. If you lock off cameras at the right points you could even add ghost images to illustrate the time differences.

      For any TT-based one-off event, I’d definitely go down some of these routes.

      • Eskorrik Asko Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 6:07 am

        I believe I’ve said this before, but the TV directors and camera operators could do worse than learn a thing or two on how their Norwegian, Swedish or Finnish colleagues cover interval race in cross-country skiing and manage to keep large audiences interested and even enthralled.

        They key point is never to follow a competitor in such a manner that the spectators do not know and have no way of figuring out how he is doing. Give enough information, use set camera angles and tracking shots of the competitot approaching the timing point so that the viewers can anticipate and make educated guesses where he will place – and the commentators can help them with this. Wven a shot of “empty forest” or street corner or a curve in a road as the case will be can be full of excitement when the viewers can tell almost exactly when a contender should appear in order to take the lead or maintain a gap.

        Give enough information and give it frequently enough (in table or any other form) on how the gaps between the main contenders change and what the trends are. Make the timing points such that the commentators and viewers alike can speculate on how the various riders are doing relative to others on uphill/downhill/flat/headwind parts of the route.

        And so on. Never a dull moment (unless someone is so superior that the result is too obvious and unless the trends are set from early on and never change).

        (Mind you, it used to be that the relays were the sole events in XC skiing that weren’t interval starts, but now the calendar and the programmer in championships is packed with mass start races – all for the alleged benefit of gaining larger TV audiences especially in the “new market” countries where viewers “don’t get the hang of” interval start races and also in the “traditional” countries where modern viewers “don’t have either the time or the attention span” to follow interval races, i.e. it is supposedly a must that even the hastiest viewer must be able to tell at a glance who is leading and that even the stupidest viewer must not be so puzzled that he will switch channels.)

  • Richard S Tuesday, 4 October 2016, 2:09 pm

    There used to be a few end of season TT’s. There was the GP des Nations but also the GP Eddy Merckx and the two up Trofeo Baracchi. They all seemed to die around the same time in the early to mid 90’s. A shame really. Individual TT’s aren’t brilliant TV but for some reason I find Team TT’s even more boring, yet they are fairly popular. I think prologues could still have a place in stage races, its not like they last long and the speed involved is pretty spectacular to watch, given a decent course. A prime time Friday evening slot to kick off a Grand Tour on a town centre course should work.

    • Vedrafjord Tuesday, 4 October 2016, 6:32 pm

      Yes, I miss prologues. As well as setting some small initial time gaps, they give a nice chance to commentators to introduce all the riders and talk about their form and their hopes for the race. They also have potential to employ some innovations from ski coverage, for example have a rider race the virtual ‘ghost’ of an earlier rider, that might require fixed cameras and be hard to do on a longer course. A TTT is massively unfair on riders with GC hopes on weaker teams who are handicapped enough already.

    • Morten Reippuert Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 10:16 pm

      They started to disapear when the worlcup finale was intruduced in the late 1980’ies: a TT for top 10-20 riders in the worldcup competition.

      they disapeard totaly after 1996 when the Olympics / WC was no longer split between ametuers and pro’s – but between U23 and Elite – at the same time the WC/OL TT was introduced and the 100km TTT for the ametuers was thrown away. That 100k TTT was a very prestigious event.

  • Tom Tuesday, 4 October 2016, 2:37 pm

    I would love to see a return of the Trofeo Baracchi – a two man TT would be a much better TV spectacle than a standard TT.

    • channel_zero Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 4:28 pm

      Me too! But, the UCI has abandoned every one of the variations of bike racing, some of which could be quite popular on the participant level. It seems like the UCI has been most interested in collecting revenue rather than participation since at least the 1990’s.

  • Larry T Tuesday, 4 October 2016, 3:02 pm

    Interest in all those time-trials died around the same time, early to mid-90’s – the same period in which the “aero” bars became ubiquitous. I’ll spare everyone my complaints about the bars, but is this merely a coincidence? I’d say no.

    • Cormac Tuesday, 4 October 2016, 3:35 pm

      +1 Aero bars dont level the playing field. They tilt it in a decidedly unfair way. It’s like a weight handicap on a climbing stage for lighter riders.

    • CA Tuesday, 4 October 2016, 4:26 pm

      I won’t respond with a dumb comment Larry, I still don’t get why you think this. Please explain – I promise not to argue with it, but I’m really curious how you think the aero bars killed the interest in long TT’s.

      • Larry T Tuesday, 4 October 2016, 9:40 pm

        CA – I think most here have had quite enough of my ranting against “aero” bars and the like. There are plenty of posts from me on their evils all over INRNG. Perhaps Mr. INRNG can tell you how to find and view them?

        • CA Tuesday, 4 October 2016, 9:58 pm

          Good job not getting into it, I can’t see Mr. Inrng spending time doing that… probably best to just leave it.

          I have to leave work early – the blue jays might almost be in the playoffs if they can win today so I have to get home.

          • Simon Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 9:39 am
          • J Evans Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 11:38 am

            Briefly, it allows bigger riders to have less of an aerodynamic disadvantage over smaller riders. Thus, the TT bikes punish the very small climber more.
            I’d have them on normal bikes and with no other technology on them too (you’ll be shocked to learn). There’s no advantage to the sport in riders not having to pace themselves, but having a powermeter do it for them.
            TT’s are essential – if far from rivetting – in a GT. It’s about creating a balance. Too many TT km (e.g. ~100km) and the TT specialist can take so much time that they can just follow in the mountains. Too few TT km and it’s all about climbing.

        • Ecky Thump Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 12:23 am

          Nay lad nay.
          Sexiest bikes going are the TT machines.
          Beautiful.

          • Eskorrik Asko Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 6:12 am

            The bikes may be sexy, but the helmets and the position prevent the viewers from seeing the riders’ faces, grimaces and expressions. The position is also such that it takes an expert to read the body language.

            With “normal” bikes the faces can tell stories and the individual variation in how different riders move and in how a rider moves at different points of the race is greater – all of which prevents the riders from looking like impersonal automatons and makes the viewing of the race more interesting.

          • Ferdi Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 10:07 am

            We can’t say at the same time that TTs are nowadays a bore to watch, and call TT bikes attractive. If we are serious about increasing the show value of TTs, we must be serious about considering how they would fare with stripped-down, normal road bikes (and, yes, I’ll say it again: without cyclocomputers, to facilitate pacing mistakes). As for the value of showcasing ultra aero triathlon bikes… I don’t see it: Sunday warriors buy normal road bikes, and shouldn’t go around with their tri-bars in the middle of the traffic.
            Last thing: TTs are better, more unpredictable, if they are longer than what riders can train for at maximum intensity. No one has ever put forward a single valid reason not to ride 2-hour (or more) TTs when Coppi could do it, on those bikes and on those roads. No other reason except that they don’t want to.

          • Richard S Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 10:58 am

            In reply to Ferdi, I suppose the thing that would prevent somebody putting a 2 hour (at todays pace 90km?) TT in a Grand Tour is that if you had a GC contender who was vastly superior at time trials, like say Ullrich was or Dumoulin could be, they would win by so much that the rest of the race would be a largely pointless. Good climbers these days without the benefit of EPO and with everyone watching their power meters can nick 20 seconds here and there on mountain stages. On a 90km TT Froome could put about 5 minutes into Quintana, if not more. You would need to put big time bonuses on individual stages to even it up. It would be amusing to see once or twice because in my opinion climbers have had everything in their favour for too long. Maybe we need a French or Italian TT beast to come along and challenge on GC to motivate the organisers to weight the race towards time trials?!
            The GP des Nations in its Anquetil era 100km plus format as a stand alone event would be interesting nowadays. It was quite a rolling course I believe, that’d sort the men from the boys.

          • Ferdi Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 1:01 pm

            There’s a UCI legal limit nowadays, on the length of TTs. For no good reason, in my view.

    • Francisco Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 2:15 pm

      Sorry Larry but you are mistaken. I recently had the opportunity to explain on these pages why aero equipment in principle favours the smaller rider. It is a misconception to think (as J Evans does below) that the larger rider is “aerodynamically disadvantaged” by their larger bulk. Flat time trials are a contest of drag versus power – and power scales up slightly faster than drag as body size increases. Any equipment that reduces the impact of aerodrag, such as tribars, will thus favour the smaller guy. Triathlon bars will not transform featherweights into champion time triallists but they will make them suck a little less in comparison to the specialists and that is what matters in a general classification context.
      In practice this is probably somewhat negated by the fact that time trialling nowadays requires very specific preparation and it is likely that the specialists are more willing to put in the effort, money and time needed to excel in their speciality. This is human nature, as we tend to dedicate ourselves more to the things we feel we do better.

      • Larry T Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 3:04 pm

        Francisco- I refrained from going over this yet again….. but have you any data/proof to back up these claims? I think you’d have to put guys of various sizes on “normal” bikes in a wind tunnel, then compare the same men on machines with “aero” bars. Anecdotal evidence such as my example of tiny Charlie Mottet being very good at the chrono pre-aero bars and not-so-good afterwards refutes your claim. BigMig’s another example – I don’t remember him being exceptionally good at chrono pre-aero bars but he was almost unbeatable after!
        I think laying everyone down on “aero” bars makes them more equal aerodynamically and changes the event to almost a pure watts/drag contest, which to me (and maybe lots of others as interest in the chrono seemed to die around the same time?) is more boring than watts/kg tests.

        • Anonymous Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 4:53 pm

          Do either of you have any data or studies to back it up? To be honest, Francisco’s view sounds more plausible than Larry’s. Sounds based in science while Larry’s view sounds based in grumpiness that it’s not just Italians & French racing on steel bikes only in Italy and France.

        • CA Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 5:45 pm

          Here we go Larry T – at least I can say I didn’t start this discussion.

          I’ll be quick, but Larry’s examples of Charlie Mottet and Big Mig is purely anecdotal, which counts for very little compared with scientific data/statistical analysis. As you mentioned, I’d be really interested to see Francisco’s statistical analysis on this.

          • J Evans Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 6:42 pm

            Yup, my fault. And I have zero evidence – anecdotal or otherwise.
            I just assumed that because the shoulders are pulled in and the body is more flat this would help a big person more as their drag would be – percentage-wise – more greatly reduced than a small person’s.
            Haven’t a clue, though.
            But no-one on this page has shown any data, so I think it’s unfair of Anonymous to make the usual tired accusations against Larry.

        • Morten Reippuert Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 10:24 pm

          reg. BigMIg – he was evne worse at climbing pre-aro bars. I seriously doubt him stepping up had anything to do with arobars – sports doctors are IMHO the more likely reason.
          Do you rememberhis size and weight? Tom Boonen and Marcel Kittel seems like midegts compared to Indurain. check him out compared to Leblanq or even Lemond – Indurain climbing looks like he is defiing gravety. Freakshow league.

          • CA Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 10:42 pm

            Exactly, his improved performance from his early days until 1991 was purely due to getting stronger over time, which was in large part medical (legal/illegal – you choose).

          • Larry T Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 10:42 pm

            Morton- The doping thing has already been used to explain BigMig’s transformation, but I find it hard to believe that happened to coincide so perfectly with the arrival of aero bars. LeMond pioneered them (though 7/Eleven used them earlier) in 1989 and they were (at least in my memory) pretty well standard equipment soon after while LeMond notes the oxygen-vector doping didn’t seem so obvious to him until a few years later. Without any objective aero drag numbers from a variety of riders with/without aero bars, we’re left with cause/effect and anecdotal “evidence”. Further, it’s counter-intuitive for me to believe smaller guys somehow gained MORE advantage from aero bars than larger ones instead of vice/versa – if that was true it would seem tiny Charly Mottet would have won more chrono tests after aero-bars came round instead of less, but I’ll wait for Francisco to present data/evidence to back up his claim.
            J. Evans – thanks for the defense but I pay zero attention to posts by Anonymous and his family for reasons I’ve posted way-too-many times here.

          • CA Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 10:44 pm

            Larry – we responded at the same time – Big Mig’s introduction to EPO/doctor’s help was specifically in the years prior to 1991, which might coincide with tri-bars, but these advanced training methods were far more responsible than equipment choices on his bike.

          • CA Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 10:47 pm

            Larry – Remember Charly Mottet was well known as a CLEAN rider. So his relative decline in performance during the years that EPO was taking hold of the peloton has to be because of EPO, not tri-bars.

          • Nick Thursday, 6 October 2016, 12:27 pm

            1989 was also the year that Epogen was first approved for medical use, and it’s fair to assume that it spread through the peloton fairly quickly afterwards. It coincided with aerobars and non-traditional frame shapes (Boardman’s Lotus, Indurain’s Espada) very well.

            Funnily enough, the UCI started introducing rules against aero frames at the end of 1996, and tests for EPO (the 50% hct rule) at the start of 1997, so there’s a close coincidence there too.

        • Francisco Thursday, 6 October 2016, 12:52 am

          Larry, I suggest you read my third comment in http://inrng.com/2016/09/the-moment-2016-vuelta-was-won/ (where I used Froome and Quintana as examples) and then go yourself to Cycling Power Lab and run the numbers for other riders too, using the rather large database that exists there. The accuracy of that database may be questioned, but physics and dimensional analysis also lead to the same conclusion, thus my confidence in stating it.
          Anecdotal evidence is likely to muddy the picture. Contradictory examples can and will exist. I can think of several good reasons for this. Here are a couple:
          – people in this business say that fitting a rider to a time trial bike is a highly individual process. One rider is happy with a very low position and can keep it for twenty minutes; a second rider has the least drag in a tall position with elbows tucked together; a third one cannot breath in his ideal aero position so a compromise has to be found; a fourth cannot hold his position when fatigued, etc; in summary, there will be a large amount of dispersion in the data and trends predicated on dimensional analysis will only become clear with large groups;
          – the specialised nature of modern time trialling together with the few opportunities available to the discipline means that only a handful of riders have the psychological and economic incentive to become truly proficient in it. If your natural talents suggest you have a chance of winning time trials, the effort, time and expense involved in mastering the discipline seems justified. For most riders, shaving a few seconds off their ITT is unlikely to further their careers and they will find it more profitable to concentrate their training elsewhere. Thus, time trial equipment has introduced a self-reinforcing specialisation that also muddies the picture predicted by dimensional analysis.
          The complexity of the subject certainly allows contradictory opinions to arise.

          • Larry T Thursday, 6 October 2016, 2:00 am

            Here’s a thought – at the “flyaway” multi-day races in the desert where chrono bikes are banned due to shipping cost constraints, do they let the riders use aero-bars on their standard bike in an ITT – if they have such a stage? If aero-bars/bikes are banned and the same guys win the chrono stages anyway by similar margins – a huge hole is blown in my theory and I’ll (grudgingly) concede to your viewpoint.

          • J Evans Thursday, 6 October 2016, 9:43 am

            Interesting stuff, thanks. So, normal bikes could have made the Vuelta even closer. Having said that, Froome lost that race because of his own lack of tactical acumen: all he had to do was sit next to Quintana at all times – not dawdle along in the middle of the pack in what was likely to be a dangerous stage (no matter how weak his team was that day). Having seen Contador do something fairly similar to Rodriguez in 2012, this move shouldn’t have been that big a surprise.

          • Richard S Thursday, 6 October 2016, 10:43 am

            Here is the teal reason to get rid of the TT bikes and equipment, they are an unnecessary expense. It shouldn’t be only a select few who have the resources to become genuinely proficient at it, it should just be a test of who is strongest on the day. You’ll always have specialists and they’ll always train more on it than a climber or clsssics man, but you shouldn’t have to spend all year trying on various bits of equipment in a wind tunnel that costs thousands to borrow for a couple of hours. I’d allow clip on bars, deep section wheels and even discs, but just normal road frames. At the start of a stage race you’d have to choose a frame, aero or light, and stick with it.

          • J Evans Thursday, 6 October 2016, 10:55 am

            Agreed Richard S. Shouldn’t be about the equipment. And one way to level the playing field in terms of how much money teams have.

          • Larry T Thursday, 6 October 2016, 7:10 pm

            I still want aero bars banned – and while they’re at it they could start enforcing the rules against forearms on the top of the bars and sitting on the top tube in road races! And just to prove that I’m not totally anti-technology I’d let ’em continue to use disc wheels if they like.

          • J Evans Thursday, 6 October 2016, 7:37 pm

            Hard to stop people riding the bike how they wish – difficult rule to come up with.
            I don’t mind the top-tube sitting – it’s a skill.

  • ebbe Tuesday, 4 October 2016, 6:42 pm

    What I’ve always found quite interesting: Road ITTs and TTTs get a lot of flack for being “boring”, but the MTB equivalent (Downhill – because let’s face it, that’s basically just a time trial on an awkward surface) gets all the praise for being the most exciting discipline. Of course one can’t just compare the two on the fact that they’re both time trials, but does this mean Road ITT and TTT can be made more exciting if certain aspects of MTB Downhill are incorporated? And if so, which? Of course, the biggest differentiator, the challenges in the course itself, is mostly off limits for Road. Unless…

    Disclaimer: I quite like watching ITTs, and TTTs even more. Not for the excitement, but for the suspense. I will admit I do other things while watching, but honestly that’s the same for the first 90% of any Road race basically. Only the various MTB disciplines and of course Cyclocross are exciting enough to watch without distractions

    • Vedrafjord Tuesday, 4 October 2016, 8:13 pm

      Because of the short length, high speed, and huge skill requirements of downhill MTB, and downhill skiing for that matter. In contrast a TT is mostly a guy going in a straight line in an aero tuck motionless apart from his legs, trying to keep his watts constant. Way back in 1987 the Giro did experiment with a downhill time trial on the Poggio. You need something highly technical so it’s not too dangerous.

      • J Evans Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 11:49 am

        Making TT’s more technical – with downhill bits – would make them much more interesting (plus many of the other suggestions here), but the Helen Lovejoy crowd would quickly be up in arms.

        • Morten Reippuert Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 10:28 pm

          Downhill ITT or TTT from Passo Gavia to Ponte Legno – arobars and disc wheels mandentory.

          That would be show for the TV audience…. (and undertakers)

    • patrick Tuesday, 4 October 2016, 8:35 pm

      yes, tt courses don’t need to be as boring as they mostly are. we don’t want dangerous as such, especially not in a GT where we might lose riders from the race, but there’s nothing wrong with making them technical which rewards handling skills and accelerating out of corners rather than just pure horsepower. technical courses also make riders think about what equipment to use, much like mountain TTs. that provides interest for the tech geeks amongst us and might even make Larry happy by reducing the use of aero bars!

      i was even thinking you could introduce elements of track racing with a circuit to pack in the fans and have those fixed /wire cameras all over, get graphics of the lap split comparisons for riders – see that Martin did his first laps fast but is slowing down whereas Froome started slow but is holding his splits.

      its a format that requires work but i do think there is potential and it certainly has an important place in GTs.

      on the WT points, part of the issue for TT riders is the same as sprinters – the relatively low points for GT stage wins relative to the prestige. hence why Dimension Data are in trouble despite what is seen as a great season based on 5 Tour wins

      • Max Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 12:46 am

        MTB DH has the advantage of 3 or 4 intermediate time checks within a four minute course. This gives the commentators and spectators a chance to compare and generates excitement.

        I still struggle to understand why the TT at the tour has so few time intermediate time checks. A one hour test that has only two splits? How can anyone expect that to be exciting?

      • ebbe Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 6:26 pm

        Or maybe pursuit style, as on the track? The TT course would be a full lap (or several laps) of let’s say 10k. One rider starts and finishes at 0k, and one starts and finishes at 5k. They’re both shown simultaneously on split screen

    • Splat Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 10:29 am

      downhill TT!!! that’s a super fun idea. Wonder why it hasnt been done more often.

      • ebbe Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 6:33 pm

        I’d watch the hell out of that! But also, a lot of safety measures would be needed. Think big inflatable barriers on corners, possibly mandate full face helmets and maybe even some light protective gear, etc. All in all quite expensive… but it would make my day for sure to see guys like Nibali, Izzagire, Pantano, Valverde, Sagan, Bardet, etc show their skills, without the possibility of other less skilled riders taking them out!

      • Ronin Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 8:13 pm

        Downhill time trials would be fantastic. But, the way people are these days . . . forget about it. People are crying right now about how dangerous it is to race in 35 degree temps.

  • Nicolay Tuesday, 4 October 2016, 6:47 pm

    On the other side TT riders often has a good chance to win races like Eneco Tour

    • Ecky Thump Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 12:20 am

      I’d agree with this train of thought.
      Although I can see Inrng’s point, a rider having good core TT strength is not lost in the cycling world by any measure.
      Rather, he has perhaps the most flexible skill set for excelling at different events.
      From the breakaway like Martin, classics such as Cancellara, stage winners like Dumoulin / Pinot, shorter stage races like Dennis, to full blown GC success with the super-slimmed down TT’ers like Wiggins and Froome.

      To that end, I can’t agree with Inrng’s concluding sentence.

  • KGB Tuesday, 4 October 2016, 10:46 pm

    I wonder whether a stand alone time trail would attract more top riders if it was in the lead up to the Giro or Tour instead of at the end of the season? I don’t know if there are any days this could fit into the race calendar.

  • Evan Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 3:42 am

    Maybe the TT specialists should focus their efforts on being good in the flatter wt races, like Roubaix or other classics (especially the ones with strong crosswinds). There’s no reason Tony Martin couldn’t win those. Cancellera was good at both TT and classics, seemingly for the same basic reasons (i.e. high power output). I don’t have much sympathy for any rider who thinks they should be rewarded for just being able to mindlessly pedal harder than anyone else. Even climbers have to put some thought and skill into their wins — you have to descend well, ride efficiently, judge which moves have potential…

    • Richard S Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 8:06 am

      Riding at 95-98% of FTP for 45 minutes to an hour is not the same as having to ride at 150% or more for a few minutes at a time at intervals for over 6 hours, and then maybe have to outsprint someone at the end. That’s not to mention positioning in the bunch and bike handling in tight corners and on cobbles etc, and tactical nous.

  • Ecky Thump Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 6:29 am

    Talking of TT bikes and their design . I was having a look at one of these yesterday; an aero / TT – inspired fixedy. Carbon frame made in Italy, I was told, and uses the rubberised belt system rather than traditional chain mechanism –

    http://www.velorution.com/bikes/all-brands/rizoma/rizoma-metropolitan-carbon-bike-2017-carbon.html

    Style over substance or how the importance of the influence of TT bikes has dripped down into general modern bike design?
    You decide, I guess.

    One could say, however, that whilst the specialist TT race may be a fading fixture on the pro circuit, the lessons learned through the modern evolution of the TT bike are much more widely pronounced and relevant. Although that is not to say that there is a counterfoil to this modernisation, as the same shop was selling ‘eroica’ style bikes also.

  • Punter Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 6:38 am

    ITTs with some technical elements (radius curves, sprint points) or like prologues might liven up the spectating. Perhaps dual ITTs, ala MTB dual slalom. Could you perform a sprinters head butt in a TT helmet?

  • Augie March Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 7:53 am

    Perhaps it was a unique situation as the TT decided the race, but the last stage of the 2011 Tour de France did feature some great split screen work and real time display of gaps, showing how Cadel Evans overtook Andy Schleck to ultimately win the race (and almost the stage as well). If more TTs used this for the big GC battles there would be more viewer interest as opposed to long static shots of riders turning a big gear and time checks every 10km or so:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=56QQWWDfuG4

  • Ben Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 9:37 am

    Thanks for writing what I’d been thinking. It wouldn’t take much; wt points for the ttt worlds, wt points for an event like the go des nations, and maybe also a 2 up in the old vc barrachi style. As you say, long events >50k with mixed terrain will find a worthy winner, and (for me) give room for a dramatic surge or implosion late on.

    For me the modern ‘gc’ specialist is a product of the 3gts becoming more formulaic. I applaud the differences between the 3 gts and year to year and how this changes the riders suited, or how the true specialist approaches (emphasis more on watts per kilo, or more on watts per frontal area) the same race each season.

  • Joe K. Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 10:03 am

    This year’s Vuelta had a truly exciting TT at the end of it with Froome trying to claw back a couple of minutes from Nairo. But I suppose it was so because of the context of the Vuelta. To be a successful stand-alone viewing race, the TT had better have several top of the line TT specialists to make it a challenging, open race, otherwise, the modern TT is too much of a specialty for any ordinary road racer to win. Unless you are a hardcore cycling fan, it would be hard to sit through a stand-alone TT race on TV.

  • Splat Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 10:26 am

    stage race with 65km pan flat ITT and mountain stages with short, steep climbs. Boom. win to a TT’r

  • J Evans Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 11:24 am

    The Chrono des Nations would be a better inclusion into the WT than most of the new races for next season. They’d have to move the date, though.
    Still never going to be thrilling to watch: no matter what technology you add to the experience, it’s still just a race against a clock. I doubt I’ll even watch the WC TT.
    They might not have individual races, but TT’ers do stand a better chance of winning a GT stage than the average rider – and a much better chance of going into yellow at some point in their career.

  • Anonymous Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 1:35 pm

    Aside from the World’s, Olympics and the 3 main Tour’s I think there should be high profile TT events. Whether the old events are relinquished and “glammed” up a bit I don’t know, but if there are no sizeable and prestigious events happening then the worlds best TT’ers cannot demonstrate their efforts. I would like to see some BIG MONEY time trials throughout the season.

  • UHJ Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 2:17 pm

    TTs can be rather boring but as many of you have already pointed out; the course, and the length could be made to make a more interesting view.
    Speaking of WT and TTs and Trofeo Barrachi in particular; why not a mixed team? Let 1 femme elite + 1 man elite (or another combination; 2/1) and let them ride a 60-80-100 km TT with a full set of WT and WWT points for each rider?
    Of course, they are not allowed to drop each other and must complete the full course and cross the finish line together.
    I think I would watch that, if not for anything then for the novelty. As with any event it will probably down the line turn boring over the years when “the code is cracked” but for starters, why not?

    • ebbe Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 6:54 pm

      MTB actually has a XC “team relay” World Championship (which France usually wins): Each team has to have an elite man (Absalom), an elite woman (Ferrand-Prevot) and a U23 rider, I believe. And then they just ride an actual relay race (all the starting riders do a mass start together, so it’s not a TT). Something like that might work in a road TT setting as well? I don’t see why not. And it would also raise awareness for women’s and U23 categories, “by association” with men’s elite.

      I’d very much like to see that, and not only because NL has a very good chance of grabbing that title with Dumoulin + van Dijk/van der Breggen + van der Poel 😉

      You could also do something similar for trade teams, but the “diversity” stipulation goes out the door there

      • ebbe Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 6:57 pm

        ps, you could even add in a “master” category rider as well

        • ebbe Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 7:20 pm

          Or to make it even more challenging, add in a sprinter who kicks things off with a 1km “sprint TT”. Possibly add in a cobble section that one specialist can tackle, etc.

  • davidt Thursday, 6 October 2016, 10:17 am

    I would like to see stage race time trials over much more demanding and varied courses with at least 2 during a 3 week tour.

  • Cillian Kelly Thursday, 6 October 2016, 11:21 am

    There was another end-of-season time trial held in 1990 and 1991 which had the honour of being labelled the World Cup Final as it was the final round of the old World Cup series of major classics.

    The UCI wanted it to excite fans by providing a final shake up to the pecking order of the World Cup standings. Having recently witnessed the LeMond vs Fignon 1989 final time trial in the Tour, they thought they could contrive a similarly dramatic scenario for their season long competition.

    But in reality, the competition was a disaster. The first edition was rendered irrelevant because the way the World Cup standings were after the Tour of Lombardy meant that Gianni Bugno was guaranteed the overall series victory anyway regardless of what happened in this final time trial.

    They did it again in 1991 anyway but it was still a damp squib. Sean Kelly, renowned for racing competitively the whole way through the season, said “Morale is the big problem. It’s very hard to have it so late in the season. After the Tour of Lombardy I had no morale to train during the week for a final time trial”.

    https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Prix_de_Lunel

  • ocaz Thursday, 6 October 2016, 12:17 pm

    The problem with TTs is the presentation of it for television viewers and it is rather dull.

    The lack of time splits or virtual leaders etc given the technology we have today this could be improved massively as others have pointed out above.

    I love time trials as I can appreciate the effort and mental strength they take. I started time trialling this year for first albeit in a league that only allowed standard road bikes without deep rims or other aero stuff like TT helmets and TT bars. It would be great if they could make them all line up on the same bike but that is nigh on impossible with the influence of sponsors and bike manufacturers.