Today sees the Giro d’Italia resume in Italy. The overall classification is already taking shape with Wiggins, Evans and Vinokourov wearing pink so far and today’s stage could change things once more.
It’s a unique event, team time trials are very rare in the calendar. They punish individual talents, a rider can lose valuable time because their team mates are disorganised or simply not good at riding against the clock.
The team time trial raises questions about what the sport is about. Cycling is a individual sport right? But it’s conducted on a team basis? The team time trial amplifies the role of the team.
This is an event where the chequebook can work to great effect, a manager can buy in a couple of strong riders with the aim of helping in such a stage. Clearly you don’t have to recruit a TT specialist, more if you are deciding between two climbers, if one can roll well then he’s hired. It happens like this in the winter for a few teams with GC contenders.
But money aside, it’s also something where planning and teamwork counts a lot. Riders need to stick to formation and pace right. For an example in how not to do this, see last summer’s Tour de France. Silence-Lotto blew apart, sat up, waited for a dropped rider only for him to return cooked to the group and to promptly get dropped again. Sadly the team had actually had spent some time preparing, but on the smooth and wide motor racing circuit in Spa-Francorchamps, yet the Tour stage itself was on very twisty rough roads in the brousse of the south of France.
Note that if this event is rare, it always takes place within a few days of the race start, you won’t find a TTT in the second or final week of a grand tour.
It can be dull to watch but look for the small signs. Who is doing the big turns, which teams are in formation, will some team sacrifice some riders (time is taken on the fifth rider). The course today is quiet straightforward, with no hills although the course is gradually uphill all the way.
Will it decide the race? Of course not, but a few riders will be forced to go on the attack if they lose time.