World Team Time Trial Preview

This Sunday sees the UCI World Championships in Ponferrada, Spain start with the team time trial. If a team time trial isn’t new, the format is still a novelty at the worlds after it was introduced two years ago and more so since it features pro teams when the rest of the week is about national squads.

OPQS have won twice in a row but this year’s edition looks more open with several teams able to challenge. Here’s an explainer of what is involved, why there’s no rainbow jersey for the winners and how it’s very different from the team time trials we might see in a stage race.

Pro Team Time Trial
Unlike the time trial and road races which have national teams, the team time trial is for pro trade teams, for example Omega Pharma-Quickstep, Europcar and Specialized-lululemon. The 18 UCI WorldTour teams are obliged to ride and then the following squads are invited:

  • The top-20 from the UCI Europe Tour
  • The top-5 from the Asia and America Tours
  • The leading team from the Africa and Oceania Tours
  • The top-25 Womens’ teams

Each of the above qualifies based on their position in the various UCI rankings as of 15 August. These are invitations and some have not travelled.

As we often see in a stage race there are big gaps between the top teams and the others but here the differences will be huge. It is nice to see teams coming from all around the world but they have no chance against the established World Tour teams and among the top-18 there are only a few teams capable of winning.

Team Size
There are six riders per team, small compared to the nine riders we see in a typical team time trial during a stage race. With this smaller team size the time will be taken on the fourth rider.

A smaller team means a different kind of race. In a stage race a large squad can carry a few weak riders – for example climbers who will shine elsewhere – in the slipstream but go down to six riders and there’s little room to hide and of course here the aim is to pick the strongest six rather than carry anyone for the sprints or mountains. It remains a technical drill where practice and perfection count for a lot but with six riders it will come down to the individual power of the riders much more than the collective power.

No Rainbow Jersey
There’s no rainbow jersey for the world champions. Instead the six riders get a medal, as does the team manager. Then the team gets “the distinctive logo” on its jersey the following season and this is not for the six riders on the day, it is shared with the whole team. If a rider leaves the team then they don’t get anything for next year, for example Peter Velits and Sylvain Chavanel left OPQS for BMC Racing and IAM Cycling but their new kit was free of rainbow logos. Indeed theoretically it’s possible for the six riders who win the title on Sunday to leave the team over the winter but the squad will wear the logo the following year.

The Course

There’s talk of gender parity in the UCI but the opening event shows a shorter course for women. The women’s race starts at 10.00am Euro time and is held over a 36.15km course from Ponferrada. The men’s race is from 2.00pm with a 57.1km course. The roads are wide and there are few corners for men and women.

Last year’s route had a very long open and straight roads before some tight technical turns as they raced into Firenze, this is a little harder in places and has two climbs. The first is just 750m long at 8% and then the second looks more impressive on the profile above but it’s a gradual drag of 4-5%. Not hard but because strong riders can turn on the power it’ll expose weaker riders and the collective effort. Overall it’s a very fast course that’s exposed to the wind, a route for big powerful teams rather than stage race specialists.

The Contenders: teams have until 4.00pm on Saturday to announce their six riders. Some squads have announced their riders although the roster can change so the following’s provisional. has the startlist and updates it faster than anyone else.

Defending champions Omega Pharma-Quickstep come with Tony Martin, Tom Boonen, Michał Kwiatkowski, Niki Terpstra, Peter Serry and Julian Vermote although the latter could be replaced by Petr Vakoč. Tony Martin is worth two men but the team isn’t as strong as it was last year whether on paper or form, Serry and Vermote are powerful but not the same engines as Sylvain Chavanel and Kristof Vandewalle who rode last year. They’re the prime pick thanks to Tony Martin but it could be close.

Orica-Greenedge are the next pick. Often a close rival the Australian team has been holding a dedicated training camp in Spain to get the riders working together perfectly. What the team lacks in star quality it’s got in homogeneity, this a squad with team pursuit in its DNA and a collection of rouleurs. Svein Tuft will be invaluable on the flat sections while Damian Howson and Michael Hepburn are young but experienced when it comes to team efforts. Can they stay the distance? If OPQS aren’t at full strength, neither are Orica with no Luke Durbridge for example.

Team Sky won’t save their season this Sunday but they’ve got a team to get on the podium. Bradley Wiggins leads with Geraint Thomas, Kanstantsin Sivtsou and Vasil Kiryienka with Dario Cataldo and Salvatore Puccio rounding out the team. To continue a theme this isn’t their A-team if Dave Brailsford had to pick the squad at the start of the year – no Chris Froome, Ian Stannard etc – but it’ll do.

Trek Factory Racing have a strong team with Fabian Cancellara, Jesse Sergent and Kristoff Vandewalle as likely picks. If only they had a proven rouleur who’s handy at hour long efforts?

Movistar are the stealth pick. They’re on home soil and won the opening stage of the Vuelta but the team’s image is more associated with attacking, climbing and stage racing. Now they swap out Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde for the likes of Alex Dowsett while Adriano Malori won the final stage of the Vuelta.

BMC Racing look good. Rohan Dennis finished the Vuelta strong, Manuel Quinziato is time trialling well and Peter Velits won with OPQS a year ago. The rest of the team reeks of power. The only question is over their best rider as Tejay van Garderen’s form isn’t known. Surely he won’t be travelling to Spain just to make up the numbers.

Among the others Astana’s team isn’t known, they’re outsiders for the podium given the names available. Cannondale were the Vuelta surprise and Katusha bring Anton Vorobyev. Garmin-Sharp are currently 150-1 with the bookmakers, I can’t see them winning but they do have a slim outside chance at the podium. Finally Tinkoff-Saxo should be thereabouts, their status as one of the biggest budget teams requires it.

For the women’s race it looks like there are two teams continuing a long rivalry Specialized-lululemon and Rabo-Liv. Given the flat and fast nature of the course the I’ll tip Specialized-lululemon as they have more rouleuses and they won the Swedish World Cup TTT.

Orica-Greenedge, Team Sky
Trek Factory Racing, BMC Racing, Movistar

Weather: sunny and clouds and a mild 21ºC and only a 4km/h breeze.

TV: The women’s races are being filmed and will be broadcast on some channels from 10.00am onwards. The men’s race should be live from 2.20pm Euro time onwards.

The broadcasting rights have been sold to various channels so you need to look up what is local to you on the PDF on the UCI website which has provisional listings.

35 thoughts on “World Team Time Trial Preview”

  1. Doesnt happen often INRNG 🙂 but I have to disagree with you re the Sky team for Sun. I actually think its a stronger team than last year’s bronze medal team. Last year Froome and Porte were of little use for the rest of the season after the Tour – in fact, in last year’s Worlds TTT Froome was actually swinging off the back.

    They may be without Stannard this year, but instead they have Wiggins who is the massive train driver they were missing last year. Froome is no engine driver like Wiggins.

    I’m hoping for a good fight between several teams including Sky.

  2. I agree with your favorites but you made a mistake in the team of Orica. The only diferrence to 2013 team is Impey for Dowson.

    OPQS lose very strong men: Vandewalle (important piece in the trek train), Chavanel e Velits. They should had Uran in replace of when of them but they go to the competition with Boonen, Vermote and Serry instead. They lost a lot of power in the flat.

    • I think Uran’s still recovering from his Vuelta illness and is trying to be fit for the road race. His TT riding has been really strong this year, and given that OGE are mounting almost the same squad that came so close to OPQS last year Tony Martin and Co. may miss Uran’s newfound prowess.

      • That was a non planned situation. i know that the reason for the non presence of Uran is ilness and its because of that that I put Orica and OPQS in the same level. Orica have a very strong team, with a good group of specialist and national champions in TT. Hepburn, DOwson (still the u23 ITT world champion), Durbridge, Tuft are all big engines.

        • Very much agree. In fact I’m slightly tipping OGE for this reason and for the fact that the guys have so much experience riding TTTs. The OPQS team looks good on paper but how cohesive will they be on the road? Orica’s combination of both raw power and experience working together means I’m giving them the tip.

          Can’t pick between BMC, Trek and Sky for the third podium position though.

          • For the 3rd place of the podium I choose Trek. Cancellara want to win the world race so this will be an excellent test to is form, Sergent did great in the last ITT of Vuelta. Add to these 2 Vandewalle that is one of the best in the world and you have half of the team with 3 enormous engines in excelent shape. Stuyven look strong too and Irizar, Popovych should be very well prepared for this competition. If Jungels was there the team was even more strong.

    • You are absolutely right. This question should be asked all the time, until they change to national teams, which is what the public would love to see, and what would be good for cycling (forget sponsors when you can have audiences).

    • So, has anyone got an actual answer?

      (I’m guessing it’s because TTT isn’t as developed on a national level as it is on a pro team level, but I’m also a new fan)

      • There is no reason for it. UCI decided it that way. It wasn’t always this way, for 32 years it was an event for national teams. Btw -the rules for the worlds state that the national flag of the winning teams shall be hoisted and I think they also play the national anthem of the country the team belongs to, which is hilarious!

        • Doesn’t that effectively mean teams can play whatever national anthem they fancy if they do win?

          For example, Katusha’s registered in Swiss and there’s nothing on paper that says they are Russian. They’d play the Russian anthem nonetheless.

          • Would be funny and a whole new niche for marketing (come and buy your very own worldchampionteam!) but it isn’t like that. The teams have to decide which nationality they are when they apply for the licence. There are I think 2 or 3 ways to determine which country a team belongs to (country of the sponsor, country where the payments come from…). Regarding Katusha they are a russian team and stay a russian team till their current licence expires.

        • The UCI decided it… but there is a reason. They used to have national TTTs but 4 riders, the Olympic discipline of old. The new version is to keep pro teams happy, get them some TV exposure and provide a format for all the various calendars/circuits around the world to come to the world championships.

  3. Hmm, so the BBC are only showing the “big” races and ignoring the others. I assume if I try to watch them on the UCI’s YouTube channel it’ll tell me I can’t, because the BBC has the rights and are sitting on them doing nothing other than preventing people from seeing something if they don’t think we’ll find it interesting enough. Thanks guys for making that choice for me; what year is it again?

    • I share you pain. Now, it’s not ideal, but you could try . I got it to work for the Jens Voigt hour record thing. It wasn’t that great as the audio was somewhat adrift from the action, but it was better than nothing. They had a number of feeds and it was a case of picking and choosing util I got one that worked.

    • Some of the races are on the BBC red button. But it is pretty poor to have such dismal coverage given the emergence of the sport in recent years.

  4. I know some people don’t like the TTT, but I really like watching it. I like the powerful look of a whole team in full swing, I like to watch the dynamic inside the team and how it changes and develops through the race. Personally I think it is a good thing that every GT is required to do a TTT-stage. First – it is one chance for all teams to be seen. And second – I like the idea that a GT-winner has to have the team and also the skill to at least do a decent TTT. Of course if the TTT is so supershort that no time can be gained or lost, it becomes meaningless for the GC.

  5. I’m no expert on this, but to me it kind of makes sense to have this event run by trade teams. Given the necessarily collective training required to get a TTT right and how most national teams are not really teams but more a bunch of riders assembled for the occasion, I’m not sure how many countries would be able to assemble a competitive TTT squad, but I would think not many.

  6. When you consider there are at most only 4 important rainbow jerseys to the trade teams, creating this side show makes some sense. Probably gets the team bus out there and lends some excitement to the whole thing and gives the trade teams some exposure they wouldn’t otherwise get with national team kits on their stars. I would certainly rather see national teams race a TTT but I watched both the men’s and women’s events (Rabo women -ouch, that hurts, even just to watch!) today on RAI Sport 2 and found them entertaining enough.

  7. National teams won’t want to pay to send a group of 6 just to be 18th. I like it this way, we can extrapolate the favorites based on a few races early in the season. I’m biased though, I just straight up like TTT.

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