Friday, September 19, 2014

The worlds team trial explained

Orica-GreenEdge, which finished third in the Vuelta a Espana TTT, is a favorite to win gold at the worlds. Photo: Tim De Waele |

MILAN (VN) — The team time trial that returns to the UCI Road World Championships for the third consecutive year Sunday promises to be a tight battle between a handful of superpowers and a sponsorship showcase in Ponferrada, Spain.
“We have made good progression over the last three years,” Orica-GreenEdge sport director Matt White said in a press release. “We finished third, a little off the pace, in our first attempt two years ago. Last year, we were agonizingly close, which was incredible when you think the race was over one hour and four minutes and we lost by 0.8 of a second.”
Omega Pharma-Quick Step won the title last year for a second time in a row. Over 57.2 kilometers around Florence, Italy, it pushed Orica to a close second place and Sky to third by 23 seconds. The teams have already named their six-man rosters and already have arrived in northwest Spain to prepare.
The team time trial stands out in the week-long worlds program when riders are normally racing in their national colors for rainbow jerseys. Instead, the men’s and women’s events Sunday kick off the week with teams fighting in their trade colors for gold medals, sponsors’ pride, and year-long bragging rights.
White told VeloNews last year that the event is a great marketing tool for his team’s sponsors, one that becomes even stronger if his riders win the title.
“For Scott and Shimano, our clothing sponsors, and everyone,” he said. “We won the [2013] Tour team time trial, but this is different. The champs are all about the medals.”
Orica clocked in at 57.841 seconds over 25km to win the 2013 Tour de France team time trial in Nice — at the fastest average speed in Tour history. The Aussie squad won the Giro d’Italia’s team time trial in May to give Svein Tuft the pink leader’s jersey and set up Michael Matthews for another six days at the top.
The event — with teams racing in five-, six- to nine-man teams at the grand tours — regularly appears on the calendar during the year, but rarely at the championship level. The UCI only just brought it back for the 2012 Valkenburg worlds. Prior to that, it was featured in the worlds from 1962-1994 as a four-man amateur event over 100km. Italy and the Soviet Union dominated, with Cristian Salvato, Gianfranco Contri, Luca Colombo and Dario Andriotto helping their nation win the last title on home soil in Sicily.
The UCI, however, opened up a sort of arms race in 2012 that allowed trade teams to spend the money that many nations do not have to use on bikes, skin suits, and training. The same sort of modernization viewpoint revived the hour record and saw Jens Voigt (Trek Factory Racing) retire on a high, with a new 51.115km mark on Thursday.
The teams have named specific six-man rosters for the event, which measures 57.1km for the men and 36.15km for the women, around Ponferrada’s west. Afterwards, some will unzip and put on national colous to race in the worlds time trial and road race, but some will simply return home.
Since the teams start with mixed nationalities — Orica is racing with four Australians, a Dutchman and a Canadian — the UCI adjusted the rules. It will play the national anthem of the team’s country on the podium and will award each rider with a medal, but not a rainbow jersey as in the other events. The entire trade team, even for the riders who did not attend, earns the right to wear a worlds winner logo on their time trial jerseys for the following year.
Based on past title fights and 2014′s team time trials, Omega Pharma and Orica could come out on top with Sky, Trek Factory Racing, and Movistar fighting for the remaining podium spots. In terms of marketing, though, all the teams will win.

A 2014 TTT results

Tirreno-Adriatico: Omega Pharma-Quick Step, Orica-GreenEdge, Movistar
Coppi e Bartali: Sky, RusVelo, Cannondale
Giro del Trentino: BMC Racing, NetApp-Endura, Sky
Giro d’Italia: Orica-GrenEdge, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, BMC Racing
Sibiu Cycling Tour: CCC Polsat, Adria Mobil, LKT
Vuelta a España: Movistar, Cannondale, Orica-GreenEdge

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Voigt to attempt hour record

Jens Voigt (Trek) during his final time trial
Retired German to take on record in Switzerland this month
Jens Voigt has announced that he will attempt to break the world hour record on September 18 in Grenchen, Switzerland. The German rider retiredfrom road racing at the USA Pro Challenge
bringing down the curtain on a career that has spanned three decades.
“Jensie here. I have big news, and I want Trek Factory Racing fans to be the first to hear it from me,” he said in press release issued by Trek.
Voigt had made hints of a possible attempt on Ondrej Sosenka’s record of 49,7 kilometres earlier in the day but his attempt will come as a surprise to many after months of speculation surrounding possible bids from Tony Martin and Voigt’s former teammate Fabian Cancellara.
“On September 18 in Grenchen, Switzerland, I am going to attempt to break the hour record mark of 49,7 km, previously set by Ondrej Sosenka. It’s a huge challenge for me, both physical and mental. This is a huge project and probably it’s going to come as a surprise for many people. We have been doing some discrete tests in the velodrome in Roubaix prior to the Dauphiné and we believe that I have a fair chance,” said Voigt.
“It’s a fascinating event: it’s super hard, but it’s a great discipline. Man and machine against the clock. A lot of logistics comes in play: when, where, how, etc. But I didn’t have to convince anybody: both Trek and our GM Luca Guercilena were all excited when I told them about my idea. They gave me a lot of support. Luckily we could use some of the blueprints that were being drawn for Fabian, so we kind of hit the ground running.”
Voigt turned professional in 1998 with the French team, GAN. He wore the yellow jersey and enjoyed stage wins in the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia. He also formed part of Carlos Sastre's team when the Spaniard won the Tour in 2008.
The German is a fan-favourite but brought down the curtain on his long road career last month. According to Voigt he sees the hour record attempt as one last farewell to his supports.
"I look at this as one last present for my fans. I want to give them something to smile about - before the final curtain falls. But also: I want to do a good performance. This is not a circus act. The ‘hour’ has lost some of its magic over the last years. Maybe my attempt could kick off a new round of hour-record attempts. I could establish a mark for everyone to give it a try. Make a bridge, you know. I raced against Boardman, Indurain and Sosenka. And I’m racing with Fabian and his generation. If I make it, it would be sandwiched between those names.”
“I can pave the way for them. I have no illusion to keep the record once Fabian and other specialists start having a go. But I kind of like the idea of telling me grand children about it, when they sit on my lap when I’m 75.”

Monday, September 1, 2014

Time trial critical in setting up second half of Vuelta

Nairo Quintana will start Tuesday's individual time trial wearing the red leader's jersey. Though he's improved his time trialing, it remains to be seen how he'll stand up against riders like Chris Froome and Alberto Contador. Photo: BrakeThrough Media |
In a Vuelta a España packed with climbs, Tuesday’s 36.7km race against the clock could leave a decisive mark on the final GC.
The route offers some interesting terrain for the Spanish mountain goats facing off against favored GC rider Chris Froome (Sky). With a challenging, third-category climb in the opening 11 kilometers, followed by a fast descent, and some technical roads, the time trial could determine the GC fate of more than a few overall contenders.
Time trials at the Vuelta are always a little different than at the Tour de France. The Spanish tour usually lacks longer, flatter courses, where riders like Froome can take big gains against the climbers. On a similar distance of 33km in the 2013 Tour on the windy, power course to Mont-Saint-Michel, Froome took 2:15 out of Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), and a whopping 3:28 out of Nairo Quintana (Movistar).
For Tuesday, Froome is the first to admit he’s not in the same condition he was for the Tour in July, so he’s certainly not banking on hitting it out of the park.
“It’s relatively short compared to time trials elsewhere, but I enjoy time trialing, so I am hoping to make the most of it,” Froome said Sunday. “It’s a huge fight here, and it’s going to be a big race all the way to the end. Every second here or there is going to count.”
Froome lost 23 seconds to Contador, Quintana, and Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) when he couldn’t follow the surges Sunday, and will be desperate for a strong ride to revive his overall chances. At fifth overall, 28 seconds back, he’s still right in the thick of things, but any gains taken against the clock Tuesday would serve as a welcome buffer going into the Vuelta’s brutal second half that’s packed with monster climbs.
Riders such as Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing), who won on a similar course last year, will be the favorites for the stage victory. Others, such as Adriano Malori (Movistar) and Kristof Vandewalle (Trek Factory Racing) could be in with a shot of the win as well.
All eyes will be on the clock, and the GC players. The difference between race leader Quintana and sixth-place Rodríguez is only 30 seconds, and as Quintana said, the race is virtually tied.
That will surely change Tuesday. The major GC candidates took a chance to preview the course during Monday’s rest day, and all agree that the course presents a stiff challenge.
“When you see it in person, you realize it’s harder than it looks on paper,” Contador said Monday. “The first part is a climb, with some sections truly steep, then a very fast descent over an irregular and difficult road. The last part, in contrast, you have to be stuck to your bike. It’s easy enough to describe it, but it will be very difficult.”
After Sunday’s cool, rainy weather at Valdelinares, forecasters are calling for a return of warm, sunny skies, with temperatures in the low 90s, with gusting winds, so conditions should be relatively equal for the main GC contenders starting at the end of the start list.
Contador, who’s made an impressive return to the Vuelta after pulling out of the Tour with a fractured leg, said Tuesday’s time trial will reveal much about the remainder of the Vuelta.
“Tomorrow is a good test to see exactly where I am physically,” he continued. “I don’t want to deceive myself, and draw the wrong conclusions from [Sunday's] stage.”
The more challenging course will be a blessing in disguise for Rodríguez, who lost the 2010 Vuelta to Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) with an abysmal time trial on flat, wind-blasted roads. Rodríguez has worked to improve against the clock, and on a similar course in the 2012 Vuelta, he only lost 59 seconds to Contador and even less to Froome. Rodríguez, who crashed out of the Giro d’Italia in May, is crossing his fingers for a strong ride.
“I have to be [optimistic], because the only chance I have to keep aspiring for victory in this Vuelta is to have a great time trial, and not get too far back in the GC,” Rodríguez said Monday. “This has been a Vuelta with a lot of movement. No one has given up yet, and all the favorites and their teams are engaged in the race. [Tuesday] will be an important test, and we’ll be able to see more things, and to truly test where each and every favorite stands.”
Rigoberto Urán (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), ninth at 1:26 back, will also need a superb performance to revive his GC hopes. Urán won on a similar course at Barolo at the Giro, taking 2:41 out of Quintana, who was ailing from a minor chest cold.
“I have a lot of hope,” Urán said. “I’ve worked hard this year on time trialing, and I’ve done some good ones. There’s still Cancellara, Martin, but considering the GC rivals, I hope to have a good ride.”
All eyes will be on Quintana, who will start last as the race leader, and have time checks to all of his rivals. If the Giro champ can limit his losses to the likes of Froome and Contador, he will only gain confidence going into the second half of the Vuelta.
“I’ve made improvements against the clock, and though there are specialists who will take time on me, I don’t think I will lose that much,” Quintana said Monday. “I have good legs now, and I hope to feel that way [Tuesday], and do my best ride possible.”
Tuesday’s time trial will surely reshuffle the GC deck yet again, but it’s doubtful it will be prove decisive.
Pundits say modern grand tours are won and lost against the clock, and that might well be the case in the Tour, but the Vuelta is a different kind of race, and the final winner will certainly be crowned in a brutal trio of climbing stages across Asturias.