• Boels-Dolmans in action at the Vagarda TTT (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
When asked to name the hardest effort in their careers, riders will often refer to the unique pain of the team time trial. That hurt will again be evident as the 2017 World Championships kick off on Sunday in Bergen, Norway.
By
Jamie Finch-Penninger

16 Sep 2017 - 4:40 PM  UPDATED 16 Sep 2017 - 4:57 PM

Why is the team time trial (TTT) the hardest event? Surely having teammates there makes it easier than a normal TT, you do a sixth of the work surely.

Wrong. The TTT is a perilous mix of speed and brinksmanship, forcing teammates to go to the front, set a pace above what they could normally maintain until spent, drift back, sprint to get on the back of rapidly disappearing train, then try and hold the wheel so you can go through it all again.

It is small wonder that the event has become the domain of only the select number of teams that commit to practising the art and refining the science of the TTT.

When it works well, the coordination of the riders works like a well-oiled chain shifting gears. When it doesn't, it's akin to dropping your chain, complete with the looking around frantically to see if help is at hand.

The event is an anomaly in the World Championships, it is the only one where riders sport the colours of their trade team and is often one of the few chances for riders to tackle a TTT course of its length in the entire season.

The 42.5 kilometre course starting in Ravnanger and finishing in Bergen will be a complete test of the riders and team organisation as the route contains sections of climbing, cobbles, technical turns and the probability of wind.

The climb of Birkelundsbakken, a climb of 1.4 kilometres averaged 7.2 per cent is cited as the major obstacle of the day, midway through the course, but it will be a process constant attrition for all riders attempting.

 

Men's World Championships TTT

Defending champions Quickstep Floors bring four of the six riders that delivered the win for them last year at the World Championships in Doha. Unfortunately one of the men missing is Tony Martin, who was in imposing form last year and pulled some monster turns to put the Belgian squad in the top spot. 

They'll find it a lot tougher this time around without the German powerhouse, but their squad is disciplined, consistent and will deal well with the technical elements of the course. Their climbing pedigree isn't much to write home about and they'll need to maximise time gains on the 1.5 kilometre cobbled section and the technical, windy sections along the iconic Norwegian fjords.

BMC Racing shape as the favourites coming into the race after winning the main challenges against the clock throughout the season. An emphatic victory by a shade under a minute in the Volta Catalunya is the closest direct comparison in length to the Bergen course and will have given the BMC setup a lot of confidence. They backed up the performance with wins in Tirreno and most recently, the Vuelta a Espana opening stage.

It has been a key target for the squad since the start of the season, indeed it was one of the reasons they recruited two-time world team pursuit champion, Australian Miles Scotson into the team. Along with fellow Aussie and ex-track rider Rohan Dennis he will be crucial to the BMC push for gold and is clearly hungry for it.

"Everything I know from the team pursuit I can apply to the team time trial,"said Scotson in a BMC press release, "so it would be an amazing feeling to be world champion in Bergen. It would be a dream come true."

Miles Scotson jumps to World Tour with BMC
The path to the top hasn’t been paved with Olympic gold as Miles Scotson had hoped, but the young time trial specialist and team pursuit rider has secured a World Tour berth for next season with BMC Racing Team.

Team Sky are coming off a superb season that will go down as one of the better performances by a team across the Tour/Vuelta double. The trick for them will be converting that domination they showed in the mountains to the specialised atmosphere of the TTT.

On paper, it is an amazing team.

Chris Froome, two times bronze medallist in the TT at the Olympics is carrying some 'decent' form into Norway. Former TT World Champion Vasil Kiryienka joins him as do the national champions of Italy, Gianni Moscon, and Poland, Michal Kwiatkowski. The winner of the opening time trial at the Tour de France, Geraint Thomas and classics strong man Owain Doull complete the line-up.

There is little reason that they can't win and they'll be well-suited to the hilly parts of the course with some serious climbing talent on their roster.

Third last year, Orica-Scott head into the race with their now familiar line-up. Go ahead, you can probably name it now.

Luke Durbridge, Michael Hepburn, Alex Edmondson, Damien Howson, Daryl Impey and Svein Tuft make up the team, all are very strong against the clock, plenty of track world champions and under 23 world champions against the clock in there and they are a well-drilled outfit. 

They won't be far off and they aren't any weak links in the squad, but will the Aussie battlers be able to beat the big names of their main competitors?

There are dangers outside the top favourites. Team Sunweb created one of the most memorable scenes of the season as they chased down Team Sky during the Hammer Series, only to lose in the sprint to the line. Tom Dumoulin is their big name, but Wilco Kelderman and Lennard Kamna are coming off career-best form at the Vuelta as well.

You can never write off a team with Tony Martin in it, even if he entered by himself, you'd consider him a top-10 chance. He hasn't been in great form this season, but he wasn't dominant last year ahead of his stomping performance in Doha. His Katusha-Alpecin squad is far from a one-man team, but if they are to podium you would think it would take a special effort from the 'Panzerwagen'.

Lotto NL-Jumbo are the really dark horses. They have top time-triallists like Lars Boom, Victor Campanaerts, Jos van Emden and Primoz Roglic. The difference between them and the top teams is that they don't put any specific preparation into the TTT and often find themselves disorganised and dropping riders by mistake or over enthusiam.

Women's World Championships TTT

The nine team field for the women's TTT is a lot smaller than the teams attempting the men's course, but it is packed full of quality. 

The team that deserves outright favouritism for the TTT is Boels-Dolmans. They have again been the dominant team on the Women's World Tour, they are the defending champions, they have the best riders and they are coming off the key form race, the Swedish Vagarda TTT with a victory. 

In the team they have the rider on top of the Women's World Tour rankings Anna van der Breggen, who completed a sweep of the Ardennes classics before going on to win the women's Grand Tour, the Giro Rosa. She has taken a step back in form since her mid-season efforts, but she appears to back near her best with a second in the Boels Rental Ladies Tour and she will spearhead Boels-Dolmans hopes for the win. 

The rest of the squad are also superb, the likes of world champions Lizzie Deignan and Amalie Dideriksen are supported by strong time-triallists like Karol-Ann Canuel, Christine Majerus and climber Megan Guarnier. It will take a special effort to beat the Dutch team of star riders.

Closest to pulling off the upset of Boels-Dolmans at the Vagarda TTT was Cervelo-Bigla, who have been on a consistent upward trend in the TTT in recent years. Finnish star Lotta Lepisto and South African Ashleigh Moolman are the stars of this team, but really it comes down to how this team functions as a unit that is their great strength.

They were a scant 13 seconds behind Boels-Dolmans in the Vargarda TTT, the only reliable formline coming into the race with the dearth of long TTTs on offer in the womens World Tour. They have been progressing steadily in their ability against the clock, and whilst it would be a surprise if they beat the reigning champions, it wouldn't be a big one. 

Going the opposite way to Cervelo-Bigla in the TTTs have been Canyon-SRAM. They used to be unbeatable in the 'race of truth', in their previous incarnation as Specialized-Lululemon they won the first four editions of the World Championships before being displaced at the top. 

They still boast impressive time-trial weapons, they have the German powerhouse, Mieke Kroger, as well as the experience of Trixi Worrack, Alena Amialiusik and Lisa Brennauer who have all won the TTT at the World Championships in the past. 

They were 51 seconds off the pace at the Vagarda TTT and they'll need to regain the confidence that saw them consistently the best in the world in the past.

Continuing the theme of following the form from the Vargarda TTT, Team Sunweb finished 4th there and probably represent the best chance of a boilover in Bergen. Dutch star Ellen van Dijk has been in ominous form as of late and she has made a habit of peaking perfectly for the World Championships in the past. She'll lead the squad in the TTT, with strong support to be expected from Leah Kirchmann, Lucinda Brand and new American sensation Coryn Rivera.

The main worry for Sunweb will be the climbs, their squad doesn't match up to the Boels-Dolmans team on the ascents and they'll have to make up time elsewhere on the course.

If you like seeing riders pulling themselves inside out to find that extra bit of speed, on their limit as they try to maintain the team cohesion and the cutthroat competition to crown the team as the best in the world, then you're going to enjoy the first event of the World Championships. 

The World Championships Team Time-Trial will be streaming LIVE on SBS On Demand live 8:00pm AEST Sunday September 17.