• The power of one (team): Team Sunweb on the podium after winning the men's world championship team time trial. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Drawing parallels with Orica-Scott's winning TTT ride at the 2013 Tour de France, Team Sunweb showed how a group united can go from underdog to top dog, writes Anthony Tan.
Cycling Central
18 Sep 2017 - 5:39 PM  UPDATED 18 Sep 2017 - 5:54 PM

Well here I was, Sunday afternoon in Oz, about to pen a blog on whether the men's world championship team time trial was worth watching when seven WorldTour teams couldn't be bothered showing up for fear of being humiliated and only three had a realistic chance of winning.

I'm so glad I decided to do something else instead.

A few hours later in Bergen, Norway, Team Sunweb did something amazing. They demonstrated how strength lies in unity, and in a team time trial, no one rider is more important than another.

"In a team time trial, you always have to go at the pace of the fourth or fifth guy, or even the sixth guy in the beginning, and I think we didn't pay enough attention to this."

Said the Inner Ring of their chances before the event: "Team Sunweb have an impressive team and are having an impressive year. (Tom) Dumoulin backed up by (Wilco) Kelderman and (Lennard) Kämna as well as (Michael) Matthews, but just how cohesive will they be, and (Sam) Oomen has his work cut out to mix it with the other powerhouses on the team."

"Normally you'd say that I was the best time trialist on paper," this year's Giro d'Italia champion Dumoulin said afterwards, "but with this team it was so smooth and we had a really good pace and kept it all the way to the line.

"We tried to keep it together especially on the long climb with around 10km to go which just worked out. We were all flying - I don't have the words. It's really unexpected but very nice. We knew that we were doing a good time trial but didn't know the time splits until the finish. It was so close and so tense with BMC but we made it at the end. It's the team event of the year and we pulled it off."

Dumoulin led Sunweb men win world TTT
Sunweb pulled off a double when its men's team matched the women with a collective victory against the clock at the UCI Road World Championships in Bergen, Norway.
Sunweb women claim 2017 road worlds TTT opener
The Sunweb women powered to the UCI team time trial world championship title ahead of Boels-Dolmans and Cervelo-Bigla.

From what I saw, the only WorldTour team (perhaps the only team?) to come into the final kilometre still with all six men, both riders and Team Sunweb coach Adriaan Helmantel were on the same page: "Yesterday, we chose to keep the meeting short as everything was clear - the guys just had to do it together," he said.

"From the beginning it was really smooth and the level was really homogenous, and I think we made a difference to the other teams here. We stayed actually until the last kilometre with six (riders), where most others were riding with four. That was a part of our strategy as we knew that we could win a lot of time after the climb and that was also the main reason for the selection of the team. We knew that we needed strong TT riders but also strong climbers as there you could make a difference.

Contrast this with Stefan Küng of BMC Racing, who, together with Team Sky, boasted the two strongest line-ups on paper: "In a team time trial, you always have to go at the pace of the fourth or fifth guy, or even the sixth guy in the beginning, and I think we didn't pay enough attention to this," he said, "so we had to ease off a little bit several times to stay together. If you have to do that you lose too much time which is why we finished second in the end."

Yet, strangely, BMC Racing sport director Jackson Stewart's sentiments were at complete odds with the current Swiss time trial champion. "We had a conservative pacing strategy, and everything was going according to plan. We had everyone together, and no one was really on the limit, and then we had a few hiccups over the final section," said Stewart.

"It was a technical course and it was hard to stay together on it. I think in the closing kilometres we maybe overcooked the second-to-last turn and we weren't too smooth over the cobbled section. We knew coming into today that the race would be won by the team who made the fewest mistakes. We did the best we could, and it was really just the final four kilometres that didn't go our way."

One may say the talking is done on the road and BMC Racing came second by just eight seconds, though it's generally not a good sign when rider/s and coach are not speaking the same language. It means what was discussed the day before was not correctly executed. Their performance coach Marco Pinotti also failed to acknowledge their early pacing strategy was amiss, saying, "it was only after the last intermediate checkpoint that we lost time. We couldn't have gone one second faster."

Team Sunweb's rabbit-out-of-the-hat ride bore parallels with Orica-Scott's (then known as Orica-GreenEDGE) winning TTT ride at the 2013 Tour de France, where they, like Sunweb, made the seemingly impossible, possible. On a day the team recorded the fastest team time trial in Tour history, head sports director Matthew White said: "We really didn't do much specific preparation for this stage. We did one day on the TTT bikes in Corsica, but that was it. We had moved away from having a team just for the team time trial because we didn't think our best team could beat Sky or Garmin on this particular course. We brought a more diverse Tour team instead. They were very relaxed today, and they nailed it from the start."

"We certainly weren't the favourites, but we had a very strong team," Simon Gerrans, who moved into yellow after he won the previous stage in Corisca, becoming the sixth Australian to don the maillot jaune, said. "There were no weak links today. Everyone was given a specific role to play within the TTT. The stronger riders pulled harder and longer. The less strong guys kept the speed up on their turns. Everyone committed 100 per cent and it paid off with the win."

If you recently saw All For One, the documentary on the first five years of the team, you would have seen how close the riders of Orica-Scott are, how united they can be, and how they bleed for each other. It's a near-perfect harmony that exists on few other teams, but after Sunday in Bergen, I believe it's also on Team Sunweb.