“After today’s team time trial, tomorrow we have another one,” was Pello Bilbao’s wry comment after he and 12 other echelon breakaway riders had laid down the law in Monday’s opening stage of the UAE Tour.
But if the stage 1 move was a spur-of-the-moment attack, Tuesday’s TTT has been on the cards since the route publication weeks beforehand, giving teams ample time to prepare for it and meditate its consequences.
For Soudal-QuickStep and UAE Team Emirates Tuesday’s 17.2 kilometre TTT at the Al Khalifa Port is a vital part of the battle for overall victory.
However the comparative rarity of team time trials in WorldTour racing and its undoubted potential for both high drama and for a squad to shine as a unit make them a red-letter day in most teams schedules.
Often mentioned as a source of dread by riders, that’s not always the case, with Luke Plapp (Ineos Grenadiers) describing it as “the best event in cycling.”
EF Education-EasyPost directeur sportif Tom Southam told Cyclingnews: “I think some people like them, because the more work you put in, the faster and easier you get results.”
“They used to be seen as low-hanging fruit, because a lot of other people used to have that kind of negative attitude towards them, but these days all the teams are much more professional.”
“You do get the rewards with them, because the guys know that they can do something. It’s a nice thing to do in that respect, they know the work you put in is what you get out. Plus the team’s sports scientists love them: they get a lot out of it, as well.”
Southam is no fan of team time trials in week-long stage races like the UAE Tour.
“In three-week races they are fine, but personally I think TTTs can kill a race if it’s a short one, because you can get too many riders from a single team ahead on GC.”
A definitive verdict on the TTT at this year’s UAE Tour will only emerge on Sunday night after the ascent of Jabal Hafeet.
Southam sees today’s TTT as “the most important part of the race, because the climbs aren’t amazingly hard and Jabal Jais in particular is all about drafting.”
The key to team time trial success, he said, is both simple and tricky.
“Practice: you work out the orders, who sits well behind who, look at the drafting, who takes the longest turns, who takes the shortest turns to survive, where they can survive until on the course. We’ve also looked at doing U-turns because there are two in this course, how you go in and…
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