So how does one handicap a team time trial? Back in my geologist days when my colleagues and I were facing a rock wall we'd do a lot of arm waving and fantasizing. And, come to think of it, I've never stopped doing that although sometimes I gussy up the arm waving with odd facts. Why stop now?
Basically the idea with a TTT is to look at the individuals and what they have done individually in the past, combine the teammates to see how many of the riders are decent and compare them man for man to other teams. That is what I plan to do here for the teams with big-time chronomen and/or major GC riders.
But that's easier said than done. Some riders avoid time trials like the plague. Most riders don't always try hard in every time trial for various reasons and so you need to figure out which of their rides are genuine. Then of course in one race one rider will beat another then that result is reversed in the next TT. So what I set out to do is lump riders together who are roughly comparable in a medium (30-40km) time trial. In other words, wave my arms.
I actually started to do this inadvertently way back in February. We were talking about time trialists in a Tour of Oman thread and I threw out a sort of ranking of some of the major GC and specialist chronomen. Frinking offered up some good corrections. Here it is, modified a bit further with some famous riders slotted in for comparison:
1. Bert, Levi, Wiggins and Cadel
2. Menchov, SamSan, Kloden, Zabriskie, Lulu, Kreuziger,
3. Nibali, Valverde, Vande Velde, Karpets, Armstrong, Gesink
4. Andy Schleck, Basso, Sastre
5. Frank Schleck, Mosquera, Rodriguez
You get the idea? Roughly comparable riders get assigned to one of seven levels: they get a number. The lower the number the better they are on average. Riders at one level can sometimes-not usually though-beat the level above them. Notice that I have seven levels. When Frinking and I were playing with this we were only concerned with the major GC threats plus Cancellara. Naturally these guys should be at the low end of the spectrum so for this post I added two more levels. Level 6 is for really mediocre time trialists. In this TTT tomorrow they might help their team but stand a good chance in getting dropped. Level 7 guys will almost definitely get dropped. They plain suck at the discipline. (Addendum: Now that I've finished this post I think it would have been better if I had added an eighth level as I am assigning too many riders to levels five and six. Oh well. Look at my arms! They're waving!)
So what I do below is rank the teams two ways:
1) I assign the individuals with a number, then add the numbers together with the lowest total being the better team.
2) I do the same thing for just the top five riders.
Now it doesn't take a kindergardener to notice that my assigning of numbers is subjective. Lots of the riders I looked at I feel uncomfortable with where I put them and if I had to change their rankings I would usually move them up a level. (Remember, up a level means that they are worse.) No doubt many of you will pick apart who is where; that's cool and I am open to changing the numbers. Maybe together we can improve this arm-waving system.
So before I get to the teams, let me say something general that I found:
Compared to the teams at last year's TTT in the Tour, these teams are across the board worse. Astana, Garmin, and Saxo Bank from last year's Tour TTT would wipe the floor with all of these teams. Probably the Liquigas and Columbia teams too. Maybe even the Katusha, Caisse d'Epargne, Cervelo, and gasp AG2R teams would podium in this Giro.
Why? Because none of the teams in the Giro have five solid time trialists, and by solid I mean five guys who are at Level four or lower. The bottom three ranked teams here have to rely on level six guys crossing the line before their clock is stopped and that's plain awful. Oh-and I did not even rank all of the teams. I mean, I don't really care what Bbox does, other than stay on the road the whole time. Fortunately the road is straight. I just ranked the teams that have either good time trialists or good GC hopes. Plus Rabobank for Frinking because he helped give birth to this. Thanks Frinking!
And a word on the course: 32.5 km long, very straight and slightly uphill the whole way. We should expect to see 60km/hr speeds here from the best squads. The slightly uphill part intrigues me: subtle. I expect that that feature will cause a world of hurt to the Level 5, 6, and 7 riders and make the top guys on the team pull more than otherwise.
To the rankings!
I think any of the first five teams could win this stage.
1. HTC-Columbia-43 points; top five-19 points
3 Marco Pinotti, Frantisek Rabon
4 Adam Hansen, Craig Lewis
5 Michael Albasini, Matty Goss
6 Andre Greipel, Marcel Sieberg
7 Vicente Reynes
Comments: Two big variables will determine if they actually win this thing. The first is Rabon...Is it me or do chrono specialists put in wildly variable performances in their speciality from ace to race? I am not at all sure what he will do. The second thing is the Greipel Situation could undermine this team-or not. Maybe they'll come together and blast the rest of the field. Interesting team, as much for who isn't here as who is. They could have used Rogers here or Grabsch and his big butt.
2. Sky-44 points; top five: 20 points
1 Bradley Wiggins
4 Chris Sutton
5 Dario Cioni, Stephen Cummings, Chris Froome, Michael Barry
6 Matt Hayman, Greg Henderson,
7 Morris Possoni
Comments: Wow. Strong, veteran group of hardmen who together ain't all that good at the TTT. Seriously, there is an Evans-BMC like gap (see below; way below) between Wiggo and the rest of them. Possoni is having a year to forget. If the course were half as long they'd be placed much higher here but several of these guys really drop off when the course is longer than 25 km. (That's an important thing to be aware of when assessing these riders: this is no prologue they are riding here.) As it is, they probably benefit from the course being so non-technical. Wiggins is gonna have some tired puppies after this.
3. Astana-45 points; top five-19 points
2 Alexandre Vinokourov
3 Andriy Grivko
4 Enrico Gasparotto
5 Paolo Tiralongo, Alexandr Dyachenko
6 Roman Kireyev, Gorzad Stangelj
7 Josep Jufre, Valentin Iglinskiy
Comments: I may be underestimating these guys though I think they will finish with just five. Lots of veteran understanding here that should see them with a good time. The guys on the spot are Dyachenko and Kireyev. One of them needs to stay with the rest. I'm particularly interested in seeing if the kid, Kireyev, 2nd in the Kazakh Nats last year, keeps up.
4. Garmin-46 points; top five-19 points
2 David Millar
3 Cameron Meyer
4 Daniel Martin
5 Jack Bobridge, Svein Tuft
6 Tyler Farrar
7 Julian Dean, Murilo Fischer, missing rider
Comments: CVV breaking his collarbone just kills Garmin in this race; if not for that they would be favorites. As it is, they will finish with five and the fifth guy will be hanging on for dear life, a la Hesjedal at last year's Tour. Tuft does not seem to be carrying in any very good form to this race and Bobridge is looking shaky. How the kids, Meyer and Bobridge, will do will determine how high they fly.
Not\ice that I assign seven points to not having a ninth rider to try to even things up. Don't know if that makes sense or not but I need to count more than just eight of these guys. Suggestions?
5. Liquigas-46 points; top five-21 points
3 Vincenzo Nibali
4 Ivan Basso, Maciej Bodnar
5 Valerio Agnoli, Tiziano Dall'Antonia, Ziggy Szmyd
6 Robert Kiserlovski
7 Fabio Sabatini, Alessandro Vanotti
Comments: Bodnar, the TT champ of Poland, is wildly erratic in the time trial (like Rabon). He could throw in a "3" or even a "2" performance-or a "6". Basso is now a better chronoman than I give him credit for. He may descend like a bag of cement but he's okay against the clock plus he's only going straight uphill here. IMO if they had Quinziato, they would be a very strong TTT group. As it is they are also missing Benna who would have pulled his weight here. This team feels thin and I can imagine them doing a little worse than I think. Now watch them win the stage. Still mid-table though, which is great for Nibali and Basso.
6. Cervelo Test Team-45 points; top 5-22 points
4 Carlos Sastre, Ignatas Konovalovas, Marcel Wyss
5 Volodymir Gustov, Inigo Cuesta, Xavier Tondo
6 I Am Ted King, Dan Lloyd, Gabe Rasch
Comments: Interesting team. I thought Tondo was better. I thought Cuesta was worse. Kono is all over the map with his time trialing and they need his A game. Wyss is also a wild card that might get them high up in the standings.
7. Saxo Bank-46 points; top five-19 points
2 Richie Porte, Gustav Larsson
5 Niki Sorensen, Laurent Didier, Michael Morkov
6 CA Sorensen
7 Anders Lund, Lucas Haedo, Baden Cooke
Comment: Real thin team here. Two of the best and then squat. CA Sorenson is plainly not in top shape. I see that Riis is talking smack about Astana. He should worry about his own team. Porte and Larsson will be going at three-quarters speed.
8. Caisse d'Epargne-46 points;top 5-23 points
4 Marzio Bruseghin, Vasil Kiryienka
5 David Arroyo, Andrey Amador, Pablo Lastras, Alberto Losada, Xabier Zandio
6 Big Rig Uran
7 Arnold Jeannesson
Comments: Both Bruseghin and Kiryienka are capable of being better than a 4, especially Kiryienka. The 5's are solid. Should finish mid-pack. Could well turn in a top five finish with a podium spot not out of the question. So why do I have them so low? With GC hopes already so low, there's the chance that they will mail this stage in and go stage hunting the rest of the way.
9. Androni Giosomething-47 points; top 5-23 points
4 Michele Scarponi, Jose Serpa
5 Alessandro Bertolini, Rubens Bertogliati, Jose Ochoa, Cameron Wurf
6 Leonardo Bertagnolli, Jackson Rodriguez
7 Alberto Loddo
Comments: This team could surprise a bit as several of those 5's do better on longer time trials like that monster one in last year's Giro. I don't mean to suggest that they will contest for the win but they should keep most of them together for most of the race. Plus as most of them are sort of equal in ability they will share the load with more than the minimum finishing five together.
10. Rabobank-46 points; top five-21 points
3 Pieter Weening
4 Steven Kruijswijk, Rick Flens
5 Mauricio Ardila, Dmitriy Kozontchuk, Tom Stamsnijder, Jos Van Emden, Bauke Mollema
7 Graeme Brown
Comment: I feel that this team should be worse but I have little feel for these guys.
11. Milram-47 points; top five-22 points
3 Linus Gerdemann
4 Luke Roberts, Thomas Rohregger
5 Markus Fothen
6 Dominik Roels, Matthias Russ, Paul Voss, Fabian Wegmann
7 Robert Forster
Comments: Maybe the biggest upset of all is the fact that I am only writing about the good teams here and Milram is gasp one of them. And they could well be higher ranked. I just want to see them do it first before proclaiming their greatness. I'd like to nominate Paul Voss at the ITT @ Catalunya prologue for the most out-of-context performance of the year. This kid who normally is doing well if he cracks the top 100 in any ITT, not only won it but beat among others Leipheimer, Kloden, Cavendish (this is a prologue remember) and Lulu. Sign of newly acquired abilities? Well, he placed 140th in the stage 1 TT here and this is no prologue.
12. BMC-51 points; top 5-23 points
1 Cadel Evans
4 Brent Bookwalter
6 John Murphy, Michael Schar, Jeff Louder
7 Mauro Santambrogio, Florian Stalder, Danilo Wyss plus 7 points for injured rider
Comments: This is a more extreme case of what Evans went through last year in the Tour. I think I have Bookwalter too high. Louder might be too low as he placed 3rd at the US Nats TT last September, but he has done nothing this year. And those two are the good guys for Cadel who needs two others to cross the line somehow. The guys who are 6's and 7's finish like 5 minutes back on TT's of this length.
So what can the team do? They should designate two of the 6's and 7's to do a lot of the pulling at the beginning until they are used up. Cadel will do most of the pulling at the end. Finish with 5. Pray.
13. Acqua & Sapone-48 points; top 5-26 points
3 Stefano Garzelli
5 Vlad Miholjevic
6 Dario Andriotto, Francesco Failli, Francesco Masciarelli
7 Massimo Codol, Alessandro Donati, Andrea Masciarelli, Jose Sarmiento
Comments: Oh. My. God. You think Cadel has problems? Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! You would think in the offseason, that Soap and Water would try to help Garzelli podium at the Giro, wouldn't you? And if so, you'd notice how bad the team is at time trialing and, oh I don't know, try to find someone who merely sucks. But nooooooo. This team goes way beyond suckage. I would put the four 7's (and I am being generous by giving them a 7) and use them like a rented mule. Doesn't matter if you never find them again. Couple of them are so old that it makes no difference. Seriously, Garzelli will lose a lot here.