Quick preview here, since there is only so much to discuss, but the team time trial events kick off the Doha Worlds this weekend, and it's always a fun little appetizer for the real races later in the week. It will also give us a look at the temperature and wind issues that may or may not plague this round of championships. Let's jump in.
Men and women run the same course, 40km of flats and turns in the hot, hot Arabian sun.
There's nothing new about a UCI course seeming pretty straightforward. The international team events tend to just favor pure power. Because races should be as interesting as getting on a trainer, or... track.
Ever wonder what trade team contract/roster changes do to a racer who's suiting up in a trade team event in October? Now's a good time to find out. Taylor Phinney is currently on the short list for yet another BMC worlds TTT team, and if he goes, the defending champs will be bringing the same roster as a year ago.
Their chief competition remains Etixx-Quick Step, until someone else says otherwise. The two squads own the four titles given out since the competition was revived in 2012. But BMC had home field advantage and a cohesive unit on their side last time, and won by 11 seconds.
Have Etixx-Quick Step caught back up? Hm... there was a TTT in ENECO just a couple weeks back, and BMC got the best of them by six seconds, but that was in an eight-rider format, where EQS dropped a couple guys. In other words, there wasn't much difference between the two.
The problem in my mind is, what sort of squad have Etixx put together? Their long list excludes Matteo Trentin, Zdenek Stybar and Tom Boonen, former members of the victorious units, for reasons I don't totally get (road race focus?). That said, the core is Bob Jungels, Tony Martin, Yves Lampaert and Niki Terpstra. You could add a couple Icelandic Sheepdogs to that unit and still put in an impressive time. So whomever the last two are, this will be a serious gold medal contender.
The third team on that ENECO podium was LottoNL-Jumbo, powered by Wilco Kelderman and Jos van Emden, plus Roosen, Roglich and Dylan Groenewegen. The latter isn't in the Worlds team, replaced by Tom Leezer, but ENECO was half the distance so perhaps this is a wise substitution and not just protection of Groenewegen's road race hopes.
Sky (Kiryienka, Kwiatkowski, Thomas, Swift, etc) and Astana (Cataldo, Grivko, Zeits etc.) also won events this year, including Burgos (Astana) and the Vuelta (Sky), but again those were very different teams and circumstances, so I don't know if much should be made of them. Movistar (Amador, Castroviejo, Dowsett, etc.) will demand a reckoning, as will maybe AG2R (Gretsch, Houle, Gougeard, etc.). And from the "where were you all year?" category we get two very strong squads from Giant-Alpecin (Degenkolb, Dumoulin, Haga, Sinkeldam) and red-hot Orica-Bike Exchange (Durbo, Howson, Matthews, Tuft), both of whom are very easy to picture on the podium.
Hm... I will go Etixx-Orica-BMC.
This is the fifth running of the Women's trade-team TTT championships, and the first four were won by Specialized-LuluLemon and their successor Velocio-SRAM -- none of which still exist. But! The somewhat related Canyon-SRAM team includes four of the riders from the last Velocio squad plus Elena Cecchini and Hannah Barnes. So maybe there is something of a defending champs still in existence? If so... great, and they might win, but the challenge for them is as high as it's ever been.
Not that we get much in the way of previews, but there were three women's TTTs in Europe this year. Podiums as follows:
- Giro del Trentino: 1. Rabo-Liv; 2. Lotto-Soudal; 3. Top Girls Fassa Bortolo
- Amgen Tour of Cali: 1. Twenty16; 2. Boels-Dolmans; 3. United Healthcare
- Energiewach Tour: 1. Boels-Dolmans; 2. Canyon-SRAM; 3. Orica-AIS
Boels-Dolmans are the favorites in my book. They only lost in Richmond by six seconds and are mostly intact from that year, with the exception of adding Carol-Ann Canuel whom they pilfered from Velocio-SRAM (replacing Pawloska). They were first and second in the two TTTs they attended (they skipped Trentino), and their lineup is a pretty impressive one, built around Lizzie Armitstead, Evie Stevens and Chantal Blaak.
Rabo-Liv have to be taken seriously, led as they are by Kasia Niewiadoma, Anouska Koster and Anna van der Breggen, but they lost time in California, our best data point, and they don't have Marianne Vos on the roster this time. I'm sure they're still quite strong but can't move them past Boels-Dolmans for any reason until it happens on the road.
Twenty16 are Kristin Armstrong & co. Lotto aren't taking the start. My guess is Boels-Rabo-Canyon.