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Time for two tough team time trials

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Women’s and Men’s TTTs on Sunday to start the World Champs

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What’s up?

Cycling’s road world championships, that’s what!

Wow! Where is it?

Austria! It is billed as Tirol, but the base will be in Innsbruck.

Sounds hilly?

Yes, it is.

Also, close to UCI headquarters?

Hush. I’m sure that has nothing to do with it.

Are they starting with the team time trials again?

They sure are!

Are you going to keep up this Q&A style of preview for much longer?

No.

In fact, let’s leave it there. The cut-price Abbott and Costello are right, though… we’re in Austria for the UCI’s annual almost-the-end-of-year jamboree, and before the national teams start rolling out hideous kits in various junior time trials, we have the men and women taking on the team time trial course courses.

The Course(s)

Yes, courses. Both races start in Otzal and finish in Innsbruck. Both ride along the Inn valley towards the finish. However, at this point, the men swing off and take on a climb. It is around 4.5km and pretty steady at just under 6%. Not much for pros on road bikes, but at the end of a tough ride and on a chrono machine, it could be significant. The women, meanwhile, don’t take that climb and continue into Innsbruck. They take on a 55km race while the men will ride 63km. I’ll throw in the profiles to show the difference.

The men ride further purely and simply because of sexism.

There’s a dumb but well meaning form of joke sexism that might apply here (“if silly old men would just ask for directions they could have gone the quick way,” that sort of thing) but we all know that isn’t what we’re dealing with. This is nasty, pernicious, “delicate women can’t be expected to get up that horrible manly climb” sexism and there’s just no place for it in 2018.

I can live with the women having a shorter route – I don’t see why they have to, but it doesn’t hugely upset me. Taking out the only serious hill on the course, though, means they ride a fundamentally different race, and that seems dumb to me. Ah, well, nothing new there.

Anyway, to practicalities. The website for the race seems pretty good, and this interactive map is nifty and well worth a look. They have startlists ready for downloading, too. The women’s race is between 1000 and 1230 local time, and the men’s from 1430 until 1715.

The women’s race

You won’t be surprised to hear that it is packed field for the women’s race. You also won’t be surprised to hear that I have the 2017 winners Sunweb and the 2016 winners Boels-Dolman as the two favourites this year. Sunweb are bringing Ellen van Dijk and Lucinda Brand, which is more than enough firepower for anyone, but have plenty of strength in depth. Boel-Dolman are unsurprisingly solid throughout their lineup, with Anna van der Breggen likely to put particularly devastating pulls in at the front of the line. I think that the range of talent on their squad gives them the narrowest of edges. The two should be well clear.

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Who else is battling for a podium? Well, there’s nothing wrong with Mitchelton-Scott’s unit, but they’d definitely be happier if individual TT champion and all-round badass Ammenik van Vleuten was lining up. Wiggle High5, with a team featuring track stars turned roadies like Lisa Brennauer, will be happy the race dodges the hills and could do well. Last year, it was Canyon SRAM who grabbed bronze, and they can repeat that trick with a deep team led by form rider Kasia Niewiadoma.

Predicted Podium: 1 – Boels, 2 – Sunweb, 3 – Canyon.

The men’s race

There are probably a few more teams who can compete in the men’s race than there are from the women’s side, but let’s start with the group who hit the podium last year. Sunweb took the men’s prize and Tom Dumoulin once again heads a strong unit. He’s well-supported and you’d think this group would enjoy the challenging terrain as much as any. Last year, they beat BMC and Sky, and both are back with chances. BMC’s lineup is perhaps the deepest in the race and in Rohan Dennis they have the season’s best time-triallist. Sky’s lineup lacks the biggest names but in Castroviejo they have a chrono stud, supported by plenty with sold road and track pedigrees.

Previous editions in the short history of the modern TTT feature Mitchelton-Scott and Quickstep fairly regularly. Add Quickstep to the list of teams that won’t relish a late hill, but they’ve been stellar all season and certainly have the firepower to go close. Mitchelton-Scott bring plenty of serious TT engines with track backgrounds and won’t disgrace themselves, but expecting them to win is unrealistic.

Lotto-NL have been the surprise package of 2018 and any team led by Primoz Roglic and Jos van Emden needs to be taken seriously, but depth is a problem. Something similar can be said for Katusha, who trail off after Martin, Dowsett and Pollitt.

This should be a last hurrah for a deep BMC team, who have a list of nine (Bevin, Caruso, de Marchi, Dennis, Kung, Roelandts, Scotson, van Avermaet and van Garderen) from which just about any sextet would be tough to beat.

Predicted Podium: 1 – BMC, 2 – Quickstep, 3 - Sunweb

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