FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — The future of the UCI’s team time trial world championships stands at a critical point. A handful of top teams are preparing for this year’s event, scheduled for Sunday in petroleum-rich Doha. The event, however, is still trying to get off the ground after its debut four years ago, with high expenses posing a challenge to teams hoping to attend.
The UCI re-introduced the team time trial as a trade team event to kick off worlds week in Valkenburg, the Netherlands, in 2012. This year, it risked not having a TTT at all when teams argued with the UCI about their required participation despite their expenses not being covered. They reached an emergency agreement, but only 10 of the top 18 teams will attend.
“The best five are here wether it’s 10 or 18 teams,” sports director Matt White said from Doha. He directs one of the TTT favorite teams, Orica – BikeExchange.
“It all boils down to money, coming to this event costs a lot of money to do it properly. The teams have to be compensated. The discussions went well and I think there’s a big future for this event.”
The event featured in the Olympics from 1912 until 1992 and in the world championships from 1962 to 1994. At worlds, four-man amateur teams raced over 100 kilometers. Italy and the Soviet Union often won.
At world championships since 2012, the event sticks out in the week devoted to national teams. The men’s and women’s trade teams field six cyclists each. Afterwards, they unzip their trade jerseys and put on their national gear if they are racing the time trial or road race, or if not, they go home.
Orica is one of the favorites. The Australian team won the Giro d’Italia’s team time trial in 2015 and in 2013, and recorded the fastest average speed for a Tour de France stage with its win in Nice. However, it has only ever taken home silver medals from worlds.
“This year’s course is very fast, obviously very flat. There will be a lot of cross-wind and tail-wind. There are a lot of corners, but they are fast and flowing,” White said.
“We are looking for a medal. We have two guys coming off the track at the Olympics, which is not the ideal preparation. We’ll have to have the ride of our lives to win here. BMC Racing will be the favourite with the team that they have here. Etixx – Quick-Step, Sky, and Movistar will be fighting for the medals with us.”
Orica will field six of the following seven riders: Luke Durbridge, Alexander Edmondson, Michael Hepburn, Daryl Impey, Christopher Juul Jensen, Michael Matthews, and Svein Tuft.
Movistar today named its six: Alex Dowsett, Andrey Amador, Jonathan Castroviejo, Imanol Erviti, Nelson Oliveira, and Jasha Sütterlin. Giant – Alpecin, too, already confirmed its team: Søren Kragh Andersen, John Degenkolb, Tom Dumoulin, Chad Haga, Georg Preidler, and Ramon Sinkeldam.
Further down the startlist, however, the quality quickly drops off with eight trade teams staying home. Of the other five teams, one is Pro Continental and four are third-division Continental teams.
The UCI will need a magic mix of a tight two- or three-way gold medal fight and a budget agreement to see the team trial continue to run in 2018 in Bergen, Norway.
“It’s a great way to showcase your product, you are going fast as a team and it comes out well on TV,” White added.
“We’ll be happy to continue next year, but teams don’t want to be out of pocket coming to the race. It’s not cheap to send 15 to 16 staff anywhere in Europe, let alone to the U.S. like last year or Qatar this year.”