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TTT squads prep for Doha showdown

15 teams are gearing up for Sunday's team time trial at worlds in Doha, with BMC and Etixx looking like the pre-race favorites

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FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Workers have mounted the stands and raised the finish gantry, and the teams have selected their six-man rosters. The team time trial kicks off the world championships Sunday in Doha, Qatar, with an expected duel between Etixx – Quick-Step and BMC Racing.

Between them, the teams have won every time trial at worlds since the event recommenced in 2012, the first two going to Etixx and the latter two going to BMC. Last year in Richmond, Virginia, BMC won by a small margin of 12 seconds.

Matt White, who directs Orica – BikeExchange — another team with a shot in the race — told VeloNews early this week after previewing the route that “BMC Racing will be the favorite with the team that they have.”

BMC Racing announced its line up yesterday with two Americans in Taylor Phinney and Joey Rosskopf, along with Rohan Dennis, Stefan Küng, Manuel Quinziato, and Daniel Oss.

“As defending champions, there is a lot of expectation on our team to win for the third consecutive year but I think we’re lining up with a very good chance of defending our title,” sports director Jackson Stewart said.

“We have a great team of pure individual time trialists, who together have really perfected the art of the team time trial, so much so that it was difficult to make the final selection of six riders.”

They won the last possible tune up event, the TTT at the Eneco Tour, by six seconds over Etixx – Quick-Step over 20.9 kilometers.

“We know our form is good,” Stewart added. “At this point we have done everything possible in terms of training and perfecting our equipment.”

Such is the importance of the event for Etixx that it went to Doha with seven men in case one fell ill. Orica did the same. Saturday, Etixx named its final six-man team with three-time world champion Tony Martin, Bob Jungels, Marcel Kittel, Yves Lampaert, Niki Terpstra, and Julien Vermote.

The battle will be fought among 10 WorldTour, one Pro Continental, and four Continental teams. The course starts in the Lusail Sports Complex where the Tour of Qatar held a time trial this February that Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) won. In its run south to Qatar’s capital city, it will be exposed to Persian Gulf winds. It finishes on the Pearl’s maze-like streets with many curves and roundabouts.

“Besides the heat, which will play a major role, we must pay special attention to the wind, which is really strange here: you are expecting it to come from one direction, but it surprises you by coming from a different one, so it’s very important to guide the riders in these situations,” Etixx sports director Tom Steels said.

“The corners are another tricky part of the race, but we worked on it and we are confident. The final part will be all about strength and power.

“There’s no secret that we are setting off with the goal of taking the victory, but I can easily think of several other teams who have the same thought in mind, so it ain’t going to be a walk in the park.”

“It’s obviously very fast,” Matt White added. “There will be a lot of cross-wind and tail-wind. There are many corners, but they are fast and flowing. A big chuck of the course will be in prevailing winds. The heat’s not an issue over 45 minutes, but in the road race, it’s another story.”

White made his decision overnight, cutting Christopher Juul Jensen and deciding to race with Luke Durbridge, Alexander Edmondson, Michael Hepburn, Daryl Impey, Michael Matthews, and Svein Tuft tomorrow.

This year, the event is at a crossroads, with the WorldTour teams and the UCI in disagreement over expense money for the race. The teams boycotted the event only to agree at the last minute for 10 of the 18 teams to attend. However, the top-end will still be a close fight because the best teams for the event will make the start, including Sky and Movistar.