Can Team Sky finally punch through to the top step of the podium in the prestigious team time trial in Bergen on Sunday?
With the help of four-time Tour de France winner and recent Vuelta a España champ Chris Froome, the UK outfit is confident it can.
“It would be easy to say ‘that’s enough’ after the Vuelta and to go home, but I’m a bike rider,” Froome said. “I’m committed to it and [I’m] here to help the team win. It’s a big goal for the team and it’s something we’ve never done before.”
Team Sky, despite its dominance in stage racing, has never won the TTT. Its only podium appearance came in 2013, when it finished third.
Since its reintroduction in 2012, only two teams — Quick-Step and BMC Racing — have won the TTT title.
Others have tried to end their duopoly, including Orica-Scott and Movistar, but those two teams have owned the trade team time trial ever since it was introduced as a prelude event ahead of the world championships.
The TTT course will present a technical challenge and weather could turn bad. The 42.5km course features a mix of rolling roads, some cobbled sectors, and two challenging climbs. The Loddefjord is 600m at 10 percent, and the Birkelundsbakken, 3km at 6 percent. It will be even more challenging if it rains.
“There’s no meter of flat,” said Quick-Step Floors sport director Tom Steels. “It’s totally different than what we had last year in Qatar, and the weather could play a crucial role in the outcome, as the rain can turn the fast descents into a skating rink. This being said, it’s a race where the strength and cohesion of the team will be key factors at the end of the day.”
The team time trial is one of cycling’s most technical and spectacular events, at least for those who appreciate the beauty of a good pull at the front.
It was originally part of the world’s schedule, with TTT events held with national teams from 1962 to 1994. The UCI replaced it with the individual time trial race, which became a world championship event in 1994.
The TTT was brought back, but under the trade team roster, in 2012.
Since then, only Quick-Step and BMC Racing have won. Quick-Step won the first two, and BMC claimed the following two, and Quick-Step went one better last year in Qatar. In fact, Orica-Scott, Movistar and Team Sky are the only other teams who’ve even podiumed since it was reintroduced.
The top teams take it seriously, and many held special TTT camps ahead of heading to Bergen.
“It’s no secret that team time trials are one of the biggest goals for BMC Racing, so this is one of the most important races of the season,” said BMC Racing sport director Jackson Stewart. “The field this year is more competitive and the course is different to previous years. The course is hillier, but it is really suited to our team.”
Team Sky brings its heavy hitters this year, including Froome, who is hot off winning the Vuelta a España.
“It would be something really special to be part of a winning team on Sunday,” Froome said. “The whole season you are looking at how to win a race as an individual as part of your team, but this is purely about winning as a team.”
That sentiment is shared across the peloton. Tejay van Garderen, who is a call-up to replace Manuel Quinziato at BMC Racing, said being part of the winning team in 2014 was his career highlight up to that point.