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The worlds team time trial, explained

What goes into this team event at the cycling world championships?

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MILAN (VN) — The team time trial that returns to the UCI Road World Championships for the third consecutive year Sunday promises to be a tight battle between a handful of superpowers and a sponsorship showcase in Ponferrada, Spain.

“We have made good progression over the last three years,” Orica-GreenEdge sport director Matt White said in a press release. “We finished third, a little off the pace, in our first attempt two years ago. Last year, we were agonizingly close, which was incredible when you think the race was over one hour and four minutes and we lost by 0.8 of a second.”

Omega Pharma-Quick Step won the title last year for a second time in a row. Over 57.2 kilometers around Florence, Italy, it pushed Orica to a close second place and Sky to third by 23 seconds. The teams have already named their six-man rosters and already have arrived in northwest Spain to prepare.

The team time trial stands out in the week-long worlds program when riders are normally racing in their national colors for rainbow jerseys. Instead, the men’s and women’s events Sunday kick off the week with teams fighting in their trade colors for gold medals, sponsors’ pride, and year-long bragging rights.

White told VeloNews last year that the event is a great marketing tool for his team’s sponsors, one that becomes even stronger if his riders win the title.

“For Scott and Shimano, our clothing sponsors, and everyone,” he said. “We won the [2013] Tour team time trial, but this is different. The champs are all about the medals.”

Orica averaged 57.841 kph over 25km to win the 2013 Tour de France team time trial in Nice — at the fastest average speed in Tour history. The Aussie squad won the Giro d’Italia’s team time trial in May to give Svein Tuft the pink leader’s jersey and set up Michael Matthews for another six days at the top.

The event — with teams racing in five-, six- to nine-man teams at the grand tours — regularly appears on the calendar during the year, but rarely at the championship level. The UCI only just brought it back for the 2012 Valkenburg worlds. Prior to that, it was featured in the worlds from 1962-1994 as a four-man amateur event over 100km. Italy and the Soviet Union dominated, with Cristian Salvato, Gianfranco Contri, Luca Colombo and Dario Andriotto helping their nation win the last title on home soil in Sicily.

The UCI, however, opened up a sort of arms race in 2012 that allowed trade teams to spend the money that many nations do not have to use on bikes, skin suits, and training. The same sort of modernization viewpoint revived the hour record and saw Jens Voigt (Trek Factory Racing) retire on a high, with a new 51.115km mark on Thursday.

The teams have named specific six-man rosters for the event, which measures 57.1km for the men and 36.15km for the women, around Ponferrada’s west. Afterwards, some will unzip and put on national colous to race in the worlds time trial and road race, but some will simply return home.

Since the teams start with mixed nationalities — Orica is racing with four Australians, a Dutchman and a Canadian — the UCI adjusted the rules. It will play the national anthem of the team’s country on the podium and will award each rider with a medal, but not a rainbow jersey as in the other events. The entire trade team, even for the riders who did not attend, earns the right to wear a worlds winner logo on their time trial jerseys for the following year.

Based on past title fights and 2014’s team time trials, Omega Pharma and Orica could come out on top with Sky, Trek Factory Racing, and Movistar fighting for the remaining podium spots. In terms of marketing, though, all the teams will win.

A 2014 TTT results

Tirreno-Adriatico: Omega Pharma-Quick Step, Orica-GreenEdge, Movistar
Coppi e Bartali: Sky, RusVelo, Cannondale
Giro del Trentino: BMC Racing, NetApp-Endura, Sky
Giro d’Italia: Orica-GrenEdge, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, BMC Racing
Sibiu Cycling Tour: CCC Polsat, Adria Mobil, LKT
Vuelta a España: Movistar, Cannondale, Orica-GreenEdge