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Worlds’12 Mens TTT: A Nail Biter In Limburg!

The first event of this year’s Worlds was diving into the unknown as nobody really knew what to expect. It was the first ever Professional Trade Team Time Trial, the teams had just 6 riders to compete with and the circuit was an unusual distance of 53.2km and extremely challenging, finishing just after ascending the famous Cauberg climb. Who conquered the unknown?

So we’ve read the review of the region of Limburg, checked out Ed’s predictions for the race and we’re now down to the serious part of the Worlds with rainbow honor up for grabs!

First team off in the Worlds’12 was the African team of MTN-Qhubeka who left the start house at 13:30 and this is what lay ahead of them in their 53.2km pain session:

Just look at what greeted the riders just before the finishline. Ouch!

The circuit around Limburg was a tough one with very little flat road as it wound its way around the region. It really did wind its way around too with roundabouts, 90° corners and road furniture galore making it difficult for the teams to maintain a steady rhythm – made even harder by the 3 major climbs en route. Although none of the climbs were mountains by any stretch of the imagination their steep slopes and unforgiving surfaces made them very difficult to manage.

The Cauberg in particular was cruelly placed just 2.5 km before the finish meaning that if a team arrived there with just 4 riders and one exploded on the climb, then they would have no choice but to sit up and wait. Pacing themselves was obviously going to be crucial on this course. At 1200m in length the Cauberg was the shortest of the 3 climbs but its gradients were the cruelest and sure to do major damage to the teams in the finale. Our roadside reporter, Ed Hood walked up the Cauberg to get a feel for it before the race and his impression of the climb remains unprintable – needless to say, he thought it was hard!

The Early Pace Setters
The fifth team away today was Katusha’s feeder team, Itera-Katusha who blasted through the first check 25s ahead of the rest and then kept that momentum going throughout the race. Various Continental and ProContinental teams came and went but none were able to beat the Russian’s early time until the second WorldTour team of the day of Ag2r came through the first check after 11km, 3 seconds up. Their good pace didn’t last long though with the Lange Raarberg climb damaging their rhythm and it was the highly surprising Euskatel team taking the provisional best time at the 2nd time check after 21km.

Liquigas-Cannondale were the next big team to top the leader board with the Italian team roaring through the first check a full 20s ahead of Ag2r and then continuing their momentum onto the 2nd check coming through 30s ahead of RusVelo. The young Russian team meanwhile had finished the race very well and had the best time at the finish before being upstaged by the still surprising Euskatel who finished an amazing 38s ahead of them! Before the race the jokes amongst fans and experts were putting the orange squad way down the order but they came to Limburg on a mission and put in a great time with an average of over 48kph. With the top 20 teams getting valuable UCI rankings points I think that Euskatel were desperate to try and claim some much needed points for their team. Unfortunately their joy of fastest time didn’t last long though as the very next team, Ag2r finished the race well after a bad period mid race to beat Euskatel by 4 seconds.

The Big Hitters Arrive
Putting the surprising early performance of Euskatel behind, the race for the medals was always going to be amongst the big teams to set off later of; Movistar, Rabobank, Liquigas, Garmin, OmegaPharma-Quickstep, BMC, Orica-GreenEDGE & SKY and it was when all these teams finally hit the course that the best time checks started tumbling. Those doing the most damage to the previous best times was the Boonen/Martin led OmegaPharma-Quickstep team who were lighting up the leaderboard.

The Belgian squad overtook Liquigas as race leaders at the 1st, 2nd and 3rd time checks and approaching the Cauberg climb at the finish they still had all 6 riders together – the first big team to do so. Powering over the climb under the impetus of Tony Martin and Peter Velits the 6 stayed together, swapped off turns in the final flat kilometer and then Tom Boonen led them home in a painful final sprint to rob Liquigas of their rainbow dreams by a full 1m05s.

That looks like it hurt!

Their time of 1hr3m17s meant an average of almost 51kph on the tough circuit and now they just had to wait for BMC, Orica-GreenEDGE and Sky to finish to see if their time was good enough. At the earlier checks Sky were well down and had lost two of their men early in the race so they were no threat but at the 3rd time check BMC were just 8 seconds behind and GreenEdge 28s behind. It was all going to come down to the final 15km and the ascent of the Cauberg!

Explosion Time!
BMC were first to hit the brutal climb and unfortunately for them, the Cauberg hit back. They were already down to 5 men at the start of the climb but early in the climb they lost their 5th man and with the time taken on the 4th rider across the line it was now crucial that they stuck together. It wasn’t the case though as Taylor Phinney who had done a mountain of work before the Cauberg started dropping off and Teejay Van Garderen who was at the front didn’t realize. The 4 remaining riders of BMC were now spread across a 150m gap on the slopes of the Cauberg and their gold medal hopes were in disarray. Eventually Phinney regained the wheel in front of him and the team regrouped over the top of the climb but their obvious pain & disorganization were painful to watch. They quickly started pulling turns as best they could though and with 500m to go the gold still looked possible but it wasn’t to be, missing out by a desperately close 3s.

BMC were looking great just until the Cauberg….

There was just GreenEDGE to challenge for the medals now but they were down to just 4 riders before the Cauberg so it was going to be difficult. Unlike BMC they climbed much better as a unit and continued their strong pace over the top but they were not going to challenge for the gold and silver medals. Bronze was a possibility for the Australian squad though and they just managed to get there edging out Liquigas by 18s to make it a podium of OmegaPharma-Quickstep, BMC and Orica.

For the first ever Proteam Team Time Trial I have to say that the race was a big success. The top 10 were separated by just 1m35s after 53 km of racing and the rainbow ‘badge’ not jersey will go to a well deserving OmegaPharma-Quickstep for 2013. Yes, the winners don’t get a rainbow jersey to wear next year like the other events at the Worlds, just a special badge/symbol (yet to be designed apparently) will be printed on their 2013 jerseys designating them as UCI team champions.

Winners are grinners! The 6 men that powered OmegaPharma-Quickstep to victory today, Niki Terpstra, Tom Boonen, Sylvain Chavanel, Kristoff Vandewalle, Peter Velits and Tony Martin.

Congratulations OmegaPharma-Quickstep on a great race and keep it tuned to Pez for Ed Hood’s roadside report from the streets of Limburg.

1 Omega Pharma-QuickStep 1:03:17.17
2 BMC Racing Team @ 3s
3 Orica-GreenEdge @ 47s
4 Liquigas-Cannondale @1m05s
5 Rabobank @ 1m08s
6 Movistar @ 1m18s
7 Katusha @ 1m19s
8 RadioShack-Nissan @ 1m21s
9 Sky @ 1m32s
10 Garmin-Sharp @ 1m35s

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