For the fifth year in a row, the world championships will kick off with a team time trial for trade teams and in its short existence, the new invention has gained plenty of prestige. Even though a dispute with the UCI over the costs has prompted many teams to skip the 2016 edition, it remains an extremely important event for the teams that really specialize in the discipline. A completely flat course in Qatar offers the perfect venue for the biggest specialists and there will be a fierce battle for the highly prestigious title as the world's strongest team.
When the UCI reintroduced the team time trial for the 2012 World Championships in Limburg, it was a re-emergence of a historical and prestigious event that had disappeared. From 1962 to 1994, the beautiful discipline was an important part of the road world championships and carried huge importance. However, like all other events at the global championships, it was a match between national teams who battled it out with 4-rider rosters over often long distances of around 100km.
When the UCI decided to put the discipline back on the Worlds programme, it was not in its original format. The international federation listened to the sponsors that wanted to get increased exposure in one of cycling's biggest events and made it one for the trade teams. Instead of a stand-alone battle between the national teams, the event was introduced as an opportunity to find the world's best among the teams that regularly battle each other in the discipline.
UCI could probably not have wished a better debut than the 2012 event in Limburg. From the very beginning, many of the teams placed huge emphasis on the race and organized specific training camps to prepare for the big day. Similarly, the riders greeted its welcome return and many of the specialists made it one of their end-of-season targets.
For many teams who don't specialize in the discipline, the race has been one to get over with but for the squads that excel in the collective race against the clock, it is a clear target with plenty of meticulous preparation and careful roster selections. When the reintroduction was announced, Garmin-Sharp even signed riders with the specific purpose of getting onto the top step of the podium in late September and Orica-GreenEDGE have had specific training camps to prepare the event for the several years. In that sense, the event is like a time trial in a grand tour: for many of the teams it's just about getting safely through the day but for the few select specialists, it's of huge importance.
Unlike the other World Championships races, there's no rainbow jersey on offer and the winning team only gets the less visible recognition of a print on their jerseys. Despite this criticized fact, it's a huge honour for the teams to refer to themselves as the strongest in the world. While individual riders often get most attention in the usual races, this gives the teams and their sponsors a rare opportunity to put themselves in the spotlight and alongside the WorldTour ranking, it offers the only chance of gauging the trade teams against each other.
Unfortunately, the 2016 edition marks a chance for the event. Until now, the WorldTour teams have been obliged to do the race but this year it will be different. A dispute over the costs promoted the WorldTour teams to boycott the race until an agreement between the two parties was finally struck. It saw the UCI cover parts of the cost but the obligation to do the race was removed and the event will no longer contribute to the WorldTour standings. Unsurprisingly, many of the teams that would never had had a chance to medal have decided to skip the race and so only 10 of the 18 WorldTour teams will be in attendance. Tinkoff, Lotto Soudal, FDJ, Lampre-Merida, Trek, Cannondale, IAM and Dimension Data have all decided to save some money. Furthermore, only one pro continental and four continental teams have opted to head to Qatar, and so the field will be much smaller than usual.
Team time trials are no unique event as many stage races have a collective race against the clock. However, the World Championships TTT is a different beast to what the riders are used to. In times gone by, team time trials were often held over long distances of more than 60km but nowadays organizers prefer to keep them much shorter to avoid too big time differences that may eliminate many potential winners. Grand tour team time trials are usually no longer than 30km and in smaller stage races, they are even shorter.
As opposed to this, the World Championships are held on much longer courses. In 2012, the winner was found on a 53.2km course in Limburg and the 57.2km route in 2013 was even longer. At 57.1km, the course had the same distance but last year it was reduced significantly to make it more comparable to the challenges that the riders face during the rest of the season. This year the organizers have continued that trend. At the same time, the rosters are considerably smaller than in stage races where 8- or 9-rider teams are usually the standard. In the battle for the global honour, the teams can only select 6 riders, with the time of the 4th rider being the one that counts. This makes cohesion and careful race planning even more important as the teams try to maximize their gains from each rider's strength. At the same time, the fact that it is a stand-alone event means that most of the riders are TT specialists so there is no reason to take care of tiny climbers who can’t make much of a contribution.
In its first two years, the event was dominated by Omega Pharma-Quick Step. In 2012, they became the first world champions in a thrilling battle with BMC. Tom Boonen, Sylvain Chavanel, Tony Martin, Niki Terpstra, Kristof Vandewalle and Peter Velits waited nervously in the hot seat while BMC was about to produce a ride that could potentially better their performance. However, Tejay van Garderen rode too fast up the Cauburg towards the end of the race and as a result, the team had to slow down to wait for Taylor Phinney. In the end, they missed 3.23 seconds and had to settle for 2nd while Orica-GreenEDGE showed their strength in the discipline by finishing 3rd on a course that didn't do them many favours.
In 2013 Omega Pharma-Quick Step repeated the performance after one of the most thrilling battles in the team time trial history. This time they were up against archrivals Orica-GreenEDGE who had beaten them by less than a second a few months earlier in the Tour de France TTT. Despite the long distance, the race was again decided by fractions of a second and this time the outcome was the reverse. The Omega Pharma-Quick Step team of Chavanel, Martin, Terpstra, Vandewalle, Velits and Michal Kwiatkowski had been clearly the fastest at the first two time checks but at the third and final one, they suddenly trailed the Australians by a second. In the end, they finished the race strongly to defend their title with a winning margin of less than a second. A strong Sky team led by Chris Froome completed the podium, 22 seconds off the winning mark.
In 2014, the Omega Pharma-QuickStep dominance was broken when BMC turned out to be in a class of their own on the lumpy course in Ponferrada. Despite missing Taylor Phinney’s firepower, the combination of Tejay van Garderen, Peter Velits, Daniel Oss, Manuel Quinziato, Rohan Dennis and neo-pro Silvan Dillier turned out to be a winning one and the outcome was never really in doubt. In the end, they had put no less than 32 seconds into Orica-GreenEDGE who again had to settle for silver and it was the battle for the minor places that turned out to be exciting. Defending champions Omega Pharma-Quick Step were slightly hampered by a change in weather conditions and had to settle for third another four seconds adrift while an in-form Bradley Wiggins led a small Sky team that had been down to four riders very early, across the line in fourth just two seconds off the podium.
Last year BMC confirmed their new status as the leading team in the discipline when they defended their title on home soil in Richmond. 2014 winners Rohan Dennis, Silvan Dillier, Daniel Oss and Manuel Quinziato were joined by Taylor Phinney and Stefan Küng to produce a winning ride that saw them beat Etixx-QuickStep by 12 seconds. Movistar confirmed their constant progress in the discipline by taking a first medal with third while Orica-BikeExchange missed out on the top 3 for the first time ever with their fourth place. All four teams are among the WorldTour teams to have travelled to Qatar and they will all be among the favourites to claim the fifth title in the history of the new event.
The 2012 course was highly unusual for team time trials which are often held on rather flat, non-technical courses suited to powerful specialists. The organizers decided to send the riders up many of the climbs that characterize the Limburg province and like the road races and the individual time trials, the top of the famous Cauberg was located just 1km from the finish line.
Since then, the courses for the team time trial have been much easier and suited to specialists. In 2013, the road races were very hard and the men’s race ended up being a highly selective affairs. However, the courses for the time trials were completely different as they were held on almost completely flat road, marked by long straights and virtually no climbing. The 2014 course for the team time trial was more of the same as the riders mostly avoided the hills around Ponferrada. Instead of using the hilly terrain from the road race, the riders only had to tackle a single climb in the end, making it another day for the specialists. Last year the riders tackled a shorter 38.8km course than they had done in the past but again there was virtually no climbing on a route that was suited to specialists.
With the 2016 event being held in Qatar, it was always going to be a very flat affair suited to the biggest specialists and that’s exactly what the organizers have designed for this year’s contest. Like in 2015, the distance has been shortened significantly compared to the first three years and in 2016 the riders will cover exactly 40km which makes it very comparable to last year’s test.
The completely flat race starts at the Lusail Sports Complex north of Doha which has often been used for the time trials and team time trials at the Tour of Qatar. The first few kilometres consist of a technically complicated trip around the complex where the riders will tackle numerous roundabouts, 90-degree turns and three U-turns. This opening section is very similar to the individual time trial that has featured in the Tour of Qatar in the last two years.
After 13.6km of racing, the first intermediate time check will be taken just as the riders leave the complex. From here, they will follow the long, flat, completely straight road to Doha. There will be a single roundabout at the entrance of the city but otherwise, it’s a very straightforward section that ends when the second time check is taken at the Qatar University after 26.4km of racing.
Having reached the city, the roads get a bit more technical on the twisting, curvy roads and it only gets more evident when the riders hit the circuit that will be used for the road races. The final 7.3km will take place here and consist of another relatively technical part. The riders will had wound the Pearl Island on a road that doesn’t have any sharp turns but no straight sections either. The riders will even do two U-turn. However, the challenge will only come from the twisty nature of the road as the terrain will be completely flat.
The time trial specialists couldn't have asked for a better course and this is a race that will be decided by power and speed more than technical prowess and climbing skills. The opening and final parts are a bit technical and will test the cohesiveness of the teams but with the middle section being made up of a long, straight road, it will be a test of power and high speed. This is a day for the big engines on what will be the flattest course in the history of the race.
In the past, the team time trial was also a chance to preview the course for the individual time trial as the courses for the two races were virtually identical. In the last two years, that slightly changed as there was little overlap between the courses. In 2016, however, the favourites for the individual test will have a lot to learn from the team time trial as the two courses are completely identical for the first time in the history of the event.
Due to the risk of extreme heat, the weather has rarely got as much attention before the World Championships as it has in 2016. The road races are at risk of getting shortened but luckily there won’t be these kinds of issues for the time trials. Nonetheless, the heat will be a factor as Sunday is forecasted to be sunny with a maximum temperature of 37 degrees.
The other big factor is the wind but at the moment the conditions in Qatar aren’t dramatic. There will only be a light wind from an easterly direction which means that the riders will mainly have a crosswind. When they reach Doha, they will mainly have a headwind for the final third of the race. The conditions should be the same throughout the day even though the wind may pick up slightly which could give the early starters a small advantage.
It is a bit of a shame that economic issues mean that all the WorldTour team won’t be in attendance at this year’s World Championships. After all, the race deserves to have all the best teams at the start and it’s one of the few chances to compare all top level teams. When it comes to the battle for the medals, however, we won’t miss anything. All the teams that could realistically hope for a top 3 result will be present. The major absentees are Tinkoff and Trek as they could potentially have challenged for a top 5 result but a top 3 would have been a big surprise. Hence, the race will be no less prestigious and the winner will definitely be the best TTT team in the world.
For the fifth year in a row, the team time trial has been taken very seriously by the specialist teams and most of the usual top performers in the stage race TTTs have selected very powerful rosters that have prepared specifically for the event. For some riders and teams, this is their main goal at the championships and hours of meticulous preparation have gone into giving the teams the best shot at the title. The UCI can definitely not be unhappy with the start list as most of the greatest time trial specialists are prepared to lead their teams in Sunday's collective race.
With small 6-rider rosters, the importance of every single rider increases and it's almost impossible to win the event with a weak link. A win requires every rider to be able to make a solid contribution. At the same time, the individual rider may play a bigger role as there are fewer riders to share the workload. This means that the main powerhouses will be able to make a bigger difference. Compared to the first years, the distance is significantly shorter though and this should be a disadvantage for the diesel engines which have been able to really decide the races in recent years. Now it will be a bit more about speed than endurance.
For the fourth year in a row, the course is very flat with very few technical challenges and this time there won’t be a single climb. This means that it’s a race for the specialists who can push a big gear along the long, straight roads. In Limburg, climbing skills were important but here it is almost all about speed. This is reflected in the line-ups as most teams have picked very powerful rosters for the event. The first and final sections are a bit technical but overall it’s not a complicated course. This is a race that will almost only be about the biggest power output.
In recent years, team time trials have been dominated by Orica-BikeExchange, Etixx-QuickStep, BMC, Sky and Movistar, with LottoNL-Jumbo gradually emerging as a contender. Tinkoff have been up there on certain occasions too while the rest of the teams usually have to settle for a minor placing. Team time trialling is a very unique discipline that requires careful preparation and you won’t get anywhere if you don’t take things very seriously. This has definitely been done by all the favourite teams and lots of consideration has gone into carefully selecting the rosters.
When it comes to picking the favourite, much can be learned from the previous team time trials of the season but it is important to remember the vast differences between this event and the stage race TTTs. It is dangerous to place too much emphasis on past races and instead a close look at the roster selections, last year’s Worlds and the preparation will provide more useful information.
This year we expect the race to come down to a battle between BMC and Etixx-QuickStep and, with Movistar and BikeExchange looming as very strong outsiders but it is hard not to put defending champions BMC on top of the list of favourites. In 2014 year they took the win with the biggest margin in the history of the event and even though their winning margin was smaller in 2015, the outcome was never in doubt.
In general they have dominated the TTTs since they took their first Worlds title in two years ago. In 2015, they won three of the four WorldTour TTTs as they came out on top in the Dauphiné, the Tour and the Vuelta and they were only beaten in Romandie where they didn’t have their biggest specialists. This year the won the TTTs in Tirreno-Adriatico and the Eneco Tour and they were only beaten in the Vuelta where they lined up a team that had no riders from their Worlds selection.
The key to their success has mostly been Rohan Dennis. The Australian has not only developed into one of the best individual time triallists – he is probably the best TTT rider in the world. The Australian has the speed, power and endurance to make a huge difference in every TTT and on every course. In almost every single TTT he has done in the last few years, his teammates were overwhelmed by his strength and there is no reason that he will be any slower in this race. In fact, the Worlds TTT and ITT are his big goals after the Olympics and he has prepared specifically for both. He was very strong in both the Tour of Britain and the Eneco Tour which he would probably have won if he hadn’t been taken out by a crash. He took a dominant win in the individual time trial in that race and played a key role in the TTT win. His rivals must be scared by the fact that he is likely to have become even stronger.
Dennis will be joined by a very powerful quintet that is led by Taylor Phinney. The American may still not be at his former level after his bad injury but in the TTTs and the short time trials, he is getting close. He did good TTs in the Tour of Britain – if he hadn’t crashed he would have been very close to the best – and in the Eneco Tour and he should find the flat course to his liking. The same goes for classics stalwarts Daniel Oss and Manuel Quinziato who have been part of most of the TTT victories, most notably the two wins at the Worlds.
Stefan Küng has the potential to become one of the best time triallists in the world and even though he is only getting back into form after his crash at Nationals, he will be a very valuable team member on this kind of course. Joey Rosskopf is the surprise inclusion but the American has had an excellent second half of the year and is on the verge of a big breakthrough at the WorldTour level.
Overall the BMC team is very homogeneous with no really weak links and they are all perfectly suited to this flat course. Furthermore, five of the riders have great experience in this discipline and they were all part of the team that won the dress rehearsal at the Eneco Tour. Finally, they have the big engine in Dennis who can make the difference in a close race. That combination is likely to be a winning one and so BMC are our favourites.
Last year the biggest rival was Etixx-QuickStep and that is likely to be the case again. Despite being down to seven riders, the team pushed BMC surprisingly hard at the Eneco Tour where the two squads were in a class of his own. The Belgians were probably left wondering what might have been if they had not lost Tom Boonen due to a crash in the previous stage and that must give them confidence.
At the time of writing (24 hours before the start of the race), the team has not revealed its roster which proves how difficult a decision it is. However, the seven candidates are extremely strong and it won’t make much of a difference who ends up as the reserve.
One rider has a guaranteed spot: Tony Martin may no longer be the time triallist he once was but he is still one of the biggest engines in the world. He has always been one of the best in the TTTs and in the Eneco Tour he showed that his form is great. He was the powerhouse in the time trial and his ITT win in the Tour of Britain allowed him to regain some confidence in his skills. The course is tailor-made for him and even though the days when he can single-handedly win team time trials, are over, he will be crucial in Etixx-QuickStep’s attempt to win the race.
Bob Jungels is the other big specialist in the team and he has made the Worlds the big goal of the second part of the season. Unfortunately, the Luxembourger was far from his best at the European Championships and the Eneco Tour and the course is a maybe a bit too flat to his liking. However, he showed progress in the Dutch-Belgian race and he will still be a very valuable asset.
The in-form rider in the team is Niki Terpstra. He may not be a real TT specialist but the Eneco Tour showed that he is close to peak condition. He has prepared specifically for the Eneco Tour and the Worlds and he has always been a great TT rider. Yves Lampaert will also be a great asset as he has improved his TT skills a lot. He was close to the Belgian title and did a fantastic TT at the Vuelta. His near-miss in Tour de l’Eurometropole shows that his form is good.
It seems that Julien Vermote, Lukasz Wisniowski and Davide Martinelli will vie for the final two spots. They are all very powerful riders but none of them have been real specialists at the elite level – even though Martinelli was one of the best on the U23 scene. That’s probably what could make the difference compared to BMC. The four-rider core is able to match the Americans but they may miss some power for the final two riders. In a six-rider TT, every single rider is crucial and so this could be costly in what is likely to be a close race. On the other hand, a very similar team was so close to BMC in the Netherlands a few weeks ago that a win for Etixx-QuickStep is possible.
Movistar have gradually moved close to the top of the TTT hierarchy. The Spanish team has always been among the best in the Vuelta team time trials but outside their home country, they have come from far back to belong to the great specialists. Last year they crowned their improvement with a bronze medal in Richmond and now they want to repeat that performance in Doha.
The team have several specialists in their ranks and most of them will be in Qatar. However, they have suffered a major setback with the loss of Adriano Malori who had a horrific crash at the Tour de San Luis and then fractured his collarbone shortly after his return to racing. Last year the Italian, Jonathan Castroviejo and Alex Dowsett were the main powerhouses and with Malori – who later won silver in the ITT – out of the game, it will be left to his two teammates to lead the charge.
Castroviejo is a huge engine who continues to improve. He was fourth at last year’s Worlds, fourth at the Olympics and won the European title after taking second behind Froome in the Vuelta TT. The Spaniard prefers hillier courses but his past results show that he can do well on a flat course too. For Dowsett, the route is excellent as he is a big powerhouse who loves straight, flat roads. He may be very inconsistent but his win in Poland proves that he still has the engine to dominate this kind of TT. Dowsett showed growing form in the Tour of Britain and the Eneco Tour but it remains to be seen how Castroviejo has recovered after the Vuelta and the European Championships.
Compared to last year, Andrey Amador and Jasha Sütterlin will be back. Unfortunately, Amador seems to be far from his best form but Sütterlin has just had a big breakthrough with this third place in the Eneco Tour TT and he is suited to this course. The rest of the team is made up of Imanol Erviti who is a solid time triallist, especially for this kind of course, and Nelson Oliveira who now belongs to the best time triallists in the world. However, the Eneco Tour indicated that the Portuguese is getting tired and he may no longer be at his best just Erviti must soon feel the fatigue.
What really marks Movistar out is their homogeneity. They don’t have any weak points and even though they excel on hillier, more technical courses, last year’s result showed that they can do well on this route too. The main question is their level of form but if the key riders have recovered from a long season, it should be another medal for the Spaniard.
LottoNL-Jumbo are the new kids on the block in the team time trials. The Dutchmen have never been among the specialist teams but that has definitely changed. During the last two years, they have worked a lot on their time trialling and this has clearly paid off. The team have achieved excellent results in the ITTs and now it starts to work well in the TTTs too. Recently, they finished third behind BMC and Etixx-QuickStep in the Eneco Tour with a very similar line-up.
The big engine in the team is Jos van Emden who is one of the very best in the world when it comes to short, flat time trials. He has just had a career-best result of fifth in the Eneco Tour where he also finished second behind Dennis in the time trial and he seems to be in the form of his life. The flat course is tailor-made for him and he will make a huge difference in this stage.
The second big engine is Victor Campenaerts who has improved a lot since he joined the team last winter. He was fourth in the Vuelta TT and took the silver medal behind Castroviejo at the World Championships. Like Van Emden, he is excellently suited to this course and if he is not too tired after his first grand tour, he will make a huge contribution.
Wilco Kelderman has rediscovered his best time trial legs in the last two years. One would expect him to excel on hillier courses but some of his best results have come in flat time trials. He was fourth in the TT at the Eneco Tour and last he was second behind van Emden on a flat course in the same race. He beat Tom Dumoulin on a completely flat course at the Dutch Championships in 2015 and unlike van Emden, he prefers the longer distance of a team time trial.
The final key rider in the team is former ski jumper Primoz Roglic. Despite being known as a pure climber, he suddenly emerged as a time trial specialist at the Giro and since then he has confirmed his potential in Poland, at the Olympics at the European Championships and at the Eneco Tour. His good TT in the latter race shows that he is on form and he has proved that he excels on flat courses too.
The rest of the team is made up of Timo Roosen and Tom Leezer who are both powerful guys. However, they are not really specialists and that is probably what’s going to make the difference compared to BMC, Etixx-QuickStep and Movistar. The team have the engines to match the best teams but they are not as homogeneous. On the other hand, they have shown constant progress and as their riders are clearly on form, they can definitely take their first medal in Richmond.
Orica-BikeExhange have been perennial favourites for the team time trials but the Australians are no longer what they once was. The core of their dream team may remain intact but their results have not been excellent in the last two years. Last year they missed out on a medal for the first time and this is a clear reflection of their lower level.
The main reason for this is probably Svein Tuft. The Canadian has been one of the best team time triallists in the world but Father Age finally seems to have caught with the strongman. His time trialling is simply not at its former level and the poorer TTT performances have followed his downward trend closely. At the same time, Luke Durbridge who once stood out as the biggest TT talent in the world, has turned into a mediocre time triallist who rarely breaks into the top 10. He has become a lot stronger in the road races but he is no longer the time triallist he once was.
In addition to these factors, the team have two riders coming off the track. Michael Hepburn and Alex Edmondson both rode in Rio and even though they are both suited to this kind of course, the team admit that this is not the ideal preparation. The rest of them team is made up of Michael Matthews and Daryl Impey who are both good time triallists for this course but they don’t have the engine to make the difference between a top 5 and a medal.
Overall, the team is very homogeneous but unlike BMC, Etixx-QuickStep and Movistar they miss the big engine who can lead the team. Overall their power is simply lower than what you find in the three best teams. On the other hand, the core of the team has worked together for years and this is what may allow them to break into the top 3.
Sky haven’t announced their roster yet but the Brits are always competitive in the team time trials and their long-list includes lots of power. They have only medaled once at the Worlds, partly because their stage race specialists have usually ended their season at this time of the year. In 2016, it seems that they will only miss Chris Froome and Leopold König and this should make them competitive.
While the team looks formidable on paper, the problem is their form. Michal Kwiatkowski has been ridig terribly since he left the Vuelta due to injury and in general he has been far from his best in 2015 and 2016. Geraint Thomas is nowhere near his best form either and those two riders are crucial for the team. The big engine is of course world champion Vasil Kiryienka but the Belarusian has been time trialling poorly all year and still has to prove that he can return to his former level. He showed signs of progress at the Eneco Tour where he actually matched stage winner Rohan Dennis who started just 15 seconds behind as the world champion arrived too late for the start. However, he crashed out of the race just one day later.
The candidates for the final three spots are Peter Kennaugh, Gianni Moscon, Salvatore Puccio, Nicolas Roche, Ben Swift and Danny Van Poppel who have all shown solid form. However, none of them are real TT specialists and they would all have preferred a harder course. The same goes for Kwiatkowski, Thomas and Kiryienka. On paper, Sky seem to be great but a lack of form and a flat course mean that a bronze medal is probably the best possible result
Giant-Alpecin were once known as the team that always finished last in the team time trials. However, times have changed and now they have reached a point where they belong to the outsiders. Tom Dumoulin is the big engine in the team and his presence always makes a huge difference. At the same time, they have signed some promising time triallists and worked carefully with their young riders and this has paid dividends. Many will remember how they delivered several top results in the opening Giro time trial which was won by Dumoulin and recently they showed their progress in the TTTs with a fine seventh place in the Eneco Tour.
Dumoulin will be joined by Søren Kragh Andersen who is another real TT specialist. His fourth place in the California TT was a clear indication of his potential. However, he doesn’t have much TTT experience at this level. Chad Haga is gradually improving his time trialling and now he finishes in the top 20 in almost every TT – but he rarely makes it into the top 10. He will make a solid contribution but would have preferred a hillier course. The same goes for Georg Preidler who is not a real specialist. However, he occasionally does a solid TT.
The final part of the team is made up of sprinters John Degenkolb and Ramon Sinkledam and they should be strong on this flat course. However, the team is not as homogeneous as the big favourites and their result will depend heavily on Dumoulin. The Dutchman has sent mixed signals recently as he has been climbing well but delivered below-par time trials. It has been a long season but if Dumoulin is on a good day, Giant-Alpecin may be strong enough to break into the top 5.
Astana have won team time trials in the past but their wins have always come on harder courses. Most of their riders are more versatile riders who need lumpier routes to really excel and so it will be very hard to get a medal. However, they could still produce a good ride as they have solid time triallists. Teir final roster has not been announced but Andriy Grivko, Tanel Kangert and Dario Cataldo have all been in the top 10 in past time trials. AlexeY Lutsenko and Dmitriy Gruzdev are solid engines too.
However, while those five riders are good, none of them have the engine that most of the other favourite teams. Furthermore, Jakob Fuglsang, Gatis Smukulis, Artyom Zakharov and Andrey Zeits who are all on the long-list are anything but specialists. In a six-rider team time trial, that is likely to be very costly. Astana have a very homogeneous team with some strong riders but without a big engine, a top 5 will be difficult to achieve.
UPDATE: Etixx-QuickStep, Sky and Astana have finally announced their rosters. As opposed to what was mentioned above, Etixx-QuickStep have selected Marcel Kittel for the final spot. That is likely to make the team stronger.
**** Etixx-Quick Step
*** Movistar, LottoNL-Jumbo,
** Orica-BikeExchange, Sky
* Giant-Alpecin, Astana
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