With only two days left to perfect their technique, Omega Pharma-Quickstep left nothing to chance in its reconnaissance of the team time trial course for the UCI Road World Championships in Limburg, The Netherlands.
Having already previewed the parcours extensively through video, the team's six riders went to work today, dialing in every twist and turn.
Director Tom Steels was on hand with advice on when to focus on smooth technique and when to go all out. "We already know [the course] by heart — the tricky parts of the course. Now the riders have to say 'OK, we take those decisions. We do this on the left turn, that on the right turn. There you go full gas, and there on the course you can't go full gas.' Then it's up to us in the car on Sunday to lead them out. But I think they know most of it already," Steels said on the team's web site.
"We still have to give feedback on course. There are some speed bumps, and when riders are tired, they may not know those are coming up. So we have to tell them."
Steels broke the course into two parts, stating that in the first "8 or 9 kilometers, they have to be careful, maintain their line and make the corners smooth", but that the remaining part of the point-to-point 53.2km course will depend more on strength. "They have to take good turns and the stronger ones have to maybe ride at the front a little longer. The other ones just have to keep up. But that's for sure where the difference will be made — in the power based section with several climbs. I think the difference might be made before we even get to the Cauberg in the final."
The team will be led by defending individual time trial world champion Tony Martin, with national time trial champions Kristof Vandewalle (Belgium), Sylvain Chavanel (France) and Peter Velits (Slovakia) as well as Dutch rider Niki Terpstra plus Belgian road champion Tom Boonen. Steels thinks the five riders behind Martin are equally matched. "I think the turns for the most part will be quite equal, but in the end, maybe Tony, Chava and maybe Tom and Niki have to take the longest turns. Let's hope they can keep it up.
"In the downhill before the Cauberg you cannot really sacrifice someone. Maybe in the last 500 or 600 meters you can, but then you have a roundabout, a right corner, so maybe you get a little bit too technical to lose someone. Maybe on the start of the Cauberg we could possibly lose someone, but the downhill for sure we need everybody, because the speed will be too high."
Steels expects the strongest competition to come from the home team Rabobank, with RadioShack and Sky also providing a challenge, "even though they are missing their top riders".
"I think it will be close between five or six teams for sure. Getting on the podium would be great for us. With all of the top competitors it won't be easy, but if you see our team, how they rode all year, we have to believe and be convinced we can make it to the podium. They are experienced and proved this year they belong at the top of the WorldTour. So, our goal has to be for the podium."