For the majority of the cycling fraternity, the team time trial at the World Championships is little more than the curtain raiser for a week of racing that builds towards the elite road races. Yet, for Michael Hepburn (Orica-Scott), it's the highlight of the entire year.
The Australian, who came through the ranks as part of his national track programme, has been a mainstay in Orica-Scott's Worlds TTT set-up since 2013, picking up two silver medals and a bronze for his efforts. But, like his team, Hepburn has yet to taste victory in the most important time trial on the UCI calendar.
"It's my favourite day of the year, the team time trial,” he tells Cyclingnews after one final reconnaissance of the 42.5km course in Bergen.
"I think a lot of my teammates share the same passion for it. You've got the team aspect to it, it's time trialling, so I love that, and it's a bit like the pursuit on the track. I really enjoy it and you can see the standard getting higher and higher every year. We've been close a number of times and it's about time we pulled it off."
Orica have only missed the podium once since the event's inception in 2012, and were brutally cut adrift of the win by under a second in 2013. The team may not have won a TTT since the 2015 Giro d'Italia – when Hepburn was also in the team – but they remain a real threat for Sunday's test. Along with BMC Racing, Team Sky, and defending champions Quick-Step Floors, they are among the favourites.
"We've always been up there and we've won other teams time trials," Hepburn says, making his case for an Orica success.
"We have a really solid group and we've been training and racing together for a number of years. It's a very even group and there's no 'stand-outs'. We're all at a really high level. I really believe that we can be around the mark. We've been trying for a few years now, and our big goal is to win."
Orica arrived in Norway over a week ago and have spent the last few days analysing the course in great detail. Saturday provided the first opportunity to ride the course without any traffic, and Hepburn believes that there's enough in the parcours to really test the participating squads.
"We've been here for a week so we've had plenty of chances to see different parts of the course," he said. "It's certainly a solid course with a lot in terms of the total meters of climbing. A lot of the hills have fast stretches into them, so I think you'll sneak over some of them. There are two main climbs, but it's really got a little bit of everything.
"In town, it's not too technical but there's a small cobbled section, so it's really well-rounded course. I don't expect there to be huge time gaps. There are some really strong teams here but it's going to come down to just a few seconds.”
As for the favourites, it's too close to call. Quick-Step come in as the defending champions but are without Tony Martin. BMC Racing won the recent TTT in the Vuelta a España, while Team Sky have sent their best squad ever.
"It's going to be the usual suspects with us, BMC, Quick-Step, and I think that Sky have also brought a really strong team. There are a few other teams fighting for the podium but there's a lot of depth there."