Orica-GreenEdge left with too much ground to make up in TTT Worlds

Australian squad recover to claim silver in Ponferrada

It was a different kind of silver medal for Orica-GreenEdge in the team time trial at the 2014 UCI Road World Championships and, on balance, a decidedly easier defeat to digest. In Florence twelve months ago, the Australian squad lost out to Omega Pharma-QuickStep by the maddening margin of 0.81 of a second and they must have spent much of the year since trying to figure out precisely where in the Tuscan hills those previous decimal points were misplaced.

In Ponferrada on Sunday, their margin of defeat was more clear-cut, as they came home some 32 seconds down on BMC, and there will be no need to ruminate long and hard on where the race was lost: the intermediate time checks told their own tale. After 23 kilometres, Orica-GreenEdge were already 24 seconds down with the fifth best time and they simply left themselves with too much ground to make up over the second half of the course.

“We just gave too much time away at the start. I think at one stage we were 35 or 38 seconds behind and we had 20 seconds down after 10k,” team manager Matt White told Cyclingnews afterwards, though he acknowledged that it was an easier pill to swallow than the traumatic defeat of a year ago.

There were positives to be drawn, too, from the Orica-GreenEdge display over the back end of the course, where – just like in Florence – they recouped significant time. They made light work of the climb in the finale to leapfrog ahead of Sky and Omega Pharma-QuickStep into the medal places, but when it came to bringing back BMC, the mountain to be scaled was too steep.

“It’s hard because we didn’t lose too much time to BMC on the way back and we were 20 or 30 seconds faster than Sky and Omega, so we were at least the second strongest team back,” White said. “We always knew the back end was going to make the difference but you just can’t give 20 seconds away. It’s a little bit disappointing because we came here to win but then again with 20k to go they were fifth, so they really brought it home.”

After bronze in Valkenburg and silver in Florence, it was Orica-GreenEdge’s third medal in as many editions of the team time trial Worlds. Svein Tuft has been part of all three of those efforts, and while he acknowledged that he has had his fill of consolation prizes, he described his team’s fight back over the final kilometres with more than a hint of relish.

“It was definitely a lot tougher than we thought from pre-riding the course. That last 10-15k was just a boxing match really,” he said. “It was really hard coming home. We suffered out there. Second again is not our favourite thing but we gave everything we had for sure.”

Along with Brett Lancaster and Jens Mouris, Tuft was the veteran of a line-up that also included an exciting trio of young Australian time trialling talent. Given the length of their seasons to date, Luke Durbridge, Michael Hepburn and last year’s under-23 world time trial champion Damian Howson were not considered for selection for Wednesday’s individual time trial, and they spared nothing in their final outing of the campaign.

“It was Damian’s first team time trial as a pro so it was a big learning curve for him but he’s a lot more confident after that for sure,” White said. “We’ve got older guys like Svein and Brett and Jens but we’ve got younger guys lining up to replace them over the next five years.”

Now in its third edition, the jury is still out as to the popularity of the Worlds team time trial with the wider public, but for teams with a pedigree in the discipline, the cachet of the event cannot be understated.

“There are five or six teams who go all out in every team time trial, and amongst those teams it’s really special,” Tuft said. “Being so long, this event is a real test and a real show of the character of the team and the guys who do the team trial. I think it’s a great event that they’ve added to the World Championships.”

The rigour with which the three podium finishers approached the event was certainly clear. Omega Pharma-QuickStep arrived in Ponferrada four days early to train on the course, BMC prepared assiduously with input with Allan Peiper and Marco Pinotti, while five of Orica-GreenEdge’s sextet spent the past three weeks training purely with the team time trial in mind.

“Lancaster did two weeks of the Vuelta but none of these guys have raced for two weeks, they’ve been preparing for the team time trial. It’s been planned into their programme to prepare for this,” said White. “It’s a great event and we’re always very competitive whether it’s the Worlds or the Giro or the Vuelta. We were third there with only one of the guys from this team, and we’ve certainly got a team for this event for the future.”

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