Orica-GreenEdge will line up for the opening team time trial of the Tour of Alberta in Grande Prairie on Wednesday evening with two specific goals: to win the 19.6km event and to use it as their final preparation for the team time trial at the UCI Road World Championships later this month in Richmond, Virginia.
"We believe that anytime you can line up for a team time trial it’s good practice, and this one is really our last hit-out in that sense before Worlds," Svein Tuft told Cyclingnews. "Yes, we want to win the first stage of Alberta, but we really want to show how hard we’ve been working on team time trials."
The course will be flat and fast, but Tour of Alberta race organisers are only permitting bikes and equipment that are legal for UCI mass-start road races, which means no time trial bikes, clip-on aero handlebars or aero helmets.
Orica-GreenEdge’s roster looks to be the strongest on paper for the stage, with a team that includes Tuft, Luke Durbridge, Jens Mouris, Michael Hepburn, Sam Bewley and their sprinter Michael Matthews, along with GC rider Adam Yates and support rider Christian Meier.
Tuft agreed that they are well prepared for the event, considering the team has arrived fresh off of an eight-day team-time-trial-specific training camp in Girona, Spain. "The camp was meant as a touch-up to see where everyone was at. We wanted to refresh our memory on how hard team time trials can be," he said.
"We rode the course here and it’s pretty straightforward, not super technical. It’s windy out there with big, long highway drags and then when you come into the city, it has a short technical part. Coming from Europe to here, though, the roads are wide open, and it will be super fast."
Tuft reminded that Orica-GreenEdge have have lost their fair share of team time trials this year, even the ones that they went into as the odds-on favourites like Tour de Romandie (won by Team Sky) and at the Tour de France, where they place 22nd after losing some of their riders to crashes earlier in the race. They did, however, win the team time trial at the Giro d’Italia to put Simon Gerrans into the first leader’s jersey.
"We’ve had a lot of moments in the past where we’ve walked into a race too overconfident and have been whooped, and we’ve left shocked," Tuft said. "We never want to go into a race with that attitude anymore. It’s a bad attitude to always assume that you’re [the best]. Teams are getting better and better all the time, and they are taking it more seriously. We have some really solid competition."
With the exception of Matthews, Yates and Meier, who will go on to race the Grands Prix Cyclistes in Quebec and Montreal on September 11 and 13, the rest of the team; Tuft, Durbridge, Mouris, Hepburn and Bewley will travel directly south to Richmond and spend three weeks training on the team time trial course for Worlds.
Since the UCI introduced the team time trial for trade teams at the World Championships in 2012, Orica-GreenEdge have been on the podium three times: third in Valkenburg, second in Florence in 2013 and second again in Ponferrada last year.
"Trying to win the team time trial at Worlds means everything to me," Tuft said. "Our team time trial guys, except for Matthews, will be going straight down to train on the Worlds course. We’re all here, and there is no other place to go after Alberta, so we want to spend the time training for Worlds.
"We take it very seriously."
Tuft has been a key member of Orica-GreenEdge’s team time trial squad since joining their roster in 2012. He confirmed to Cyclingnews that he has signed on to compete with them for a fifth season in 2016.