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Welcome to live coverage of the elite men's team time trial from the world championships in Valkenburg. 32 teams face off for the inaugural crown over an exacting 53.2km course between Sittard and Valkenburg.
Not surprisingly given the topography of Limburg, there's barely a metre of flat on the course today, but the three official climbs are the Laange Raarberg (1.3km at 4.5%), the Bergseweg (2.7km at 3.3%) and the Cauberg (1.2km at 5.8%).
With just six riders per team, the times are taken on the fourth rider to cross the finish line, and on a course as undulating as this, teams will have to dose their efforts accordingly to ensure they get the finish with the necessary four together.
The day's first starters are MTN-Qhubeka. The South African-squad have signalled their ambition for next season by announcing the signing of Gerald Ciolek, while yesterday in Valkenburg, it was confirmed that they will become Africa's first Pro Continental team in 2013.
Next up are Caja Rural, followed by Adria Mobil and CCC Polsat Polkowice. The teams are starting at four-minute intervals, an indication of the kind of time gaps anticipated over this demanding course.
The full list of start times is as follows:
13:42CCC Polsat Polkowice
13:50Team Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies
13:54Saur - Sojasun
14:10Team Type 1
14:14Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator
14:22Ag2r La Mondiale
14:26FDJ - BigMat
14:50Astana Pro Team
15:26BMC Racing Team
Itera-Katusha is the next team down the start ramp, one of three Russian Global Cycling Project teams in action this afternoon. The Pro Continental wing Rusvelo and WorldTour squad Katusha follow later. For good measure, the Rusvelo women's squad finished 5th in this morning's women's team time trial, where Specialized-lululemon emerged victorious.
Out on the course, three teams have made it through the first interdmediate time check (11km), where Caja Rural have set the quickest time to date of 14:58.
Plenty of support for Rabobank Continental as they get their effort underway, with a six-man squad featuring Rick Zabel.
Itera-Katusha have gone through the first time check with the quickest time, 25 seconds ahead of CCC Polsat and 28 faster than Caja Rural.
Meanwhile, at the second time check (21km), Caja Rural have the quickest time, 12 seconds quicker than MTN-Qhubeka.
Meanwhile, at the second time check (21km), Caja Rural have the quickest time, 5 seconds up on CCC Polsat and 7 seconds quicker than MTN-Qhubeka.
Meanwhile, at the second time check (21km), Caja Rural have the quickest time, 5 seconds up on Adria Mobil and 7 seconds quicker than MTN-Qhubeka.
CCC Polsat have the new quickest time at the 21km mark all of 19 seconds clear of Caja Rural, but the Itera-Katusha squad has got off to a flying start and is yet to reach this point.
Itera-Katusha duly romp through the second time check 25 seconds up on CCC Polsat. The Katusha WorldTour team has made big strides in team time trialling in 2012 and it seems as if investment in the discipline has trickled down through the ranks.
Back at the start house in Sittard, Euskaltel-Euskadi are the first WorldTour squad to begin their effort. The Basque team can hardly be described as a time trialling stronghold and the men in orange will not be expected to have made an impact on the leaderboard at day's end.
Sky are the last team off today, and while neither Bradley Wiggins nor Chris Froome are in action today, the British squad boast a solid line-up with Geraint Thomas, Ian Stannard, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Juan Antonio Flecha, Sergio Henao and Alex Dowsett. Speaking to Cyclingnews ahead of the race, race coach Rod Ellingworth said the timing of the event meant that it was something of a voyage into the unknown.
"In an ideal world we’d have looked to do a lot more training for this but I just think that in this season, with the Tour and the Olympics it’s been hard to get any real depth of training but I don’t see why they can’t pull out a decent ride. You just don’t know on this course because it’s so hard and it’s not like a normal team time trial course," he said.
"The lads are going to have to look after each other but we just want to make sure they get the best out of themselves and I’m sure well have four finish together. The key is that they look out for each other and pace themselves on the climbs so well. They go up climbs and then it plateaus so they need to get the pace right. I don’t think that there’ll be any team that doesn’t make a mistake."
Team Optum Presented By Kelly Benefit Systems have come through the second time check with the second quickest time, 18 seconds down on Itera-Katusha.
For their part, Itera-Katusha have scorched through the third time check with the quickest time, 25 seconds up on CCC Polsat. It's interesting to note that the gap between the two leaders has stayed more or less static since the opening time check after 11km.
MTN-Qhubeka were the day's first starters, and they've just reached the finish in a time of 1:06:55, which works out an average speed of just over 47.5kph over what is a very rolling and technical course.
Ag2r-La Mondiale have now gone through the first time check with the quickest time, 3 seconds up on Itera-Katusha. The French has brought a decent line-up, including Jean-Christophe Peraud and the Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank-bound Nicolas Roche.
Ag2r-La Mondiale have become more ragged over the next section of the course, however, and come through in 3rd place, 10 seconds down on new leaders Euskaltel-Euskadi. Powered by Gorka Verdugo and Romain Sicard, the Basque squad have taken advantage of the climb of Lange Raarberg to move ahead of Itera-Katusha at the second time check.
The next team to take the start is Lampre-ISD, and their line-up includes one Alessandro Petacchi. The man from La Spezia has been ineligible for selection for the Italian national team for the past two seasons due to his previous doping suspension, but Petacchi is free to ride for his trade team in the team time trial. Another man in a similar situation is Alessandro Ballan (BMC), who was not considered for selection for the squadra azzurra due to his implication in the Mantova doping investigation.
53.2km further along the road in Valkenburg, Itera-Katusha have reached the finish in a time of 1:06:27, the quickest of the 5 finishers to date.
While Itera-Katusha have the quickest time at the finish, their Russian Cycling Project colleagues at Rusvelo have come through the second time check with the quickest time to date, 12 seconds up on Euskaltel-Euskadi.
The new pace-setters at the first time check are now Liquigas-Cannondale, who arrived here aiming for at least a top 5 finish. The Italian team has Vincenzo Nibali and Peter Sagan in its ranks today, and they've gone through the first check in 14:07, all of 20 seconds clear of second-placed Ag2r.
Astana are the next team through that first check, and they are 10 seconds down on Liquigas. A strong Movistar sextet, featuring Vladimir Karpets, Vasil Kiryienka and Jonathan Castroviejo, is out on the course, with Katusha ready and waiting in the start house.
Katusha set off, led by Denis Menchov, with Vladmir Gusev, Eduard Vorganov, Gatis Smukulis, Aliaksandr Kuchynski and Maxim Belkov also on board.
A lot of expectation on the shoulders on the next starters, as home favourites Rabobank ready themselves. Luis Leon Sanchez, Robert Gesink, Lars Boom, Stef Clement, Rick Flens and the prodigious Wilco Kelderman make up the Rabobank team. Given its position on the calendar, motivation will be an important factor this afternoon, and Rabobank should not be lacking in this department.
Liquigas-Cannondale are continuing to set the pace out on the course. They've reached the 21km mark 30 seconds up on second-placed Rusvelo. All six of Liquigas's squad are still together and their pace-line is operating very smoothly indeed.
At the third check (38km), Euskaltel-Euskadi have set the best time, just ahead of Ag2r-La Mondiale.
The next starters are RadioShack-Nissan, who could do with a positive ending to a troubled season that has seen manager Johan Bruyneel charged with doping by the United States Anti-Doping Agency. In spite of that considerable shadow looming over the squad, they have been active in the transfer market, and this morning's L'Equipe reports that Danilo Hondo is in talks to join RadioShack-Nissan from Lampre-ISD next season.
The strong Russian showings look set to continue, with Rusvelo setting the quickest time at the 38km point.
Back at the second time check, Astana have reduced their deficit to Liquigas, and they've gone through the 21km point 5 seconds down.
Vacansoleil-DCM are a team worth watching out on the course. The Dutch squad started very steadily and were 4th at the first check, but they've just gone through 21km 3 seconds quicker than Liquigas.
Omega Pharma-QuickStep ready themselves in the start house. Patrick Lefevere's men are among the pre-race favourites, and they boast Tony Martin, Sylvain Chavanel, Tom Boonen, Niki Terpstra, Kristof Vandewalle and Peter Velits in their squad.
This has been a surprisingly solid showing from Euskaltel-Euskadi, and they look set to set the quickest time at the finish, all of 38 seconds ahead of Rusvelo.
Peter Velits sets the early tempo for Omega Pharma-QuickStep as they settle into formation.
To the delight of the home fans, Rabobank have set the new fastest time at the first check, 3 seconds ahead of Liquigas. Katusha are struggling, meanwhile, and pass the same point a sluggish 16 seconds down.
BMC have just started their effort, and on paper, they boast one of the strongest sextets in today's race - Tejay van Garderen, Taylor Phinney, Alessandro Ballan, Marco Pinotti, Manuel Quinziato and Philippe Gilbert.
At the finish line, Ag2r La Mondiale have set the new quickest time, 4 seconds up on Euskaltel-Euskadi, with an average speed of over 48kph.
Jonathan Castroviejo and Movistar have put in a fine ride so far, and they've hit the 21km point in second place, 4 seconds down on Vacansoleil-DCM.
The penultimate starters are Orica-GreenEdge. The Australian squad boasts a host of rouleurs and has also dedicated considerable time to preparing for this event. Luke Durbridge won the under-23 time trial at the Worlds in Copenhagen last year, and he'll be hoping to add another world title to his palmares here, accompanied by Svein Tuft, Jens Mouris, Cameron Meyer, Sebastian Langeveld and Sam Bewley.
Liquigas are the quickest to date at the 38km point, 51 seconds up on Rusvelo, but the Dutch squads Vacansoleil-DCM and Rabobank are continuing to rise to the challenge behind.
Third fastest time for Garmin-Sharp at the first check, 4 seconds down on Rabobank. They may be missing rouleurs such as David Millar, Christian Vande Velde and David Zabriskie, but the American squad has a strong time trialling tradition and they have started well here.
Sky are the day's final starters, and they roll down the ramp to begin their effort.
At the finish, the well-drilled Rusvelo squad have set the new quickest time, 12 seconds quicker than Ag2r.
Rabobank have enjoyed a wonderful opening 21km. With all six riders still in place, they've set the quickest time, 15 seconds clear of their Dutch rivals Vacansoleil-DCM.
Rabobank will face a stiff challenge from Omega Pharma-QuickStep - the two teams have recorded precisely the same time at the opening time check after 11.9km - 14:05.16. The climbing begins in earnest from that point on.
And then there were five - Wilco Kelderman has been dropped by Rabobank as they approach the midway point.
Vacansoleil-DCM have faded somewhat over the Bergseweg and they have slipped 14 seconds behind Liquigas-Cannondale at the 38km mark.
There looks set to be a spread of teams in contention for the medals this afternoon - BMC come through the first time check just 1.81 seconds behind Rabobank and Omega Pharma-QuickStep.
Orica-GreenEdge come through just 1.47 seconds down on Rabobank and Omega Pharma-QuickStep, although the real fluctuations seem to be coming between the 21 and 38km marks on the course.
Liquigas-Cannondale begin the climb of the Cauberg with all six of their men still together. This has been a solid effort from the Italian team, who are being led by Vincenzo Nibali up the cllimb.
Nibali's tempo has pulled four riders clear on the Cauberg, an interesting sign ahead of next Sunday's road race.
Omega Pharma-QuickStep were locked with Rabobank at the top of the leaderboard at the first check, but they've opened out a gap of 8 seconds between the 11 and 21km checkpoints. Tony Martin and company are motoring very well indeed.
Sky were the final team to reach the first time check, incidentally, and they came through in 8th place, 12 seconds down on Omega Pharma-QuickStep.
Liquigas-Cannondale set the quickest time at the finish line, 1:09 ahead of Rusvelo. A fine effort from the Italian squad, who averaged 49.9kph.
BMC hit the 21.6km time check in second place, 8 seconds down on Omega Pharma-QuickStep and level on time with Rabobank. It will be interesting to see if Orica-GreenEdge have kept pace since the first time check.
Rabobank tackle the Bergseweg, well aware that they need to keep in touch with Omega Pharma-QuickStep.
Omega Pharma still have all six of their riders and have scarcely missed a beat so far.
Omega Pharma still have all six of their riders and have scarcely missed a beat so far.
Rabobank have struggled on the approach to the 38.2km point. They have the quickest time, but only 3 seconds ahead of Liquigas, who were 9th and well down at the second time check.
Orica-GreenEdge hit the second time check 12 seconds down on Omega Pharma-QuickStep, but kilometres 21 to 38 seem to be offering plenty of scope for recouping lost ground, particularly thanks to the Bergseweg.
Plenty of encouragment for Vacansoleil-DCM at the finish line, but they've faded over the back end of the course, and they cross the line 43 seconds down on Liquigas in 3rd. To date, Liquigas have measured their effort over the 53.2km better than any other team, keeping all six riders together until the final push up the Cauberg.
Saxo Bank-Tinkoff reach the finish in 4th place, 43 seconds down on Liquigas.
5th quickest time for Garmin-Sharp at the 38km point, but they're narrowing the gap to Rabobank and are now 8 seconds behind.
Omega Pharma-QuickStep are powering up the Bergseweg with all six riders still present. They should still have the quickest time at the 38km check.
Omega Pharma-QuickStep hit the 38klm mark all of 44 seconds up on Rabobank. Boonen, Chavanel, Martin et al seem destined for gold, although BMC and Orica-GreenEdge may have coped better with the Bergseweg than Rabobank - we'll have to wait for them to pass the 38km mark for a better idea of where the medals are going.
Much was expected of Katusha this afternoon, but they will finish outside the medals today. They have the 3rd fastest time at the finish to date, 14 seconds behind Liquigas.
BMC have kept their six riders together as far as the 38.2km mark, but they have come through 8.79 seconds down on Omega Pharma-QuickStep.
Rabobank's challenge is falling apart on the Cauberg - they've ended up going each man for himself on the climb and they are in absolute disarrary as Stef Clement blew Boom, Gesink and Luis Leon Sanchez off his wheel.
Disappointment for Rabobank as they cross the finish line 3 seconds down in provisional second place, to the mirth of the Liquigas riders who are occupying the hotseats.
Third quickest time for Orica-GreenEdge at the 38.2km check, 28 seconds down on Omega Pharma-QuickStep.
RadioShack-Nissan hit the finish line 16 seconds down in provisional 5th place. As yet, no team has dosed its effort as well as Liquigas over the final 10 kilometres into Valkenburg.
Sky will not be in the shake-up for medals this afternoon, as they come through the 38.2km point 1:09 down in 12th place.
Omega Pharma-QuickStep reach the foot of the Cauberg with all six of their number in tow, and they seem to be maintaining a steady tempo up the climb.
Garmin-Sharp faded over the finale, and they come in 30 seconds down in provisional 6th place.
BMC also have all six of their riders together as they approach the Cauberg, as did Liquigas. It looks as though that will be the key to ensuring a place on the podium this afternoon.
Tom Boonen drives Omega Pharma-QuickStep across the line in a new quickest time of 1:03.17. They've come in 1:05 ahead of Liquigas, and only BMC can deny them gold now.
BMC were 8 seconds down after 38.2km - can they pull that back on the Cauberg?
Van Garderen, Gilbert and Ballan are the strongest on the Cauberg. Phinney is briefly distanced, but he gets back on.
Van Garderen had to slow on the climb to wait for his teammates, but they have four men up there as they cross the summit with 1.5km to go.
Ballan drives BMC towards the line, this is going to be very, very close...
BMC cross the line in second place, just 3 seconds down on Omega Pharma-QuickStep.
That moment of confusion on the Cauberg may well have proved costly to BMC, as they still managed to make up 5 seconds since the 38.2km mark.
Orica-GreenEdge have just four riders left as they tackle the Cauberg. 29 seconds down at the 38.2km mark, they're unlikely to challenge for gold or silver, but they are still in contention for bronze.
Durbridge, Meyer and Langeveld drive Orica-GreenEdge towards thte finish line, and they have done enough to take bronze, 47 seconds down on winners Omega Pharma-QuickStep.
Sky are still out on the course, but unless they pull out something very dramatic indeed over the Cauberg, it looks as though our podium places have been decided - gold for Omega Pharma-QuickStep, silver for BMC and bronze for Orica-GreenEdge.
Sky cross the line in 9th place, and Omega Pharma-QuickStep are officially world team time trial champions for 2012.
1Omega Pharma-QuickStep 1:03:17.17
2BMC Racing Team0:0:3.16
Thanks for joining us for our live coverage of the world team time trial championships. A full report, results and pictures will follow here, and stay tuned to Cyclingnews for all the action from Valkenburg throughout the week.