Omega Pharma-Quickstep once again proved its superiority in the team time trial, winning the UCI road world championship event in Florence, Italy on Sunday. Tony Martin, Niki Terpstra, Sylvain Chavanel and Peter Velits had to sprint to the line to take the win by a fingernail-thin margin of just 0.81 seconds over Orica-GreenEdge, finishing off the work of Kristof Vandewalle and Michal Kwiatkowski earlier in the race.
The surprise of the day was that last year's runners up, BMC, were unable to challenge the Belgian squad, being surpassed by Team Sky for the final podium spot.
Orica-GreenEdge came from being 14 seconds behind at check 2 to pass the third intermediate check with an almost two second advantage on Omega Pharma, but on the more technical run-in through the streets of Florence, Omega Pharma-Quickstep made up that ground and enough more to take their narrow victory.
It was a flashback to the Tour de France TTT stage, where Omega Pharma was on the losing end of a 0.8s gap to Orica, and directeur sportif Tom Steels was happy to have his team come out on top this time.
"If you go [out] with a good lead and then you go back, and you have to gain four to six seconds back again, you know it will be very close. It was a team of six quite exceptional riders to bring it back after such a long team time trial. I think we will not see that often again.
"I think that Niki, Tony, Chava and Peter gave it all, and Kristof and Michal did what they had to do before. They won the last 5km on character more than physics. After the Tour where we lost it, and now we win it again, it's a nice feeling. This was a good experience that we will take with us for the rest of our lives."
It was a heartbreaking defeat for the Tour de France team time trial stage winners, but directeur sportif Matt White was philosophical, saying that no one thing made the difference on the day, and that both teams probably could have made some changes in their ride.
"It just shows the depth of the two teams, that they were less than one second apart in the Tour and less than one second apart here," White said.
South African Daryl Impey, who became the first rider from his country to wear the Tour's yellow jersey in part as a result of his team's TTT stage win, was proud of his teammates.
"We're disappointed not to win considering how hard we rode. Everyone gave it their best shot. Of course we'd like it to swing the other way, but we're proud of how we raced. That's sport, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. We've shown we have improved on last year and we have many years to come."
Sky's team captain and Tour champion Chris Froome was happy to begin his world championship week by stepping onto yet another podium.
"Our objective was to be there or thereabouts. The win was always going to be hard today but we said we'd be happy with a place on the podium. Being 20 seconds off the winning time, we can be happy with that. We did a sold ride."
How it unfolded
The 35 teams that comprised the TTT start list set off from Montecatini Terme under a brilliant blue sky with summer-like temperatures. Although they faced a steady headwind, the Rabobank Development Team set the fastest time of the Continental and Pro Continental teams, and were in the hot seat with a time of 1:08:45 ahead of Adria Mobil, CCC Polsat Polkowice and Topsport Vlaanderen when the first WorldTour teams hit the line.
Vacansoleil were the first of the WorldTour teams to come through 50 seconds ahead of the young Dutch riders, but they were soon eclipsed by a surprisingly strong Lotto Belisol squad.
Cannondale were behind them, setting quick times at the checks all the way. They were eventually narrowly surpassed by Astana, who was then overtaken by a resurgent RadioShack-Leopard, but once the sharks jumped in the water, all of those teams would be swept away from the leader board.
Sky set off on a quick pace, but were challenged along the way by BMC and Orica-GreenEdge, all of whom rode a similar pace in the early kilometers. However, Omega Pharma-Quickstep were on track for a repeat victory from the get-go, coming in 12 seconds ahead at the first check, 14 seconds ahead on the second.
At the third check, however, Orica-GreenEdge surged ahead, sacrificing a rider to move into the lead, just under two seconds on Omega Pharma.
BMC was down to five as well when they approached the third check, but could not make up ground and were off the podium behind Sky. The British team powered on to the finish as the new best time, nearly a minute quicker than RadioShack, with three teams left to come.
The suspense was thick as the crowds awaited the final two teams, with the GPS tracker showing the Omega Pharma and Orica teams constantly swapping places. Only the timing at the finish line could decide their fate: Orica came in with a time of 1:04:17, knocking Sky out of the hot seat.
As the Australian team watched from the hot seat, on the edges of their seats, Omega Pharma-Quickstep was like Schrödinger's cat - would they win? Would they lose? It seemed one could not watch without affecting the outcome.
They sprinted to the line, mouths agape and side by side, the wheel of the fourth man was a narrow 0.81 seconds quicker than that of Orica-GreenEdge.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Omega Pharma Quick Step||1:04:16.81|
|4||BMC Racing Team||0:01:02.71|
|6||Astana Pro Team||0:01:21.14|
|7||Cannondale Pro Cycling||0:01:28.74|
|12||Belkin Pro Cycling||0:02:59.01|
|16||Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling||0:03:38.44|
|19||Rabobank Development Team||0:04:28.79|
|21||CCC Polsat Polkowice||0:04:40.49|
|22||Topsport Vlaanderen Balois||0:04:54.80|
|23||Optum P/B Kelly Benefit Strategies||0:05:09.48|
|24||AG2R La Mondiale||0:05:18.92|
|27||Team Cult Energy||0:05:27.50|
|28||Kolss Cycling Team||0:05:27.99|
|29||Vini Fantini - Selle Italia||0:05:28.99|
|30||Cyclingteam De Rijke - Shank||0:05:42.36|
|31||BDC - Marcpol Team||0:06:07.57|
|32||Team Gourmetfein Simplon||0:07:13.42|
|34||Cyclingteam Jo Piels||0:08:34.65|
|35||Velo Club Sovac||0:11:51.68|