BMC Racing rode to victory in the men’s team time trial at the World Championships in Spain on Sunday. The American team beat Orica-GreenEdge into second place by 31 seconds with the two-time defending champions Omega Pharma-QuickStep in third at 35 seconds behind.
Team Sky started strongly but faded in the second half of the race and were forced to settle for fourth place.
The six teams running from second to seventh all finished within 30 seconds of each other - indicating just how decisively BMC’s 31-second margin placed the American squad head and shoulders above the rest of the 28 teams taking part.
This gap was all the more remarkable given that the last two years, the World’s team time trial’s gold and silver have been decided by only a handful of seconds - three seconds in 2012, when BMC finished with silver behind Omega Pharma-QuickStep, and less than one second in 2013, between the Belgian outfit and Orica-GreenEdege.
“It feels incredible. The team was confident but nervous coming into this,” BMC's Tejay van Garderen said afterwards.
“A couple of years ago we were a few seconds off the win and we had that in the back of our minds. We knew we had a strong team and that everything had to just fall into place. We just stayed calm and did our thing.”
What was the key to BMC’s success? Pacing was certainly critical on a complicated 57-kilometre course with a fast first half mostly on wider, two-lane highways and then a much more technical second part that included a longer climb, a tricky descent into Ponferrada and a number of roundabouts. Just to add to the complications, rain showers set in later on and made some teams more cautious.
Orica-GreenEdge was perhaps one of them, given the Australians steadily squeezed the gap on the fastest team from 24 seconds at the first checkpoint to eight seconds by the third, but then dropped to 31 seconds behind BMC by the finish.
The American squad, on the other hand, timed their effort perfectly, maintaining themselves near at the top of the intermediate time splits table throughout.
Less than a second behind pace-setters Omega Pharma-QuickStep at checkpoint number one, BMC Racing then dropped to eight seconds behind the Belgians at the second checkpoint. From that point onwards, BMC remorselessly opened the throttle, climbing back to the top of the leaderboard with an 11-second advantage on Team Sky at the third checkpoint.
In the final and most technical part, BMC Racing were un-matchable. It is possible that the windier, slightly rainy conditions that picked up in some segments of the race did their rivals no favors, as they all finished later than the American squad. Victory by such a large margin makes their superiority difficult to dispute.
Whilst the Ukrainian Kolss Cycling team, fifth off, set an early time to beat with 1:08:27, Spain’s Pro Continental squad Caja Rural, greeted with big cheers at the finish, then became the first team to clock under 68 minutes with 1:07:59. That fastest time in turn was quickly chopped down to 1:07:06 by CCC Polsat but Rusvelo sliced another big chunk off the leader board's top mark, with 1:06:14.
The first WorldTour team to set the fastest pace throughout the intermediate checkpoints, Cannondale, comfortably smashed the Russian team’s time, with 1:04:58. However, BMC’s ability to take 27 seconds off Cannondale’s time at the 23.6-kilometre checkpoint made it clear there were still some major improvements to come.
Trek lagged behind Cannondale but then gained a faster time by seven seconds at the third checkpoint, 48.9 kilometres into the course.
Adding on the power in the second half of the course seemed to be the strategy, with Cancellara pounding through the final corner and the American squad ousting Cannondale from the pole position by 27 seconds.
However, the look of agony on the faces of BMC’s Vuelta 2010 podium finisher Peter Velits and teammate Manuel Quinziato as they crossed the line quickly turned to delight when they found out that they were over a minute ahead of Trek.
Whilst local favourites Movistar faded, the battle to challenge BMC came down to a three-way struggle between Orica-GreenEdge, Omega Pharma and Team Sky, with less than a second between the three at the final checkpoint, nine kilometres before the finish.
“It was a boxing match,” said Orica-GreenEdge’s Svein Tuft.
None of the three, however, were capable to eating into BMC’s eleven-second advantage. Team Sky was guided in to fourth by powerhouses Bradley Wiggins and Vasil Kiryenka, but both Orica-GreenEdge and Omega Pharma, the last two teams to finish, then overhauled the British outfit to make it onto the podium.
The hugs and smiles in the winner’s pavilion after the final teams crossed the line made it clear that BMC Racing had remained way out of reach, and that they had won the World title.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||BMC Racing Team||1:03:29.85|
|3||Omega Pharma-QuickStep Cycling||0:00:35.22|
|7||Trek Factory Racing||0:01:01.47|
|12||Astana Pro Team||0:02:12.38|
|14||Belkin Pro Cycling Team||0:02:28.16|
|18||CCC Polsat Polkowice||0:03:36.90|
|23||Caja Rural-Seguros RGA||0:04:29.70|
|24||Kolss Cycling Team||0:04:57.99|
|26||Rabobank Development Team||0:06:01.11|