There were two conflicting schools of thought as to what constituted the best preparation for the men’s time trial at the road world championships in Valkenburg, but the final result vindicated those who felt that lining up in the team time trial three days beforehand was the right approach.
While eventual winner Tony Martin (Germany) was always keen to ride for Omega Pharma-QuickStep in the team event, his technical advisor Rolf Aldag admitted that he had himself initially doubted the wisdom of tackling the team time trial Worlds so soon before he put his individual rainbow jersey on the line.
“I think it was a help, as it was great to do that effort beforehand,” Aldag told Cyclingnews. As well as offering Martin an opportunity to reconnoitre the Cauberg and the demanding finale of the time trial course at race pace, Aldag said that there was physiological reasoning behind racing on the Sunday.
“At first, us guys who were not too familiar with training were like, ‘ah, is that smart to do such a hard ride?’ but the trainer [Koen Pelgrim – ed.] said that it was the best thing to do. You have to do a hard effort in those days beforehand anyway, so he felt he should absolutely do it. That way, Tony learnt about the course and had his effort, plus when you do it in a team time trial, it’s not as hard as in an individual time trial.”
With Omega Pharma-QuickStep’s victory in the team event, Martin has now won two world titles in the space of four days, while Taylor Phinney (BMC and USA) comes away with two silver medals. Bronze medallist Vasil Kiryienka (Belarus and Movistar) also lined up on Sunday, as did BMC’s Tejay van Garderen, who finished fourth in the individual event.
By contrast, Alberto Contador (Spain) and Fredrik Kessiakoff (Sweden) – who performed strongly in the Vuelta a España time trial but opted to skip the Worlds team time trial to complete their preparation for the individual event – each fell short in Valkenburg.
“Tony’s really a team player and he always wanted to do the team time trial,” Aldag said. “There was never a chance that he would miss it for his own chances. Not in a million years would he do that. He would probably do it the other way around and risk his own success for the team’s success. If it needed an extra pull, then he’d do that extra pull.”
After crash-blighted opening half of the season, Martin recovered to take silver in the Olympic Games time trial in London in August, but Aldag believed that it was important for him to end his campaign on a high note in order to assuage lingering doubts as he faces into the winter.
“It was very important for him to have a really good end to the season,” Aldag said. “He had so many ups and downs over the year, but nobody cares afterwards about crashes and injuries afterwards – you just win or lose.
“It would have been difficult for him to get through the winter if he hadn’t won. I mean, second in the Olympics was brilliant, no question, he really won silver, but it was still silver and not gold, and there was a reason for that. So I think for him it was really important to say that he had defended his title here.”
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Barry Ryan is European Editor at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation (opens in new tab), published by Gill Books.