After two gold medals in 2012 and 2013, Omega Pharma-Quick Step’s bronze medal in the World Championships team time trial was never going to be anything but disappointing. But if the team’s riders felt a little tempted to blame their defeat on changing weather conditions, they refused to do so.
Rain showers and gusting wind that kicked in after BMC Racing had finished did not make it easier for the last teams in the time trial, like Omega Pharma-QuickStep, Sky or Orica GreenEdge, to complete the course at their customary high speed. That was particularly true when it came to taking risks - or not - on the technical final descent and last series of roundabouts leading into Ponferrada.
But after two narrow victories in the 2012 and 2013 Worlds TTTs, Omega Pharma-QuickStep took their clear defeat by BMC Racing in the 2014 edition squarely on the chin all the same.
“The rain didn’t make it easier or any faster, particularly on the last descent,” multiple World TT champion Tony Martin told a press conference. “However, losing time in the finale shouldn’t be an excuse.”
“We have to look at what went wrong throughout the course, not at the end.”
“I think these three teams would be on the podium anyway,” his teammate and former World Champion Tom Boonen added, “but being an hour later changed a lot.”
“We went eight kilometres an hour slower on that last part of the climb compared to training, although in one last section of the hill, too, where it was protected from the wind, we could speed up again.”
“Then we lost a lot of time from [the] two kilometres to the finish [banner] to the final kilometre, because those last corners were really wet.”
Asked if OPQS had been warned of their time losses to BMC, Boonen said “not until seven kilometres to go, we knew we were behind. When we were coming into the final part, we could see the thunderstorm moving up on us.”
Both Martin and Boonen face more challenges in the Worlds, with Martin the standout favourite for Wednesday’s individual time trial.
“This is always a nice test for my condition, and I’m feeling ok, but I’m still not at 100 percent,” the German observed. “I will have to talk things over with my team to decide if I go a little bit harder or take things a little bit easier in the final days [before the time trial].”
Boonen, the last rider to win a World Championships on Spanish soil back in 2005 in Madrid’s Paseo de la Castellana, said of his chances, “these are two completely different kinds of races, a one hour effort is very different to six hours in the saddle next Sunday.”
“But I was feeling very strong, I was good in the final, and able to make a difference [to the team’s speed] going up the climb before we went back into the city. It’s looking good.”
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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