After missing out on a medal for the first time in the team time trial at last year's UCI Road World Championships, Orica-BikeExchange bounced back to claim bronze in the event in Qatar. Unlike several of their rivals, the team have not been able to put full focus into the event with two of their riders racing on the track at the Rio Olympic Games.
Despite a conservative start which left them in sixth place at the opening 13.6km check, they jumped into the final podium spot with a strong second-half ride, beating Team Sky by 17 seconds. Directeur sportif Matt White believes that had his team been able to prepare properly, they could have been closer to silver.
"Championships are about medals, and last year we didn't medal so it was good to get back up on the podium today," White told Cyclingnews. "I think, with our roster here, if everyone came in at 100 per cent or with proper preparation, then I think that we could have challenged them. With the guys that we've got, we're happy with third place."
Alex Edmondson and Michael Hepburn spent most of the middle part of this season working on their team pursuit performance for Rio, where they won silver behind Great Britain. They've had less than two months to turn things around, and White admits that he was having doubts about what they could do as recently as Friday. The two, however, managed to hold the pace of the other four until the final 10 kilometres when they were finally dropped.
"The preparation that they did for Rio certainly didn't complement it. They did some quite different training this year, they did a lot of work on the gym and didn't do much on the road for nine or ten weeks. So it has been a very hard adaptation period from the Tour of Britain to now," White explained.
"Even a couple of days ago, when we last did some proper training, we had a few questions there were still some questions over their heads. Alex went to eight kilometres to go and Heppy went to five kilometres to go. Heppy really stepped up today."
The temperatures were a bit of a talking point after several women's teams suffered badly in the heat. However, the men avoided the worst of it, with the first riders heading down the start ramp at 15:20 local time. Orica-BikeExchange started their effort almost half an hour later, and by the time they reached the finish line the sun was already beginning its descent in the sky.
White said that for a short effort of less than an hour, the heat and humidity was manageable, but it will be different at the end of next week in the road races. "It's got a lot more humid as the sun has gone down. I think that it’s going to be a challenge for the road races," he said.
"For that sort of effort, it's easily managed if you do the right protocol. These temperatures are not so different to the Tour Down Under, the difference is that this is an hour's effort so it's fine. 260 kilometres is going to be a different story, whereas Down Under stages are only 130 or 140. It's going to be interesting."
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