Freewheeling takes three for three as our prediction was realised for the third day running! Team time trial World champions, Team BMC, swept to victory on the 20.9k course with a time of 23:11. Etixx-Quickstep were the second placed team, adrift by 6 seconds. Yesterday we also predicted that LottoNL-Jumbo would put in a strong performance; another prediction that was borne out by the team’s third place in the stage, stopping the clock at 23:34. Our third ‘one to watch’ from yesterday’s predictions was the Movistar team, who placed 4th overall.
The stage saw big changes to the GC, with Rohan Dennis reclaiming the top spot from yesterday’s stage winner, Peter Sagan. The Tinkoff rider drops down into 4th place, separated from Dennis by 27 seconds overall. Second place is awarded to Dennis’s team mate Taylor Phinney, by virtue of BMC’s commanding TTT performance. Etixx-Quickstep also put in an impressive time trial despite having lost Tom Boonen to a crash in the previous stage, which has catapulted Tony Martin up the standings into third place.
Now that the battle with the UCI over the World Championship TTT has been resolved, it appears that BMC have been thinking about those Qatari gold medals. “This shows why we’re the best in the world” exclaimed race leader Rohan Dennis shortly after his team crossed the finish line together and looking remarkably strong. “This was a very good test for Qatar”.
Etixx-Quickstep too had looked formidable – who knows what they would have been able to achieve with a full complement of riders?
With the UCI finally coming to an agreement with riders regarding the team time trial at the World Championships next month, the atmosphere around Stage 5 will be much less anxious and fraught. As we reported last week, WorldTour teams were threatening to boycott the World Championship TTT due to a dispute over the financial implications. The UCI has now agreed that the World Championship team time trial is not compulsory, therefore also removing WorldTour points from the competition.
Back to Eneco, and Friday’s stage begins in Sittard in the Netherlands before crossing into Germany and then swinging back round towards Sittard. The course is 20.9km, and comes immediately before the two big GC stages this weekend.
Sagan has talked of his pre-TTT feelings, noting “it’s important to ride a good team time trial, BMC are the World champions, but I’m sure Tinkoff can deliver a good performance”. Team BMC are the favourites as reigning champs, and have a very strong line-up for this discipline, including Van Avermaet, Rohan Dennis, Taylor Phinney and Daniel Oss.
Freewheeling prediction – It’s hard to see who could break BMC here, as their line-up is so strong. Movistar and LottoNL-Jumbo should go well, and I’m sure Tinkoff won’t want Sagan to lose too much time to Rohan Dennis. At 7 seconds behind Sagan, we predict more jersey swapping between these two…
Lotto-Soudal have announced that they will not be sending a team to compete in the team time trial (TTT) at next month’s World Championships in Doha, Qatar. The announcement follows August’s war of words between the governing body, the UCI and the Association International des Groupes Cyclistes Professionels, AIGCP, which looks after the interests of cycling teams worldwide.
The AIGCP released a statement last month threatening a boycott of the Doha TTT, after an ‘overwhelming majority’ of WorldTour teams voted not to participate. The dispute stems from the reintroduction of the team time trial at the World Championships in 2012, which the UCI included in the event to make the programme more appealing to fans and spectators. Whilst the individual time trial and road races are contested by national teams; financially assisted by home federations as an incentive to participate, the TTT is open only to commercial teams, and is not subject to the participation allowance which is available at all other top races.
The UCI dismissed the boycott threat, announcing that all WorldTour teams should be present. “We continue to expect excellent participation…the Road World Championships is a celebration for the whole cycling family…the UCI, a non-profit organisation, reinvests any surpluses in the development of the sport of cycling”.
The dispute with the UCI also includes issues with the expansion of the race calendar, which has seen the addition of 10 extra events, all in far-flung locations. The AIGCP has concerns over the financial pressures upon teams, given that sponsors will have already allocated budgets for future seasons, which may now be inadequate due to the expanded race schedule.
The debacle with the reduction of the WorldTour licences has also concerned the teams’ association, as has the two-year licence, previously three years, another outcome of the dispute with ASO (see Freewheeling article ‘WorldTour Woes’).
As with the licence reduction, these disputes all have the potential to negatively impact the future of the sport, as sponsors reassess their involvement with teams which will require much larger budgets in order to be competitive.