The team time trial is the embodiment of team work in cycling on the road. You start with six riders (sometimes more, sometimes less), you ride together as a single unit as fast as you can over a given distance and try to finish with at least three as your final time is taken when the third rider crosses the line. If you use up and spit out riders on the team too soon they risk not making time cut as they get their real time – not that of the team. But if you hold back too long you risk losing out in an event that can be decided by tenths of a second. You are only as strong as your weakest link but often you can be undone by the strongest riders if they don’t know how to best use their strength for the overall effort of the team.
You have to have a plan going into a team time trial – what order will the riders be in, how long will each rider’s pull be, what kind of rotation will you use, at what point can you cut bait with riders who cannot maintain the pace to ensure that they will make the time cut. You have to communicate. Communicate that everyone is still attached after a pull or around a corner or over a climb. Communicate “up”, “down”, “steady”. And, communicate if and when you lose a rider.
All of these things can make or break a team. Then on top of all of these things you have to understand that smooth and steady is fast. When you are right on that edge any sudden acceleration can be the one that breaks the chain and then everything is lost.
This was the task for the boys of LUX Cycling in Aubel-Thimister-Stavelot, a UCI 2.1 that the team raced in a few weeks ago. They passed with flying colors. They had the fastest time all the way up until the last two teams crossed the line and eventually finished third. I was very psyched at the result because it was one of the first times that I had witnessed them really start to come together as a team and work as a single unit and it marked a distinct turning point in our trip over here.