What do we count as the biggest sporting day in Australia? Is it the AFL grand final? Maybe the NRL grand final? What about Melbourne Cup?
How fair is it to have a Team Time Trial in a cycling tour? How much control does the top rider of each team actually have in managing his team to be specialist in the TTT? Should TTT time gaps be real or nominal?
The Tour of Toowoomba, one of Australia’s most prestigious National Road Series races, held a 27km Team Time Trial last week, around the beautifully rolling wheat fields of Toowoomba, and it was awesome.
It was the pure challenge to every team, there were no more pretenders after that race, every team was ranked, ordered, put in place.
The hierarchy of strength was established and it was fantastically refreshing.
In the Tour of Toowoomba, the TTT shook the GC so vigorously that the Huon-Salmon-Genesys team ended up taking the top four spots overall. No kidding, first through fourth.
Good on them though, because they are a mean beast of a squad, with several riders capable of winning uphill or in an Individual Time Trial.
But the domination of their team certainly led to an inability for riders of other teams to potentially battle for the overall top spot, namely the Charter-Mason climber Matt Clark, who lay second prior to the teams event.
Cycling has always been a team sport though, even the first Tour de France riders were associated with various sponsors, and teammates would work together when racing (usually).
Resources are pooled, and in using the same masseuse, spare wheels, service vehicle, and bike mechanics, sponsors get more bang for their buck.
Cycling, even with one winner, therefore has an innate ‘team’ heritage.
I am curious though, of whether this justifies one rider being either benefitted or in detriment from his team’s capability. Enter politics.
The addition of a Team Time Trial all of a sudden changes the required ‘composition’ of a rider who can win the race, not just physically strongest, but organised and in control of their team.
Politically speaking, this is where (the late) Lance Armstrong strung his finest cords.
He was a man in control of his team, and consistently he controlled the fact the team had the latest time trial technology, his riders had the latest aerodynamic positions, and his men were all physically up for a true TTT smash-fest.
LA wrangled his team – through political measures – into a TTT powerhouse.
Not all teams can do this though. For example, no matter how badly Samuel Sanchez wanted it, he wouldn’t be able to convince his Euskatel-Euskadi managerial board to oust all their little-Spanish climbers for a tightly, time trial-honed unit.
That wouldn’t please sponsors or the Basque government, and that’s really all that matters. Maybe the team just can’t afford the required riders.
Commercially speaking though, TTT stages are massively beneficial as well. All the fruit bares itself.
The latest in carbon-fiber technology, the forefront in aerodynamic theories, relentlessly shaving a few seconds off the item’s annual predecessor. This stud is great for business through your average weekend warrior.
It’s no strike of a genius to realise our sport flourishes on the commercial viability of the products we endorse, and sleek, carbon, latest-tech paraphernalia sells well.
So TTT’s sell. They’re also a beautifully pure expose of team strength, put on show for all to see, which is awesome to watch.
Is the event inclusion too ‘politically magnetic’ though? Is it just a matter of the general classification rider making sure he has a team with him who is drilled for the TTT, or do sponsors, dollars, or ulterior motives play too big of a role in rider selection?
I think so, but as my good friend Jono Lovelock often says “life isn’t fair, get over it!”
Follow Adam on Twitter @adamsemple