All for One and One for All

On riding a Grand Tour team time trial

By Graham Jones CyclingRevealed Historian

The TTT is probably the hardest of all events. A fluid but very rapid 'pace line' is central to success. For the riders it will be an exhilarating experience, an agonizing torture or a totally frustrating exercise. If you are strong and can be as good as (or better than) your teammates then it will be exhilarating. If you are one of the weaker 'links in the chain' it can be sheer torture. If you feel that other riders are slowing the team's pace it can be extremely frustrating. However it makes no sense for the best riders to rip the legs off of the others or alternatively for the whole team to wait for one really weak rider. In the same way that 'all star' teams often fail in other sports, cycling's team time trial is an art of itself and a team of champions will not necessarily win. It takes extreme concentration and group discipline where the pace line is tight, the tempo fluid and without sudden accelerations. Having given your all on the front, a smooth transition to the next rider will allow you to slip back into the slipstream and recuperate for your next turn. Everyone should be aware of the wind direction and road obstacles. Common to every single rider is the pressure to perform because obviously if you do not (or cannot) pull your weight then you are affecting the whole team. In a Grand Tour each team starts with nine riders. The finish time for the team is dictated by the fifth rider over the line. Everybody in the first five cluster has that time added to their GC tally. Any that are dropped have their own time count for the GC. Consequently for the top GC contenders a poor TTT result could produce serious consequences to their GC aspirations. Most teams prefer to finish 'en bloc'. However some may choose to 'sacrifice' some riders and use them as early pace makers much in the way that the sprinters are set up for their final burst. In the 2001 TdF the USPS team crashed on wet roads and immediately Armstrong/Bruyneel decided that the team should wait for the two downed riders, one of whom was the all important Roberto Heras. This was a brave decision at the time but such was the team harmony that they were soon back into their high pace and finished as a complete team and with a high place. All for one, and one for all.