No revolution expected but an unknown for all: the new format of the team time trial on Tuesday in Paris-Nice arouses curiosity even if the riders believe for the most part that it will not upset the situation in terms of the stopwatch .
After thirty years of absence, this very particular and somewhat neglected exercise of cycling is back on the “race to the sun” with a time of 32.2 kilometers in Dampierre-en-Burly, in the Loiret. And to celebrate, the organizers went to flush out a little novelty after having gone through the rules of the International Cycling Union (UCI) and found that the thing was possible.
“Usually on a team time trial we take the time on the fourth or fifth rider to cross the line. Now it will be on the first, a bit like in Olympic speed on the track. It has never happened yet. So we’ll see what the teams will adopt as a tactic,” race director François Lemarchand told AFP.
The case actually changes things quite a bit. While the traditional rules oblige the teams to arrive grouped, it becomes possible to let the strongest or even a single man cross the line alone to freeze the time of the team.
– “All flat course” –
Knowing all the same that the real time will prevail for all the late riders, including the leaders. It is therefore out of the question, for example, for the Jumbo-Visma to let Tobias Foss, reigning world champion in the time trial, put the turbo on without having his leader Jonas Vingegaard, who plays the general classification, on the luggage rack.
But, explains François Lemarchand, “we can very well imagine that one kilometer from the finish, there are only two left and that a team member launches his leader who finishes in the sprint”.
So much for the theory. In practice, the runners believe that in the end it should not change that much.
“I don’t think it will make a big difference, on this type of course, all flat, it is better to be with several people” assures the Dane Tobias Foss to AFP.
Another great chrono specialist, the Swiss Stefan Kung (Groupama-FDJ) agrees. “If there was a bump at the end, we would certainly have saved David (Gaudu, its leader) so that he could finish very strong. But given the course, it won’t change much,” he said.
“I think we will see teams very grouped up to 2/3 km from the finish and then everyone will do a last tough stint”, adds the Swiss, vice-world champion in the specialty.
– “More spectacular” –
“You always go much faster with three or four. Anyway, with the level that the teammates have today, apart from a Kung or a Ganna who could perhaps finish alone over 500 meters, I don’t see “, analyzes Pascal Lino, former wearer of the yellow jersey and French team time trial champion in 1988.
According to Benjamin Thomas (Cofidis), French time trial champion in 2019 and 2021, “we will have to stay on a classic pattern until the last three, four kilometers”.
And even in the final “you shouldn’t get lonely too quickly with this arrival on a false flat descending into the bowl then the false flat rising at the end”. He is convinced: “the general classification will not be reshaped. It will be more spectacular on the other hand.”
And who will benefit from this new look chrono? The overpowering Jumbo-Visma which, in addition to Vingegaard and Foss, also has Rohan Dennis, double time trial world champion, in its ranks, will start as favorites against Tadej Pogacar’s Team UAE in particular who, to make matters worse, recorded a delay in the delivery of its equipment in the off-season.
The Belgian Tim Wellens, lieutenant of “Pogi” does not say he is worried. “Tadej is strong and that’s the most important thing. In the worst case he will lose a few seconds and he is strong enough to recover them later in the week. We hope not to waste time. In fact we even want win,” he insists.