Ötztal – Area 47 to Innsbruck – 62.8 km
From the start at the Area 47 outdoor adventure center in Ötztal, the first 40 km of this course are very fast in always slightly downhill terrain in the Inn Valley. This part is all about big gears and high speed. A crash or a mechanical problem to a key rider here will most likely be fatal for any team with podium ambitions today. Riding at such a high pace, a team will simply lose too much time if they have to wait for a rider to get back on.
After passing through the town of Zirl, the route takes the teams across the River Inn. Soon after, they start on the main struggle of the day; a 4.6 km long climb from Kematen to Axams. The average gradient is 5.7 % but there are parts of up to 13 % during the first kilometers of the ascent. After 45 minutes of high speed, this sudden change of pace will put the homogeneity of the teams to a real test. The right pacing strategy will be crucial.
From the top of the climb, it takes a few kilometers before the actual descent begins in Götzens. After a very fast downhill section, the last 10 km are flat as the riders head towards the finishing line in Innsbruck. The course here is fairly uncomplicated with just a few tricky corners and some long straight-out sections to keep the pace high. It will be very important not to dig too deep on the climb in order to have something left in the legs for this final flat part.
This year is the last time the trade teams will fight for glory against the clock. Whoever wins this team time trial will have the bragging rights for quite some time.
Many consider BMC as the top team time trial team in the world and it’s not without good reason. They have some of the best individual time trialists on their roster and the team has won numerous TTTs over the years. However, after winning in 2014 and 2015, BMC hasn’t been on the top spot of the podium at the World Championships since. This year, they will be extremely eager to change that fact. Especially since this is the last year the team will exist in its current form. In 2019, the merger with CCC and the fact that BMC is leaving as bike sponsor will make it a completely different team. This is their last chance to put all their big powerhouses and time trial specialists to good use and show the world that they still have what it takes to become world champion against the clock. It would also be a beautiful last victory in the memory of the late team owner Andy Rihs. With the likes of Rohan Dennis, Tejay Van Garderen and Stefan Küng, BMC will be very hard to beat this Sunday.
One of their main rivals is Team Sunweb. Having won the title last year, everybody is curious to see if the team can back up its impressive performance from Bergen with another set of medals this time. On paper, they should be able to get in the mix once again. As reigning world champion in the individual time trial, Tom Dumoulin will be the main engine but he’s far from the only strong time trialist on the team. Individually, all six Sunweb riders are both strong on the flat and highly capable on the climbs as well. Even on steep gradients. The team only placed fifth in the TTT in Tour de France this year. However, on this course, they could very well be on the podium at the end of the day.
The same can be said for Quick-Step and Team Sky. Both teams look very strong this year. Quick-Step has already won the title three times within the last six years and they are never to be taken lightly in this discipline. None of their six riders may look likely to make podium in the individual time trial but together, it’s an extremely strong group. They will be able to keep a high pace on the flat part and with Bob Jungels and Max Schachmann, they shouldn’t lose too much time on the climb.
Team Sky has couple of outsiders for the podium in the ITT on Wednesday (and for the road race next Sunday) and usually, they perform very well in this discipline. With riders like the former world champion Vasil Kiryienka and Jonathan Castroviejo for the flat part and Michal Kwiatkowski and a flying Gianni Moscon to set the pace on the climb, the team is a serious candidate not only for the podium but also for the win.
Apart from the four teams already mentioned, it seems unlikely that any other team will be able to make podium in this race. However, given their TTT track-record, Mitchelton-Scott is a dangerous team to underestimate as they almost always perform well against the clock. The team is fresh off one of their biggest achievements ever with Simon Yates winning Vuelta a España earlier this month. The atmosphere must be exhilarating and this might give them an extra edge. Still, without any strong climbers on the team, it will be hard for them to match the rest of the competition on the challenging ascent. They might set a good time prior to the climb, but from there on, it will be difficult to keep up. A repeat of last year’s fifth place seems like the most probable scenario.
One team that could surprise today is Katusha-Alpecin. They aren’t known for doing well in the TTTs but individually, they have two former world champions in Tony Martin and Mads Würtz-Schmidt. Add to that the likes of Alex Dowsett and Nils Politt and you’ll start to see just how strong the team really is for this race. Recently, in Tour of Britain, they beat both BMC and Team Sky in the TTT. It will be a tall order to do that again on this long and difficult course in Innsbruck but if any team is to make a surprise podium performance today, it may be Katusha-Alpecin.
For live coverage of the World Championships 2018 in Innsbruck go to steephill.tv.
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