Time trial days at grand tours are long and tiring days for staff and riders alike. The clock is the enemy both on and off the bike; team staff can’t find enough hours in the day, yet the clock drags for the riders waiting seemingly an eternity for their start. Once the final buzzer goes and the racing starts riders are racing a clock that seems out of control as they push to reach the line before the clock turns red, hoping against hope the clock might slow down while they speed up.
If grand tour time trials are long days, the World Championships time trial is akin to Milan-San Remo. In a grand tour, the time trial chaos is crammed into one day, at the Worlds, that chaos gets stretched over two, three or four seemingly never-ending days. Those days before the race are long and boring at times, like the first 200km of MSR. Training and course recon rides, much like the Tre Capi (Capo Mele, Capo Cervo and Capo Berta) in the early finale of La Primavera, ensure anticipation and nerves are always building. Dare I say it, “building to a crescendo”.
Finally, race day hits. That crescendo doesn’t arrive on the Via Roma but perhaps instead on a TT start ramp. The clock beeps, an official counts their fingers, riders prepare to sprint up to speed off, while trying to maintain composure and “stick to the plan”, and then it’s time. Years of training, months of dreaming, days of waiting (mainly in a hotel room) all playing on the nerves and screaming “full power”, but wait, you’re only on the Cipressa yet. “Breath, get aero, settle in, start easy, don’t overcook it, stick to the pacing plan, one kilometre at a time”; the DS pushes all the cliches down the radio. Still, the crescendo builds!
While certainly an analogy stretch, the anticipation built over the days prior to the time trial worlds is like Milan-San Remo, at least right up until the top of the Poggio. When La Primavera swings left to start the descent, and we all slide right to the edge of our seats, eagerly anticipating the finish; will the break stick, who crested the Poggio in the lead pack, will everyone get down the descent? The time trial doesn’t take that left, it keeps climbing a Poggio with no summit. There’s no exciting descent or nail-biting sprint for the time triallists, just a seemingly never-ending solo climbing agony, finally culminating in an anticlimatic death by a few thousand pedal revolutions collapse across the line. Some crescendo that is, who would be a time triallist?
To sample all the anticipation and hope, I joined Team Ireland on a time trial recon the day ahead of this years UCI Elite Time Trial World Championships. The Irish team isn’t the biggest at these championships, but what it lacks in number, it makes up for in potential. Ireland has medal potential in both the U23 and elite men’s time trial with Ryan Mullan and Ben Healy. Joining these time trialling stars are former junior national champion Kevin McCambridge and time trialling specialist Marcus Christie.