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Road World Championships: first titles for Omega Pharma - Quick- Step and Specialized Lululemon




Whilst Specialized-Lulumon’s margin over second-placed Rabo Women Cycling’s team was a convincing 71 seconds,  in the men's category Omega Pharma - Quick-Step’s victory could hardly have been narrower this time round, with just 0.81 seconds separating the Belgian squad from runner-up Orica-GreenEdge. Over such a long distance, 57 kilometers, only the tiniest of margins finally decided which men's squad  would fill each of the two top spots.

If the men's course was a cliff-hanger right up to the last metre, Specialized-Lululemon on the other hand, were constantly on top of the provisional leaders’ board on the 47.2 kilometre, flat, largely untechnical course between Pistoia and Firenze, fulfilling their role as one of the main pre-race favourites to perfection.

Of the 12 teams that took part, Specialized -  Lululemon were one of the few that managed to keep all six riders through to the finish - Lisa Brennauer, Katie Colclough, Carmen Small-Mcnellis, Evelyn Stevens, Ellen Van Dijk and Trixi Worrack - as a single unit.  That cohesiveness,  and an impressive average speed of over 50 kmh,  very probably unprecedented in women’s team time trialling,  were two factors which helped them net  their second gold in as many years.

"Now we have a double rainbow," Evelyn Stevens, part of the 2012 winning team as well, said afterwards, “it was a huge objective for the team and a great way to end the  season.”

“For sure we were feeling nervous coming into the race, because when you’re the ones who are supposed to win, you feel that pressure.

This was a huge objective for the team. It's a great way to end the season. We were nervous coming into the race because when you're the one who is supposed to win, you feel the pressure."

“We knew that the other teams were working on it hard, and at [the World Cup team time trial in] Sweden we saw specially that Orica - [AIS] and Rabo were pretty close,” added Ellen Van Dijk. “We knew that we had to work harder and harder but I think we did it very well.”

If Specialized-Lululemon’s second straight victory was by a clear advantage, the men’s team time trial was a much more hotly disputed affair as Omega Pharma - Quick-Step were forced to pull out all the stops to defend their title.

Like the women’s event, the 57.2 kilometre course between Montecatini Terme and Firenze lent itself to ultra-fast times, with the very warm late summer temperatures making for an even more gruelling race.

At kilometre seven, the first intermediate checkpoint Omega Pharma- Quick Step seemed likely to be up to the task, with a 12 second advantage over Orica-GreenEdge and BMC Racing Team, whilst Sky ProCycling, ultimately their other main challenger, trailing by 24 seconds.

However as Sky gradually upped the pace to move from a provisional fourth spot into the fight for the podium places, Orica-GreenEdge also managed to squeeze the Belgian squad’s advantage. World Individual Time Trial Champion Tony Martin and four more of his team- mates in the six man squad had been present in the same line-up when Omega
Pharma triumphed at Valkenberg last year: would they be able to resist the pressure?

At the 42 kilometre mark, it was not looking so good for the defending champions, as Orica-GreenEdge gained a 1.45 second advantage. As the pressure steadily mounted both teams had shed a rider, and both would shed one more before the finish in central Firenze, but it was all but impossible to decide which side would finally net gold.

Omega Pharma - Quick-Step were the last team to finish, and the looks of joy as they shot across the lines and turned their heads to look at the finishing board times - and corresponding groans of disappointment from the Orica-GreenEdge riders - confirmed that the Belgian team had just managed to retain their title. By less than a second, perhaps, but enough to ensure they had taken gold again.

“It’s hard to see when you have to pull time back like we did there but Tom Steels [sports director] boosted our morale via the radio,” Martin recognised. “We took some risks in the last ten kilometres, but we knew it was either win or crack. It’s great to see that we won.”

“The time gaps were like a wake-up call in the finale, we were probably a little too slow at first so we tried to up the speed. It hurt, but it has to hurt a lot. We did that, we held our speed and we won.”

Racing now continues with the women’s junior  and men’s U-23 individual time trials on Monday.


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