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Highs and lows of the Tour de France team time trial

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Life is very rarely linear – apart for those riding in a team time trial. Here – from Rouleur’s 21 stages, 21 stories series – are some of the most memorable performances from Tour de France team time trial history

Photographs: Offside/l'Equipe
Faema Team time trial

Faema – stage 1b, 1969

 

Expectations were high when a 24-year-old Eddy Merckx made his Tour debut, but few can have imagined how utterly dominant the Belgian would be from the off – six individual stage wins, victory in the points, climbing and combination competitions, and the Super Combativité prize to boot.

 

He also claimed the maillot jaune with this team time trial effort on the second day, relinquished the jersey for the next four stages, then wore it all the way to Paris. The Cannibal was born.

 

 

Fiat – stage 7b, 1977

Fiat team time trial

Merckx was past his prime by ’77. His Fiat team, however – successor to the legendary Molteni squad – packed a punch in the TTT. The remarkable statistic from this stage is its brevity: a mere 4km in under five minutes… One or two of those riders in blue likely never saw the front of the line.

 

 

TI Raleigh – stage 4, 1978

TI Raleigh team time trial

From the sublime to the ridiculous. If the previous year’s five-minute thrash was a tad short, this savage 153km test from Evreux to Caen was about as brutal as they come.

 

Read: Cummings, Phinney, Dowsett, Hutchinson – the art of the time-triallist

 

One man’s pain is another’s pleasure, so the big Low Country bruisers of TI Raleigh smashed round the course with glee to briefly put their German rider, Klaus-Peter Thaler, into yellow.

 

 

Crédit Agricole – stage 5, 2001

Credit Agricole

The multi-national French squad were far from favourites going into this stage – ONCE and US Postal were more likely winners – but if the yellow jersey does indeed give you wings, then the eight team-mates of Stuart O’Grady did him proud that day. Swapping turns on the front were the likes of Jens Voigt, Bobby Julich, Thor Hushovd and Jonathan Vaughters – not a bad line-up.

 

 

US Postal – stage 4, 2003

US Postal

USPS licked their lips whenever a Tour route was announced and a meaty TTT popped up on the parcours. They excelled at the discipline, which would invariably give Lance Armstrong a healthy, morale-sapping advantage over his rivals before they had even reached the mountains.

 

Here, George Hincapie leads the line, with the likes of Roberto Heras, Floyd Landis and Armstrong tucked in astern. Whatever happened to those last two guys?

 

 

CSC – stage 4, 2005

CSC team time trial

In the streets of Blois, with just two kilometres remaining and looking good in yellow, David Zabriskie went down hard, unshipped his chain and changed bikes. His team-mates continued and any hopes of retaining the jersey went with them.

 

Read: Can Adam Yates learn from his brother’s mistakes to beat Froome at the Tour?

 

It was all irrelevant consequently, of course. The history books show a line through the results of Zabriskie, Armstrong, Landis and Ullrich that year.

 

 

Astana – stage 4, 2009

Astana team time trial

Crashes galore in Montpellier. Denis Menchov (Rabobank) hardly made it further than the starting ramp, world champion Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) hit the deck on the same bend, half the BBOX-Bouygues Telecom squad went down on a tricky descent that caught out several other teams, and the lumpy and technical course tested every rider to their limits. Astana, with that man Armstrong at the head, came out on top of the pile.

 

 

Garmin-Cervélo, stage 2, 2011

Garmin team time trial

Team boss Jonathan Vaughters, himself a TTT winner in 2001, made a point of targeting the discipline in the earlier years of Garmin. And with the likes of David Millar, Ryder Hesjedal, Christian Vande Velde and Dave Zabriskie to call on, they were not short of firepower. This win put Thor Hushovd into the yellow jersey for seven days.

 

 

Orica-GreenEdge, stage 4, 2013

Orica team time trial

The Australian outfit enjoyed a fruitful second appearance at the Tour in 2013, Simon Gerrans bagging stage 3 before donning the maillot jaune following this fine win in Nice by the narrowest of margins – 0.75 seconds over Omega Pharma-Quick Step. Daryl Impey then spent two days in yellow, the first South African to achieve the honour.