Billed as one of the top teams in this demanding and meticulous event, ORICA-AIS will have their work cut out for them as they go head to head with other formidable teams such as Specialized-lululemon and Rabobank. Practice makes perfect in such an event as a TTT, and ORICA-AIS began preparation for this type of event months ago.
“We had a TTT specific camp in Italy in March,” said Sport Director Dave McPartland. “The only other time we’ve come together for a TTT was at the Energiewacht Tour back in April. Since then specific preparation has been up to the girls to individually prepare on their time trial bikes.”
“Unfortunately, there are not many opportunities to train specifically for a TTT in the second half of the season without canceling our participation in other races,” added McPartland. “And the only other team time trials this year come after the Swedish World Cup.”
“Given that, we had a good ten days together in March,” continued McPartland. “We did a lot of good work there, and everyone is familiar with each other. Here in Sweden we had a good session on the course today, and we’ll do it again tomorrow.”
The course in Vårgårda will spotlight the teams who have done their due diligence in honing their TTT skills as it is a challenging course with tight turns, road furniture, crosswinds and a taxing climb just after the 35km mark. Strength aside, strategy and cohesiveness will be key in winning the event.
“We have to manage how we use all the girls,” said McPartland. “Each team’s time is taken off the fourth rider to cross the finish line. I’d like to cross the line with all six riders, but because of the nature of the course it’s more realistic to expect four or five to finish together.”
“We’re the third to last team to start,” added McPartland. “Specialized-lululemon and Rabobank come after us. We can’t rely on times from teams in front of us when we have two strong teams breathing down our necks.”
“We need a fast controlled start – controlled being the key word,” McPartland continued. “By the turnaround, we need a competitive time. We will need to get to the turnaround with all six. At the 31km mark we will get a second time check. From there, the really technical bits start. The girls will have to be on their A-game when we hit this section. It’s hard to make up time when it’s so technical, and it’s easy to lose time through those sections if we’re not a well-drilled unit.”
Once the team hits the climb, it will assess the strength of each rider and then determine whether the team continues to the finish as a squad of six.
“If we’ve got one or two girls who are lagging, that’s it for them,” said McPartland. “But that will be a heat of the moment decision.”
As has been the expectation all season long, ORICA-AIS foresees themselves stepping onto the podium at the end of the day.
“I don’t expect anything less than that,” said McPartland. “I think we can realistically look at trying to win it. It’s steep competition. We’ve got every single team in Sweden with their A team. Other teams have big expectations, too. It won’t be easy, but realistically, a win is possible.”
Two days after the TTT, the riders will trade their time trial bikes for their road bikes to contest the second to last round of the World Cup series. As ORICA-AIS prepares for the road race, the riders will shift their focus back to the versatility that has led them to so much success this year.
“Emma [Johansson] will obviously get leadership responsibilities and privileges,” said McPartland. “First and foremost we will be riding for her. Not only is it in her home country, but she also sits second in the overall World Cup rankings. With that being said, we’ve got other girls in the race who can win, too. Everyone will follow Emma around, so we’re not going to waste our energy on trying to help Emma and not leave the door open for someone else.”
Although the road course is not hugely selective, it is hugely unpredictable, which lends itself to the versatility of the team.
“It’s an undulating sort of circuit,” added McPartland. “Quite often there can be breakaways like we’ve seen in the past. It’s a race where we have to be attentive. No lapses in concentration can be had. Some years end in a bunch sprint, some have ended in a breakaway.”
“Tiff [Tiffany Cromwell] showed us last year with a top ten that she can have a good race here as well,” McPartland continued. “Emma would love to bring home a win in her home country, but in this team we always have other options.”
ORICA-AIS for Open de Suède Vargarda TTT – WC:
ORICA-AIS for Open de Suède Vargarda RR – WC: