Today we will see the riders working with each other against the clock in the team time trial.
Teams start at equal intervals a few minutes apart. The starting sequences will usually be based on individuals' times in previous events, with the highest ranked teams starting later. This gives the faster teams the crucial advantage of knowing what times they need to beat.
Unlike the individual time trial, where competitors are not allowed to draft each other, this is the main tactic in the team event. Each member will take a turn at the front while team-mates sit in behind them riding in the still air. After their turn, the lead rider will then swing over, and the team will rotate allowing the next rider to take the lead, while the leader goes to the back of the team to recover.
Riding in this team formation takes a lot of co-ordination and practice with the best teams making it look like they are riding as one. Accelerations require harder efforts, and therefore it is desirable to have a smooth, steady pace. Different riders have different power outputs and aerodynamics, so in order to equalize the efforts so some riders don't burn out too early, the weaker riders take shorter pulls and stronger riders take longer pulls, all at the same speed to minimize the change in pace. As you can imagine this takes a lot of practice!
A rider who needs more time to recover may take a longer time at the back of the formation while the other teammates rotate in front of this rider.
The recorded finishing time in a team time trial is based on the 5th rider of the team, out of a total of the 9 riders in the team. So some teams choose to have a few of its riders take a death pull towards the end of the event, in which the riders take as hard a pull at the front as they can to lift the pace. This comes at the cost of exhausting themselves with no hope of being able to latch onto the back of the formation for drafting, so they will then drop back and leave the remainder of the team to finish the time trial.
All the different scenarios during the TTT will be played out prior to the race, and the team managers will know their riders well enough to work out the best way to get their fastest 5 riders over the line in the quickest time. Some teams may sacrifice weaker riders to maintain a higher pace, or strong riders may put in greater efforts over the early part of a course to give their team a good start before dropping off the pace and finishing alone. Its always interesting to see how the different teams tackle it.
The fastest team time trial in the history of the Tour De France was by Orica-GreenEdge, in 2013 during the 25 km team time trial around Nice. Orica-GreenEDGE had an average speed of 57.84km/h. The top five teams in this event have been:
1 Orica-GreenEDGE 57.841 km/h Nice - Nice (25 km) 2013
2 Omega Pharma-Quick Step 57.803 km/h Nice - Nice (25 km) 2013
3 Discovery Channel Team 57.324 km/h Tours - Blois (67.5 km) 2005
4 Team CSC 57.298 km/h Tours - Blois (67.5 km) 2005
5 Gewiss - Ballan 54.930 km/h Mayenne - Alençon (67 km) 1995
BMC is the favorite for todays stage win. The reigning world team time trial champions recently won the TTT at the Critérium du Dauphiné, besting Astana by 4 seconds and Sky by 35. Its going to be a hilly course over the 28km, and will be a testing day as the fatigue has started to set in after 8 days of relentless racing.