May 11, 2006
So what happened to Discovery?
Maybe the biggest surprise today was the subpar showing from Discovery, which has been dominant in recent Tour TTTs, and finished 3rd, 39 seconds back, or to make it sound worse, 3 seconds in front of Liquigas.
The Paceline's TTT wrapup noted that the team wasn't using aerobars across the board, with only the first 3 riders tucking. Graham Watson points out that Savoldelli wasn't taking many pulls, which he says “hints that the team was saving his legs and energy for a forthcoming stage.” Danielson, on the other hand, was “doing long, long turns on the front of the train, a demonstration imitated by Jason McCartney as well.” Somebody wasn't pulling through, though, because Ekimov got so cooked he was dropped on the finishing straight.
My guess, from seeing the web stream and the photographs, is that the team's inexperience in the discipline is what cost them. Neither Danielson nor McCartney had ever done a TTT before. The squad lost most of their time on the front end, dropping 24 seconds in the first 9.7 kms, 9th best. From then on, Discovery was a solid 3rd at each time check. Danielson told VeloNews he had trouble grabbing a wheel after his pulls, and perhaps the team wasn't as coordinated as in past years, when Discovery reportedly practiced the TTT with an eye toward the Tour.
And hey -- maybe it was just bad luck. Sean Yates is running the team here, and rode in the Giro's last team time trial in 1989. Near the finish, a black cat ran onto the course, catching Yates's wheel and causing a chain reaction in the 7-Eleven squad.
Either way, the damage was slight, and Danielson also told VeloNews, “I feel like I'm getting stronger every day of this Giro.”
Jan Ullrich's teammate, race leader Sergei Honchar, says the team is focused on July, not May, and that it was all he could do to stay with the squad when Ullrich and Rogers reached full boil: "In the last 5k I was having trouble breathing, they were pulling so hard."
Of course, mad TTT skillz won't mean diddly come July -- the Tour won't feature a team time trial this year.
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