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Team Exergy’s TTT adventure in the Tour of Utah

August 9, 2012

Team Exergy in the Tour of Utah TTT start house

“We do one of these about every 4 years,” Matt Cooke of Team Exergy said on the team time trial day at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah.

Tad Hamilton

Despite that the team’s sports director, Tad Hamilton, said the day before that he was excited to try the TTT. “It adds to the adventure,” he said.

Not one iota of apprehension hung about him, even though the American continental team would face the TTT without as much experience as other teams in the Utah race. Then again, speaking with Hamilton is usually like sailing on smooth water.

Regardless of the amount of TTT experience, the event presents challenges to every team, from the continental to the World Tour level, especially on a course like the Miller Motorsports Park outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. Talk to any of the 17 teams that wound through the eleven turns of the 7.2 km (4.5 mile) loop three times, and they’ll tell you the same thing: you have to keep the guys at the back of the paceline in mind.

Matt Cooke, Noe Gianetti (l to r) warming up before the Tour of Utah TTT

When taking corners at 35 to 40 mph a rider can’t take the turn as tightly as he would riding alone. “It was extremely painful because you are not controlling the pace, the guys at the front are,” Cooke said. “If they go full tilt, you have to go with them.” After the race in the press conference, Alex Howes (Garmin-Sharp) relayed his TTT experience: “I was at the back a lot; it was pretty difficult back there.”

“On a course like this small guys have trouble,” Cooke said. The smaller guys have to be able to hold the wheel of a taller teammate who is a powerhouse on the flats, someone like Sam Johnson, Cooke’s teammate. “You can only go as fast as your slowest guy – I kept thinking this out there,” Cooke said. Cooke has a narrower, shorter climber’s build, as does Team Exergy’s Noe Gianetti.

Hamilton said the team brought more climbing strength to Utah in Gianetti and Kirk Carlsen to help leader Freddie Rodriguez get over the hills. Gianetti got dropped from the team of eight that left the start house. He finished alone.

Kirk Carlsen (right) warming up before the Tour of Utah TTT

One thing that helps with keeping the guys at the back in mind is practice. Rodriguez and Carlsen have a good amount of experience racing TTTs. Carlsen’s last TTT was at the Tour of Qatar in 2010 when he raced on the Garmin-Transitions team. “If you practice a lot you can do well even if you’re not as fit [as other riders],” Carlsen commented.

Carlsen helped his teammates with some pointers: where to pull off, and how hard to pull or not when leading the paceline. A single paceline instead of a double echelon worked best for the Utah TTT venue, Carlsen said, because of the wind out on the course. The wind could blow from a single direction, but with the eleven turns on each lap it hit the riders from different sides with each curve. It’s easier to take the corners and manage the wind direction with a single paceline. That’s how all of the teams approached the day.

The paved course which is as wide as a four lane road provided lots of room to get blown around. The turns are named with expressions like “Black Rock Hairpin,” and “Devil,” the latter appropriate to the heat that bounced off the pavement.

Team Exergy on the Miller Motorsports Park TTT course

Out on the course Carlsen poured himself into a last hard pull near the end of the third lap and then dropped off the back as the six remaining Team Exergy men sped across the finish line. The team’s effort landed them in 13th position.

The guys returned to their warm-up space and climbed back on the bikes to warm-down on trainers. The debriefing continued for some time as they relived certain corners and the changing wind direction. “I think we did pretty darn good,” Cooke said.

Team Exergy riders debriefing after the Tour of Utah TTT, Freddie Rodriguez, Serghei Tvetcov, Morgan Schmitt (l to r)

Team Exergy’s disc wheels are the most colorful of the 17 teams

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