Team Time Trial: Rules, Please

Watching Stage 4, the team time trial, the Versus coverage focused mostly where it always does: on road mishaps, on any and all drama involving American riders, and on the clock. That’s fine as far as it goes. But the result of the stage–with race leader Fabian Cancellara and Lance Armstrong ending in a dead heat for their total time–begged an explanation of how the heck the officials would break the tie.

There was mention of a “countback,” but no one ever said what that was, who did it, or how it worked. And I have to say, still not having done any homework on it, that I still don’t understand how Cancellara and not Armstrong wound up wearing the yellow jersey after the stage.

I’m no statistician or nothin’, but the gap between Armstrong’s Astana team and Cancellara’s Saxo Bank squad was reported at 40.11seconds. Just to be clear, that means Astana’s team time, the time awarded to Armstrong, was 40.11 seconds faster than Saxo Bank’s. Going into the stage, Cancellara was 40 seconds ahead of Armstrong. Not 40.2 or 40.99–just 40. So if Armstrong was 40.11 seconds faster than Cancellara … isn’t his total time for the race so far .11 seconds better than Cancellara’s.

Well, no, if you believe what you saw during the post-stage podium presentation. No gripe from me–I think Cancellara is swell, and Ben Stiller looked cute playing the role of ugly podium girl (the actual podium girl was a knockout if I may say so). So all I’m asking from the genius broadcasters of the stage is to explain this to your public. That’s all. And if anyone understands the timing issue and how it was resolved, please tell us.

Another matter the Versus boys didn’t get around to explaining on the live broadcast this morning was how riders who get dropped during the team event are timed. Do they get the same time as the rest of the team? That was an especially important issue for Garmin-Slipstream, which had four riders go off the back during the TTT.

Luckily, the official Tour website has something to say on this:

“… The time recorded for a team will be the time of the fifth rider. For those riders who are left behind during the team time-trial stage, their own time (real time) will be applied and taken into account for the individual general standings. The organisers have decided to go for a relatively short stage (39 km) around Montpellier to limit the consequences of the cancellation of this “comprehensive insurance.”

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