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.”

Svein Tuft Watch: Tirreno-Adriatico, Stages 4 and 5

You know, I haven’t watched a minute of this race–I think at least clips are available online–and I don’t know whether it would make a difference in terms of understanding what the course has been like for Svein and the other racers. From afar, one of the strangest things about the race so far is following the progress–no, lack of progress–of Fabian Cancellara. When last we heard of him, he was winning the prologue of the Tour of California, then falling ill and dropping out the next day–the cold wet run from Davis to Santa Rosa that prompted Lance Armstrong to Twitter, “Holy hell. That was terrible.” Cancellara is still sick (and injured) and is not only last in the Tirreno-Adriatico G.C., but has added to his legend by having been overtaken by the rider who followed him out onto the course during today’s time trial. This is the Olympic and world champion time-trial champion we’re talking about here, and the 2007 champion of this very race.

But back to Tuft-world. Standingswise, Svein moved up this weekend:


Stage 4, 171 kilometers from Foligno to Montelupone (the finish is on a wall with stretches of 20 percent plus).

Stage 4 finish: 48th, 5:04 behind stage winner Joaquim Rodriguez (Spanish, riding for Caisse d’Epargne). Svein and Garmin-Slipstream teammate Julian Dean finished together, trailing the previous group by a minute and the following group by 50 seconds.)

G.C. placing after Stage 4: 83rd, 13:48 behind leader (Rodriguez). Tuft and Dean are placed with the same time in G.C.


Loreto Aprutino → Macerata

Stage 5, 30-kilometer time trial from Loreto Aprutino to Macerata

Stage 5 finish: 41th, 2:12 behind stage winner Andreas Kloeden (German, riding for Astana).

G.C. placing after Stage 4: 72nd, 15:29 behind leader (Kloeden).