What is it with Kiwis and Tour de France team time trials? While the wait for an individual stage win continues at cycling’s greatest race, the statistics around team time trial success are much more favourable with four Kiwis
Since the turn of the millennium four Kiwis have taken to the top step with their teammates to celebrate team time trial glory. Chris Jenner, born Kiwi but under the French flag, won with Credit Agricole in 2001. Julian Dean, racing his final Tour de France, took stage 2 honours along with his Team Garmin outfit. Then, last year, Patrick Bevin of BMC Racing claimed top honours. George Bennett can now add his name to the list of victors.
If you need a little memory jog over how those wins went down enjoy our trip down memory lane.
Christopher Jenner – Crédit Agricole – Tour de France 2001 stage 5
Stage 5 of the Tour de France 2001 took the field from Verdun to Bar-le-Duc. This would be the first and only team time trial of the season for Jenner, although he’d previously raced against the clock in the Jacob’s Creek Tour Down Under, Paris-Nice, GP du Midi-Libre, Criterium du Dauphiné Libére and the prologue time trial of the Tour in Dunkirk.
By this point in the race the battle for the green jersey was emerging between Team Telekom’s Erik Zabel and Jenner’s Australian teammate Stuart O’Grady. 15 stages later it would be the German who would take the crown on the Champs-Elysees by just 8 points, snatching the maillot vert from the Aussie on the final stage.
The battleground for the fifth stage TTT was a monstrous 67km of racing. Jenner rode that day in the company of Bobby Julich, Jonathan Vaughters, Frédéric Bessy, a 29-year old Jens Voigt, Anthony Morin, Sébastien Hinault, 27-year old O’Grady and a 23-year old Norwegian named Thor Hushovd. Vaughters had previously anticipated that while the likes of ONCE and Telekom might be stronger, Crédit Agricole might emerge as technically better.
While the stage was a reasonably dry experience for some, the heavens well and truly opened for others. The US Postal Service team were one of those others. With Lance Armstrong then chasing what would be a third Tour triumph, Armstrong and his team that featured the likes of George Hincapie, Tyler Hamilton, Viatcheslav Ekimov and Roberto Heras stopped the clock in 1.22.58 hours, an average speed of 48.767kph. Their race was hampered by a crash part way through the stage that brought down two of their team but they provisionally set the fastest time of the stage, led home by Armstrong.
Festina and O.N.C.E. Eroski both posted faster times by some way, but it was Credit Agricole who went fastest. In progressively slicker conditions the green and white jerseys, along with the maillot jaune of Stuart O’Grady, were egged on all the way to the finish line by a very animated team car; stopping the clock in 1.21.32 hours to take the win by 31 seconds.
Crédit Agricole would keep the maillot jaune until the end of stage 10 to Alpe D’Huez with Jens Voigt enjoying a day in yellow; and later a stage win. For Jenner, the race would end with the French-Kiwi arriving in Paris in 139th position out of 144 finishers.
Julian Dean – Garmin-Cervélo – Tour de France 2011 stage 2
By 2011 the distance of the team time trial in the Tour de France had dropped radically in the space of ten years. Rather than the energy-sapping 67km, race organisers opted for a shorter 23km starting and finishing in Les Essarts. Julian Dean was riding his seventh and final Tour de France. He’d ridden his first in 2004 and then every Tour from 2006-2011; finishing every single one of them.
Unlike Jenner’s triumph against the conditions as much as against the other teams, stage 2 of the 2011 race went off in pleasant dry conditions. Saxo Bank Sunguard were among the early pace-setters, with the team of a young Richie Porte and a then three-time Tour de France champion in Alberto Contador, looking for a fourth title for their Spaniard under a banner of controversy. They’d posted the fastest time early on with 25.16mins for the course; an average speed of 54.6kph.
Vacansoleil-DCM couldn’t top them, neither could the likes of Omega Pharma-Lotto with André Greipel and Philippe Gilbert in their ranks. But eventually the deadlock was broken by Rabobank and from there six more teams would better their time. Best of them were Garmin-Cervélo with their outfit consisting of Thor Hushovd, Christian Vande Velde, Ryder Hesjedal, Tom Danielson, David Zabriskie, David Millar, Ramūnas Navardauskas, Tyler Farrar and New Zealand’s Julian Dean.
Hushovd was racing in the polka dot jersey as keeper of the king of the mountains jersey. It was not his outright, it belonged to Omega Pharma Lotto’s Gilbert, who’d also won the first stage and was thus otherwise detained in a yellower colour. But with the power of riders like David Millar, American national TT champ Zabriske and co in the team their chances at success were high; and so it proved.
Garmin-Cérvelo crossed the line 12 seconds faster than Rabobank and from there had a nervous wait as RadioShack, HTC-High Road, Leopard Trek, Sky Procycling and BMC Racing all tried and failed to better them. It was edge-of-your-seat waiting as the time gaps between the top 6 were no higher than just 10 seconds; but by the skin of their teeth (and 4 seconds) Julian Dean and his band of merry comrades had secured the win. Thor Hushovd took the maillot jaune from Gilbert, where he would enjoy a week-long stint in yellow all the way until Thomas Voeckler took over in stage 9.
In his final Tour de France, Julian Dean would go on to take 7th in the stage 3 sprint on his way to finishing 143rd overall in support of teammate Danielson who finished a credible 8th.
A late call up to his second Tour de France, Patrick Bevin started the 2018 Tour de France hopeful of supporting his teammate Richie Porte to the podium in Paris just like he’d done the previous year for Rigoberto Uran. The first big challenge for the GC challengers came with this 35.5km stage in Cholet. The course was a little rolling but not too strenuous as was reflected in the small time gaps between the top four who were separated by just 9 seconds.
Patrick Bevin wasn’t the only Kiwi in contention for stage honours that day, with Jack Bauer of Mitchelton-SCOTT also looking to challenge as part of a team that had become something of a notable force in team time trials. Their contests against Quick-Step Floors were becoming quite renowned; while the likes of BMC Racing and Team Sky were often there or thereabouts at the upper end of the standings.
Jack Bauer literally led things off that day, the first in the Mitchelton-SCOTT train who were the first team to leave the start ramp for stage 3. Mitchelton-SCOTT, Team Sky and BMC Racing were among the first five of 22 teams to start, and it was the latter who were fastest through the early time split.
BMC Racing, led by Simon Gerrans from the ramp, were just a little off the pace at the first check, but they would gather speed from there. At the second time check BMC were fastest, 6 seconds up on Team Sky and despite Sky having the faster final split; they couldn’t make up enough time to better Bevin and co.
Bevin and BMC’s race would be disrupted, first by a crash to Richie Porte in stage 9 and then gastrointestinal issues to Bevin which would force the Kiwi out of the race in stage 14.