Shame, humiliation, defeat: The hidden virtues of a TTT

Tour of Cataluña: Stage 2 (TTT) Bangles to Banyoles

Team Roompot in the distance ahead of Team Movistar

It turns out there’s more than one way to be humiliated in a Team Time Trial. Collectively is one, and then there’s all manner of personal disgrace to be enjoyed, depending on whether you’re ditched, done in, or made delinquent by your teammates.

While followers of road cycling know that there’s little shame to dropping off the back after a good effort, or finishing last in Le Tour. But the camera makes no distinction where dignity is concerned. No sign of the effort and dedication. It shows only shame and ruin.

This is what Team Roompot-Nederlandee Loterei discovered, riding the 41.3km parcour in Cataluña today.

It’s the same lowly fate for any Pro Continental Team, not finely tuned to time trialing. While you might start the day just a few seconds behind the race leader, you know you’ll be doomed to almost certain defeat by the end of it.

Amid all the waiting and the pre-race preparations, the only thing you have going for you is that your teammates will suffer alongside you – unless the b*****ds abandon you. Although it’s worth remembering that the more of you there are left at the finish line the lesser your share of the public shame.

Not only do TTTs favour the stronger teams but so do the TV cameras, zooming in on the Froomes and the Valverdes, and only really concentrating on your progress if it’s dire, and makes good television. All of which requires unimaginable skill on the part of the marketing manager when it comes to attracting sponsors.

Movistar overtake as Oscar Riesebeek looks across

And so the time came for Roompot to move aside to allow Valverde and friends to stream past in perfect harmony.

Human nature, and experience on driving on European motorways, dictates that in times like these you string out across the road with entrenched belligerence, yelling insults at anyone who might dare pass.

But professionalism kicked in for Roompot, along with the furious hoots of the commissaires horn, which served to bleep out any expletives as a reminder that Movistar had priority.

Seeing this Oscar Riesebeek peeled off and, having put in his share of the work, resigned himself to making his own way to the finish line.

Meanwhile the commissaire raced by, pulling alongside his teammates (as spectators dived for their lives), leaning on the horn until they understood his warning against them taking advantage from the Movistar slipstream, which was busy disappearing up the road.

Roompot complied, slowing enough for Riesebeek to reconsider and hop back on, before they tucked in behind the moto-rider instead. He would get his one-eighth share of humiliation after all, leaving it to cycling fans to understand he and his teammates were owed the opposite.

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