A four man race of truth, nowhere to hide, the last 50 km was hell on two wheels, race splits at the 50 k mark turned upside down, just ink on paper, replaced at the finish line with the true victor.
Rome, Italy 1960 the first international amateur Cycling 100 km Road Teams Time Trial kicked off what was to be a thirty four year history at Olympic Games and UCI World Championships. In all the four man test of pain was contested at nine Olympic Games and twenty seven UCI world championships. From 1972 the event was not run at World Championships during Olympic years. The distance was always approximately 100km, though sometimes as long as 109 km and as short as 96.4 km. The race was sometimes contested at a different location to the other road racing events, for example in 1969 professionals assembled in Belgium at Zolder while the amateurs headed off to race at Brno in the Czech Republic.
The first ever event was marred by Knud Enemark Jensen who raced for the Denmark team at the 1960 Rome Olympics. Jensen thought it would be a great idea to tuck into a healthy dose of amphetamines, collapsed during the race and fell, fracturing his skull. "The autopsy showed he had taken amphetamine and another drug, Ronicol (Ronicol Retard) (nicotinyl alcohol tartrate), a direct-acting peripheral vasodilator that causes flushing and may decrease blood pressure. (He was also reported as swallowing 8 pills of phenylisopropylamine, 15 pills of amphetamine and coffee.)" 1
In Rome, not to be overshadowed by the dark cloud provided courtesy of Jensen and his short career by way of Ronicol Retard, amongst other things - Italy proved that victory was the way. Showing off to the world this special new brand of pain on two wheels. A winning way that in the end, when the UCI wound up the amateur championship in 1994 - saw Italy run away with the highest total wins at Olympics and World Championships, taking nine of the thirty six events. Seven of these at World championships and twice at Olympic games. The USSR won the most Olympic events with a tally of three from nine. Italy also recorded the fastest average times, in 1991 the four Italians, Flavio Anastasia, Luca Colombo, Gianfranco Contri and Andrea Peron scorched their way to victory over a 99.1 kilometre course at Stuttgart recording an average speed of 51.7944 km/h.
Notable in the 1960's were the so called Swedish Fåglum brothers, Gösta, Sture, Erik and Tomas Pettersson. The name Fåglum comes from the place Fåglum in Essunga Municipality where they once raced for the same club. The brothers raced their famous Crescent brand bicycles to claim top spot on the podium for Sweden at three World Championships in a row, 1967 to 1969, also finishing second at the Mexico City Olympics in 1968.
The Italians never disappointed in providing a spectacle, in 1987 a focused and determined Italian team trained specifically for the event, showing up in Villach Austria - attached to their bikes with a tie wire wrapped around their waist and secured to the bike via the head setwere - Roberto Fortunato, Eros Poli, Mario Scirea and Flavio Vanzella. Apparently the wire was used to gain extra leverage during the two hour effort. The Italian foursome smashed their way down the Autobahn to the Italian border and back on a 25km out and back course - traversed twice with four turns - in a time for the 100km of 1:57:42 with an average speed of 50.977 km/h.
This year the UCI are bringing back the Teams Time trial in an amended format - on September 16th 2012 the race will be contested at Sittard - Limburg in the Netherlands. The welter weight distance of 53.2 km has been watered down even further by allowing six riders to line up, the clock will stop with the fourth rider across the line. The fire power though will come from UCI World Tour, Pro-Continental and Continental teams, not the old battle of nations but a contest to find the fastest Pro team. The spectacle will certainly be greater and no doubt will present well for the media, a well orchestrated opportunity for cycling to show it's best at a distance suited for speed. With more men and half the distance, average speeds no doubt will be greater than in the amateur era and that's where it ends. In the old format over 100km the pain and suffering multiplied over the final kilometres, a four man race of truth, no where to hide, the last 50 km was where it all happened, race splits at the 50 k mark turned upside down - just ink on paper - replaced at the finish line with the true victor.
Pro riders in 2012 undoubtedly are capable of super fast times over the distance of 100 km, yet denied the opportunity to show their true mettle as racers, in lieu of the creation of a fast paced media phenomenon tailored for a global audience - two hours and four riders - just too long and slow, a bad fit for the new format.
Make no mistake come September 16 the road between Sittard and Valkenburg will provide a spectacular show on two wheels - not to be missed.
Here's who will compete in 2012 - all teams from the men's UCI WorldTour will race. There is also opportunity for Pro-Continental and Continental teams to qualify. Competitors will be selected from Top 20 teams in the European Tour - Top 5 teams in the American Tour - Top 5 teams in the Asian Tour - Best team in the African Tour - Best team in the Oceania Tour.
When compiling this post results for 1968, 1985, 1989, 1990, 1993, and 1994 could not be located and will be updated if the relevant information can be found.
1. "Doping Cases in Cycling" Web. 17 February 2012http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_doping_cases_in_cycling