Some riders like them, some riders don’t. Some mechanics love them, others don’t. The trick is to have a well-balanced team, of riders and staff, to perform the best as possible on time trial days. Today it resulted in a top-10 for Matthias Brändle.

UAE Tour 2021 – 3th Edition – 2nd stage Al Hudayriat Island – Al Hudayriat Island 13 km – 22/02/2021 – Matthias Brandle (AUT – Israel Start-Up Nation) – photo Luca Bettini/BettiniPhoto©2021

With mechanic Kevin Grove, Israel Start-Up Nation covers the staff part of the ‘balance’. With his years of experience (he started building bikes in the 90s), all the Factor SLiCKs are in good hands. Having Matthias Brändle, Alex Dowsett and Chris Froome as ITT-specialists here in the UAE, ISN found the balance from the rider perspective as well.

Grove says he is enjoying his time in the UAE, together with three world-class time trialists. “We share the same passion,” he says. “They are particular about their bikes, and they know what they want.”

The mechanic, who celebrated his birthday today, was the first one in the paddock this morning to start fine-tuning the TT-bikes. He then saw his riders, one by one, go to the start line for their 13-kilometre time trials.

His eyes were looking out for Brändle and Dowsett in particular. Brändle proved his class with a tenth position and was especially content with the numbers on his Hammerhead.

“Yes,” he said after finishing. “My watts were on point today. It is a step in the right direction. From here I can keep on building towards the next races and individual time trials.”

Ben Hermans, who got himself a solid 25th place, was also satisfied. “Today is a small morale booster,” he said. “I was able to go deep from the start, found a good rhythm and could hold on to that until the finish.”

“Finishing 25th in a plain, flat individual time trial is quite good. Just a bit quicker and I would be top-10. Personally, I prefer hillier ITT’s, so this is promising.”

Last but not least, Grove looked back on a good day. “We saw some promising performances today. We will keep on working on the details, together, and we will improve more and more.”

Photos: Bettini Photos and Sjors Beukeboom.