“The team time trial is going to make or break this race,” American Kristin Armstrong had predicted in a press conference leading up to the race. And she should know.
A two-time Olympic gold medalist in the individual time trial, Armstrong was keen to show the world what her Twenty16-RideBiker squad can do. And show them they did!
While everyone was talking about the predicted showdown between TTT experts Canyon-SRAM and race leaders Boels-Dolmans, it was Twenty16-RideBiker who stole the show on day two of the Amgen Breakaway From Heart Disease Women’s Race Empowered with SRAM.
With an impressive speed of 44.3 km/h (or 27.5 mph) without time trial equipment, Armstrong’s squad took the team time trial victory, six seconds ahead of Boels-Dolmans.
United Healthcare Pro Cycling, led by world time trial champion Linda Villumsen, finished third, adding another surprise for the day.
Rabo-Liv finished fourth and Canyon-SRAM would have to settle for fifth place.
Thanks to her solo victory yesterday, Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans) holds onto the yellow leader’s jersey but Kristin Armstrong is inching closer. Evelyn Stevens is in third place now, 22 seconds down from Guarnier. This is surely going to make for an exciting stage race tomorrow.
The showdown that didn’t happen
Leading up to the race, a good battle was expected between team time trial specialists Canyon-SRAM and race leaders Boels-Dolmans.
Canyon-SRAM is the progression of the former Specialized-Lululemon and Velocio-SRAM teams, which were undefeated for years in the team time trial discipline until the Vårgårda world cup last season when Rabo-Liv shocked everyone by taking the win. At the World Championships, however, Velocio-SRAM was back on the top step of the podium, with Boels-Dolmans on their heels.
Boels-Dolmans added several former Specialized-Lululemon and TT specialists to their squad in the past two years, and has been improving in the TTT discipline every race. Then, at the Energiewacht Tour last month, the tide turned and Ellen van Dijk led Boels-Dolmans to its first TTT victory yet.
Today was going to be another rare opportunity for the two teams to see who are the true TTT experts, but then something surprising happened:
Canyon-SRAM was the third team to go off, and quickly set a best time. It’s not unusual for them to be in the hot seat but 15 more teams came after them and Boels-Dolmans would be last. What was expected to have been a long wait in the hot seat, soon became an unsettling slip off the podium.
Rabo-Liv was the first to beat Canyon-SRAM’s split time at the halfway mark, soon followed by an even faster United Healthcare Pro Cycling. By adding experienced riders like Villumsen and Iris Slappendel, the UHC team has been making strides this season and quietly developing themselves into a fierce contender, surprising many with their impressive team performance today as they were the first team to break the 28-minute mark.
But things got even worse for Canyon-SRAM when Twenty16-RideBiker came through the halfway mark at a blistering pace, more than half a minute faster than the German-registered team. With Canyon-SRAM off the podium, all eyes were on Boels-Dolmans. Would stage two of Amgen Breakaway From Heart Disease Women’s Race Empowered with SRAM make room for a new time trial champion or would Boels-Dolman continue their season dominance?
At the halfway mark, things looked promising for Boels-Dolmans as they set yet another best split time. But they had gone out perhaps a little too fast and their pace would fade ever so slightly. Nearing the finish line, the clock was running out of time. +1, +2, +3…in the end, they fell a mere six seconds short and the American Twenty16-RideBiker cheered with relief and joy.
The equipment controversy
Today’s team time trial was an odd one for a WorldTour event because no time trial bikes were allowed. In an effort to keep the costs down for the teams traveling across the pond, organisers had controversially decided to allow mass start bikes only.
This was a much criticised decision as non-European teams are always expected to deal with the costs and hassle of transporting various bikes, and no consideration has been shown to them in the past. Additionally, equipment sponsors would have liked to show off their top-end gear on this world-class event.
On the hand, it put all teams on an even playing field.
Stage 2 Results
1. Twenty16-Ridebiker 0:27:33
2. Boels Dolmans Cycling Team +00:06
3. Unitedhealthcare +00:25
4. Raboliv Womencyclingteam +00:34
5. Canyon SRAM Racing +:00:36
Onto Stage 3
The Amgen Breakaway From Heart Disease Women’s Race Empowered with SRAM continues tomorrow with another road race, 111 kilometres this time, running from Santa Rosa to the Pacific Ocean and back.
Highlights from Stage 2:
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