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by Jessi Braverman
September 17, 2015
Photography by Sean Robinson, Cor Vos
WOMEN'S CYCLING BROUGHT TO YOU BY ORBEA
The team time trial opens the 2015 UCI Road World Championships in Richmond, Virginia, USA on Sunday, September 20. While national teams contest the individual time trial and the road race, the team time trial is raced by trade teams. Six riders from each team will roll out down the start ramp, and the clock stops when the fourth member from each team crosses the finish line – which means that teams have the option of dropping two riders during the event.
The discipline is the epitome of teamwork, precision and preparation, and teams that have put in the effort demonstrate a beautiful fluidity that is rarely seen anywhere else in the sport. For all the talk about the ways in which cycling is a team sport, the team time trial is the only discipline which showcases this so openly and obviously – and the only event at the Road World Championships which will see the winning team crowd onto the top step of the podium together.
In the three-year history of the women’s team time trial at the Road World Championships, there has only ever been one winner – Velocio-SRAM (previously called Specialized-lululemon). And the German-registered squad hasn’t just won the event for three straight years, they’ve completely dominated it. They team boasted a winning margin of more than one minute in 2013 and 2014, and in 2012, they took the gold medal by 24 seconds.
Evelyn Stevens and Trixi Worrack are the only two riders that have been part of all three of the team’s titles. While Worrack is at the helm of the team’s bid for title number four, Stevens has moved across to Boels-Dolmans and will be lending her legs and lungs to the Dutch-registered squad’s efforts.
The only other team to medal every year is Orica-AIS. The Australian-registered squad has twice finished runner-up and once rounded out the podium.
Velocio-SRAM won the team time trial in Ponferrada, Spain last year with an average speed of nearly 50 kilometres per hour (49.805kph). Finishing with all six riders, Velocio-SRAM covered the 36.15 kilometre course 1:17 quicker than Orica-AIS in second-place. Astana-BePink took a surprise bronze medal.
Rabo Liv crashed heavily in the closing kilometres when the lead rider hit the feet of the barriers around a corner. Four of the team’s five remaining riders hit the ground. Anna van der Breggen and Annemiek van Vleuten were taken to hospital following the crash, and x-rays confirmed that Van der Breggen suffered a broken hip.
Prior to each of their three world titles in the team time trial, Velocio-SRAM won the team time trial at the Vårgårda World Cup – foreshadowing the win to follow one month later. While the three-time defending champions lined up as the pre-race favourites in Sweden this year, they fell short. Rabo Liv beat Velocio-SRAM by 26 seconds in round eight of the UCI Women Road World Cup in Vårgårda, and Boels-Dolmans kept things close, securing the final spot on the podium only three seconds slower than Velocio-SRAM. Bigla slotted into fourth place, and Wiggle Honda rounded out the top-five
All three squads have tweaked their line-up over the last few weeks. Velocio-SRAM has replaced Elise Delzenne with Barbie Guarischi. Roxane Knetemann has fully recovered from her injuries sustained at the Giro Rosa and replaces Moniek Tenniglo in Rabo Liv’s line-up. Ellen van Dijk sat out of Sweden with a broken collarbone but replaces Romy Kasper in Richmond. Bigla has opted out of the team time trial at the World Championships this year while Wiggle Honda has further focussed on the discipline over the last four weeks.
For the last three years, Vårgårda has served as a fairly accurate predictor for the World Championships winners and contenders but with the last minute line-up changes, don’t be so quick to forecast your podium picks in Richmond based on results in Sweden.
The Richmond team time trial course is 38.8-kilometres long. The event begins at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens. Teams will speed through the historic northside before entering the city’s downtown area. The narrow, twisty roads of Richmond National Battlefield Park follow before teams head back in the direction from which they came. The otherwise mildly undulating course ends with a sharp, steep climb (300 metres) on Governor Street. From the top of the climb, it’s a 680-metre false flat to the finish.
While Rabo Liv, Velocio-SRAM and Boels-Dolmans may be the obvious medal contenders, the order in which they will place come Sunday is anything but. And while the teams that podiumed in Sweden last month may be the most likely to stand on the podium in Richmond, they’re far from the only options. Thirteen teams will start the race on Sunday, and the American teams, none of whom competed in Sweden, will be extra motivated to have a real crack on home soil. We asked our friends in women’s cycling media to share their top three picks for Sunday’s podium – feel free to share your top three in the comments below.
1. Rabo Liv
Anne-Marije says: “I expect a repeat of the Vårgårda podium.”
1. Rabo Liv
2. Rabo Liv
Sarah says: “This is going to be the most exciting TTT yet, and while Velocio-SRAM were beaten at Vårgårda, I think that’s just going to have made them hungrier to win – especially with the team’s USA roots. Rabo Liv will definitely want to take their crown, especially after their awful crash last year, but although they’ll be super-strong, I think it’ll be Velocio-SRAM first, Rabo second, and although the USA teams will have been training hard on the home course, Boels Dolmans third, with UnitedHealthcare in fourth.”
3. Rabo Liv
2. Rabo Liv
3. Wiggle Honda
Jessi says: “I flipped a coin for my one-two because I couldn’t decide. I expect to see the closest times we’ve ever seen for the women in the team time trial at Worlds.”
The women’s team time trial runs from 11:30am – 12:55pm local time (that’s 5:30-6:55pm in Europe and a brutal 1:30-2:55am on Monday, September 21 for Australia). Your best resources for following all the action are linked below:
We’ll be on-site and tweeting live race updates from CyclingTipsLive. Be sure to follow Ella on Twitter and Instagram for a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the happenings in Richmond.