The women’s teams had the honour of starting off the world road championships in Qatar. In the blistering heat, eight women’s teams started the 40 kilometer team time trial today, which made for an exciting race, even with the small number of teams attendending.
The most exciting battle was between four-time world team time trial champions Canyon-SRAM and this year’s top favourite Boels-Dolmans. With an average speed of just under 50 kilometers an hour, it was eventually Boels-Dolmans that took the win.
Your 2016 world team time trial championships podium:
1. Boels-Dolmans 48:41.62
2. Canyon-SRAM +48″24
3. Cervélo-Bigla +1’56″47
For full results, visit the CyclingTips results page.
How the race went down
The Amgen women’s Tour of California TTT stage winner, Team Twenty16-RideBiker, was the first team to roll of the start ramp. As the number 5 of last year’s world championships, they were deemed the dark horse for this event, lining up double Olympic time trial champion Kristin Armstrong.
In a focused silence at the start, which was made even more serene because of the lack of spectators on the side of the road, they made the very first kilometers of this year’s world championships.
With the difficult sections right from the start of the race, Allie Dragoo had to leave a gap early in the race. The team had to ease the pace to let Dragoo come back, as you don’t want to lose a rider so fast in the race, but it’s not ideal.
After BTC Ciy Ljubljana, BePink and Team Hitec took their starts, that other dangerous outsider, Cervélo-Bigla started the race. They lined up new rider Ciara Horne, who has an extensive palmares on the track, but it was interesting to see her performance in a 40 kilometer team time trial, especially at this level of racing.
Rabo-Liv, the next team to start, had a little setback when Anouska Koster crashed earlier in the week during training.
She was determined to give it her all in the team time trial though, her only performance in Qatar and the final performance of the Rabo-Liv team.
The last team to start, Canyon-SRAM looked very smooth right from the start. They were very streamlined and with all of the riders very technical time trialists, they looked like serious danger for Boels-Dolmans that had started 2 minutes earlier.
A fast start for Cervélo-Bigla and Canyon-SRAM
Shortly after all eight teams got on the road, Team Twenty16-BikeRider set a time of 17:52.7 at the first intermediate time check. Cervélo-Bigla took off a whopping 30 seconds, with Rabo-Liv not able to reach that time. Boels-Dolmans arrived at the time check in 17:10.84.
But when Canyon-SRAM passed this point, it became clear why they have been world TTT champions for four years in a row, as they set a time of 17:01.43. This race would once again become a very exciting fight-off between Boels-Dolmans and Canyon-SRAM.
Boels-Dolmans still with six and looking strong
At the second time check, all but Boels-Dolmans had lost one rider each, with BTC City Ljubjlana even two riders down already, the maximum amount a team is allowed to lose.
Interestingly, it was Horne that dropped off at Cervélo-Bigla, Anthony McCrossan and Lucy Martin, the UCI commentators for today’s race, contemplated that the team might have used her for her strength at the start of the race, allowing her to drop off somewhere along the way.
Boels-Dolmans’ time at the second intermediate time check was 31:50.06, and since Canyon-SRAM’s Mieke Kröger had lost touch with her teammates at that point, Canyon-SRAM was 15 seconds down to the orange team at this time check.
A very hot race
A near-crash between Chloe Dygert and Armstrong of Team Twenty16-RideBiker in the first of the technical corners at the end of the race got everyone’s heartrate going – but probably not as high as the heartrates of the riders in the team time trial by that time. Each and every rider looked to be struggling, not least because of the heat.
Team Twenty16’s finish was also far from perfect, with three riders crossing the line side by side, but the fourth rider coming to a complete standstill just before the finish line, while vomiting, and the fifth rider – also vomiting – eventually crossing the line ahead of her.
Rabo-Liv was down to four as well in the final part of the race and disaster really struck when Anouska Koster hit the deck, again. It wasn’t even a touch of wheels, she just bluntly steered into the barriers, probably affected by the heat. She wasn’t able to get back onto her bike, panicking and completely disorientated. It ended all hopes for Rabo-Liv to earn a medal in this event.
Boels-Dolmans, down to five riders at this point, had their own problems, when a motor bike didn’t really give them space in a tight right hand corner. No-one crashed, but it was a hindrance you don’t need in a difficult race like this.
When Cervélo-Bigla finished in 50:38.09 after Rabo-Liv had just lost Koster, they knew the bronze medal was a certainty. But could it become a suprise silver or even gold?
The favourites vs the experts
Boels-Dolmans and Canyon-SRAM were both down to four riders in the final kilometers, so both teams needed to fight really hard for the victory. Boels-Dolmans’ Ellen van Dijk, Chantal Blaak, Lizzie Deignan and Evelyn Stevens gave it their all in the final meters to set a time of 48:41.62.
When this time passed and Canyon-SRAM hadn’t arrived at the finish yet, it was clear that after last year’s near miss, Boels-Dolmans were the new world team time trial champions!
Evelyn Stevens retires from cycling with a (fourth!) gold medal at the worlds TTT, while Ellen van Dijk says goodbye to the team after this event as well, leaving for Team Liv-Plantur in 2017.
After the race, Rabo-Liv’s Roxane Knetmann expressed her discontent with the UCI. “The heat in Qatar is extreme, I cannot explain how excruciating it feels to be riding 40 kilometers through the desert.” Commenting on the fact that it took a while for the medics to arrive at (several) women needing medical attention after the race, Knetemann said: “You’d expect organisers and the UCI to have some knowledge about cycling. If you send out people for a team time trial in this heat, make sure there are at least ten ambulances ready to look after the riders. The UCI didn’t think this through.”
Obviously distressed, she said the heat was just too much. “Especially in a time trial, when you’re wearing aerohelmets and a tight skinsuit, it’s horrible. It’s like riding in a sauna.”
What’s up next in Qatar
The next race is the individual time trial on Tuesday. The women’s road race is on Saturday October 15th.
Both the individual time trial and the road race will be broacast and/or live streamed throughout the world. Please come back for a preview of both races next week.