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Now in its 10th year, the Vårgårda team time trial is the only stand-alone team time trial on the women’s calendar, and since it’s held only weeks before the world team time trial championships, it’s considered an important dress rehearsal.
Boels-Dolmans once again passed the ultimate team test with flying colours, taking over the dominance in this discipline from four-time world team time trial champions Canyon-SRAM.
Cervélo-Bigla took second place and the former world TTT champs Canyon-SRAM slotted into third.
How the race unfolded
At 5:30 p.m. on Friday evening, the Norwegian national team was the first team off the starting blocks in Vårgårda, Sweden. They were followed by the Australian national team, Sport Vlaanderen-Guille d’Or and Lares-Waowdeals, while the top favourites wouldn’t start till an hour later.
Most everyone was looking at Boels-Dolmans, Team Sunweb, Cervélo-Bigla and Canyon-SRAM to make up to the top four, but there were a number of dangerous outsiders going for that final spot in the top-five.
The first of those outsiders to start was Team VéloConcept, who lined up with current world ITT champion Amber Neben and former world ITT champion Linda Villumsen in their midst as well as the freshly crowned U23 European time trial champion, Pernille Matthiessen.
Sure enough, VéloConcept posted the fastest time at the first time check, which wouldn’t be beat until eight teams later when Cervélo-Bigla made their way through.
With a time of 18’04”, Cervélo-Bigla was an impressive 38 seconds faster than VéloConcept, and their performance was looking promising, especially when the former world team time trial champions Canyon-SRAM did not match their time.
Another team unable to match Cervélo-Bigla’s time was WM3 Pro Cycling. After winning the Vårgårda team time trial in 2015 (then riding as Rabo-Liv), they medalled at the TTT world championships in Richmond later that year, but they haven’t had the same TTT success since. Passing through at almost a minute down from Cervélo-Bilga, it was clear that WM3 would not be contesting the win.
After a good team performance in the Giro Rosa, we were keen to see what Team Sunweb could do. The Dutch-registered team rode to a second place in the opening team time trial in Italy, even without powerhouse Ellen van Dijk. The former individual and team time trial world champion was part of the roster in Sweden, however, and Sunweb came across the first time check in third.
As the defending champions, Boels-Dolmans was the last team to power off the start ramp. And with their team time trial wins earlier this season, in the Healthy Ageing Tour and the Giro Rosa, they were favoured to repeat in Vårgårda.
They definitely were on track coming through the first time check four seconds ahead of Cervélo-Bigla and 13 seconds ahead of Canyon-SRAM.
That second time check came after 31.9 kilometres, and Cervélo-Bigla extended their lead on Team VéloConcept to over a minute and a half, and their lead on Canyon-SRAM had gone up to 23 seconds as well.
With Boels-Dolmans setting the fastest pace on course, Sunweb slipped down to fourth.
While Team VéloConcept set the fastest time as they reached the finish line, they were soon beaten by Cervélo-Bigla who came in over two minutes faster with a time of 52’51”.
Cervélo-Bigla remained in the hot-seat when Canyon-SRAM was unable to beat their time, but Sunweb and Boels-Dolmans had yet to finish.
A small surprise came from Wiggle-High5, one of the other outsiders. The team managed to sneak in ahead of Team VéloConcept to break into the top-five.
Team Sunweb lost Lucinda Brand in the final part of the race, and their gap to Canyon-SRAM increased to 33 seconds at the finish line, which meant that barring any disaster for Boels-Dolmans, Team Sunweb was off the podium.
Boels-Dolmans did lose some time, but even a tight 13 seconds lead was enough for the orange squad to come away with the win in the Vårgårda team time trial for the second year in a row.
Cervélo-Bigla had put down a stellar team time trial for second place. Trailing just 13 seconds behind the reigning world TTT champs, they’ll be ones to watch in Bergen next month.
“We’re very happy,” said Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio of second-place finisher Cervélo-Bigla. “We knew coming into the event we didn’t have Stephie [Pohl], who is one of our strongest TT riders, but we had a fantastic result and surprised ourselves. The TTT is a special event and reflects our character as a team and shows that we are such a strong unit.”
“We have two newcomers compared to last year, Clara [Koppenburg] and Cecilie [Uttrup Ludwig] and we did an amazing run,” Lotta Lepistö added. “I am super happy for Clara to be on the WorldTour podium for the first time. We had a really good rhythm. The preparation coming into the race was intense. We tried to do our best and focus really well in training. We knew what to expect from last year but we have some changes in the line up so we had to adapt but the staff are really motivated and did an incredible job to support us.”
Team Sunweb coach Hans Timmermans expressed his disappointment of falling off the podium in Vårgårda. “We hoped for a spot on the podium today, but I think it is clear what happened with strong team time trial teams against us today,” he said. “We still have some improvement points to work on and I still have the feeling that a podium result is possible for the world team time trial championships.”
Vårgårda team time trial top ten:
- Boels-Dolmans, 52’39”
- Cervélo-Bigla +0:13
- Canyon-SRAM +0:51
- Team Sunweb +1:23
- Wiggle-High5 +2:08
- Team VéloConcept +2:20
- WM3 Pro Cycling +2:25
- FDJ-Futuroscope-NA +2:31
- Team Hitec +3:05
- BTC City Ljubljana +3:08
1. Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) – 872 points
2. Annemiek van Vleuten (Orica-Scott) – 778 points
3. Kasia Niewiadoma (WM3 Pro Cycling) – 772 points
4. Coryn Rivera (Team Sunweb) – 720 points
5. Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High5) – 635 points
Young rider classification
1. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Cervélo-Bigla)
Do you think the world TTT champs podium will look similar to the Vårgårda podium? Tell us what you think!
Road race on Sunday
The Vårgårda road race follows this Sunday and is similar to last year’s race, the only difference being that one lap on the small circuit is added at the end of the race. So the race will once again start with four laps on the short 11-kilometre circuit, followed by a longer loop of approximately 55 kilometres, and containing four gravel sections, followed by five instead of four laps on the small circuit, adding up to around 150 kilometers in total.
The start will be given at 9.35 a.m. CEST (3.35 a.m. EST, 5.35 p.m. AEST) on Sunday August 13.
The Vårgårda road race will be broadcasted LIVE in Europe, Australia, Southeast Asia and North-America. Please visit the official website for details.