The dying art of the team time trial can make or break Giro Donne dreams

by Abby Mickey

photography by Cor Vos


The opening team time trial at the 2021 Giro Donne was once again won by Trek-Segafredo, with SD Worx finishing eight seconds behind the American team.

Ruth Winder, who led Trek-Segafredo across the finish line, will wear pink into stage 2. She is on equal time with three of her teammates; Lizzie Deignan, Ellen van Dijk, and Elisa Longo Borghini.

The next five general classification spots are taken by SD Worx.

Scroll down and a few riders who woke up Friday morning dreaming of pink will go to sleep wondering where they can find so much time in the next nine days.

For an event that is barely raced, the team time trial can make or break general classification dreams.

It’s a dying art, the team time trial. Gone are the days of the event gracing the World Championships. Now teams might do two a year, maybe. It makes for an awkward balance; if a team can’t pull out a good TTT on the opening stage of the Giro Donne their leader may be out of contention before the race has even begun. Should directors set aside time at team camps to work on an event they will only actually do twice a year? The case of Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig indicates yes.

In 2020 Uttrup Ludwig and her FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope team lost one minute 20 seconds to Trek-Segafredo in the opening time trial. At the end of nine days, Uttrup Ludwig missed the podium by only two seconds, two seconds that were lost in the opening team time trial.

Once again in 2021 Uttrup Ludwig will fight through the remaining nine stages on the back foot after losing a minute 46 seconds in the opening TTT.

In an attempt to not relive history FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope had a pre-Giro Donne team camp where they practised riding in a line, on the time trial bikes, but it’s not as simple as just riding fast in a line.

There are so many other factors that go into making a successful team time trial. For one, the line-up, where to put specific riders. At the 2017 World Championships when Team Sunweb won the TTT the team put Coryn Rivera, 1.55 meters tall, in front of Ellen van Dijk, 1.82 meters. Van Dijk, one of the best time trialists in the world, then didn’t put the rest of the team on the limit. She would be exerting more energy than anyone else, but she had more to spare.

The pace needs to be steady, with no rapid accelerations or decelerations. Stronger riders need to do longer turns at the same speed and riders who aren’t as strong just need to keep the pace up and be brave enough to swing off a turn early rather than let the speed drop.

Strong legs aren’t the only thing a team needs to win a TTT. Trust is everything.

“TTTs are even more special when you feel a large amount of respect for your teammates,” said Ruth Winder on Instagram. “Each of my Trek-Segafredo teammates are so strong and combined I’m excited to see what we can do. Regardless of the outcome I know I will always be proud to be among them.”

Six of the strongest girls in the world thrown together still wouldn’t be able to power their way to a TTT victory. There’s so much behind the speed.

Ask any rider and they will tell you how much they love the team time trial. A chance to ride with only their teammates, to work with them for the chance at standing on the podium together. Cycling is a team sport, but at the end of the ten days, it will only be one who stands on the podium. But not in the team time trial. Everyone works for the win, and everyone gets to celebrate on the top step.

Petition to bring back the World Championship TTT? I think so.

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