Preview: Women’s World Championship time trial

Everything you need to know ahead of the women's World Championship time trial.

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On the second day of competition at the UCI Road World Championships in Flanders, a select number of women will race against the clock in hopes of wearing the rainbow bands for a year. The elite women’s race of truth takes place on Monday, September 20.

In contrast to the other major time trial that took place in 2021, the TT at the Olympic Games, the course in Belgium holds none of the same undulation and technical features. Unlike the race around the Mount Fuji International Speedway, however, the World Championships could be impacted severely by weather.

The favorites for the race remain the same as those who raced for a gold medal only a few months ago, albeit without the reigning time trial world champion Anna van der Breggen who has opted not to start this final race for time.

Here’s what you need to know about the elite women’s time trial at Flanders Worlds.

The Course

The 30.3 km course is flat as can be, with only 54 meters of elevation gain. It is great for riders who have practised staying in their aerodynamic position for extended periods of time – if they can thrive in the wind, that is. At the moment the forecast calls for rain with 20 kph winds from the northeast.

With a tail/crosswind from Knokke-Heist to Bruges, it might be the fastest 30 km of these women’s lives.

Rainbow favorites

While a lot of the peloton is keen for the season to end, there are two women who have shown brilliant form in the months following (and at) the Olympic Games. Olympic TT gold medalist Annemiek van Vleuten (Netherlands) and Marlen Reusser (Switzerland) have both shown up to the second half of the season swinging.

Annemiek Van Vleuten winning stage 2 of the Ceratizit Challenge By La Vuelta 2021 Stage 2 individual time trial

After scoring gold in Toyko, Van Vleuten won the uphill time trial stage and the overall at the Ladies Tour of Norway, and the overall at the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta. She may not have looked like her old self in the opening races, but since throwing her arms in the air at the Olympic road race thinking she had won, Van Vleuten has proved she’s still the top of the sport.

She also skipped the time trial at the World Championships in 2020, after winning the rainbow jersey in 2018 and finishing third in 2019 behind Van der Breggen and Chloe Dygert.

Marlen Reusser during the 2021 Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta.

Compared to her biggest challenger Van Vleuten, Reusser is practically new to bike racing, but in her short time, she’s developed a powerful reputation. In 2020 and 2021 alone she finished second in the Worlds time trial, won the time trial in the Simac Ladies Tour, won the first stage of the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta with a solo move, and just recently won the time trial at the European Championships.

If anyone can dethrone Van Vleuten, it’s Reusser.

Below Reusser and Van Vleuten is a second tier of strong contenders well within shot at a podium spot.

Ellen van Dijk at the Simac Ladies Tour.

Ellen van Dijk (Netherlands) is perhaps the strongest of these contenders. She finished second behind Reusser in the European Championship time trial and then won the road race with a long-range, solo attack. She is perhaps the most familiar with the terrain of the Worlds time trial.

Alongside Van Dijk, we have Lisa Brennauer (Germany), who finished third in the European Championship time trial. Brennauer had a strong spring campaign before she set her sites on the Olympics for the track where she won a gold medal in the team pursuit. Brennauer’s team pursuit teammate and fellow German Lisa Klein could also do well on Monday.

Lisa Brennauer of Team Germany rides during the Women’s Individual time trial on day five of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Fuji International Speedway.

Emma Norsgaard will be there and around the top five; the Danish rider has been a breakout star in 2021. Olympic road race gold medalist Anna Kiesenhofer (Austria) will also compete. Although she finished seventh at the European Championship, it will still be interesting to see how she stacks up against the top time trialists in the world since she could not race the time trial in Tokyo.

Anna Kiesenhofer of Austria during the UCI Road World Championships in 2020.

How to watch

The race can be watched live in most of Europe on GCN+ or Eurosport. For Canadian viewers, Flobikes is where you can find the action, for those in the United States it will be on NBC Sports. Australians will want to tune into SBS.

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