Preview: Postnord Vårgårda WestSweden Team Time Trial and Road Race

The Women's WorldTour heads to Sweden this weekend for Postnord Vårgårda WestSweden TTT and road race.

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We are used to big breaks between Women’s WorldTour races in the summer, but this year is different. Less than a week after the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift concluded on the Super Planche des Belles Filles the women will race again, this time in Sweden at the long running Postnord Vårgårda WestSweden team time trial and road race.

The TTT in Sweden on Saturday is the first of a series of WorldTour races in Scandanavia. The following day is the Postnord Vårgårda WestSweden road race, and then the inaugural Tour of Scandinavia from August 9th to the 14th.

TTT’s are few and far between these days, but they remain a favourite for a lot of riders in the peloton. Apart from the Best Team classification in a stage race, a team time trial is the only time the whole team gets to celebrate together on the podium. Usually there are two TTTs in the whole WWT, Postnord Vårgårda WestSweden and the first stage of the Giro Donne. This year, the Giro opted for a short individual time trial to start the race, and if it weren’t for the Madrid TTT to start the Ceratizit Challenge by la Vuelta next month, the Postnord Vårgårda WestSweden would be the only TTT on the WorldTour calendar.

The road race the following day is another favourite for the peloton. It’s been won by top riders like Marianne Vos in 2018, 2013, and 2009, Annemiek van Vleuten in 2011 and Chantal van den Broek-Blaak in 2014, but has also been an opportunity for domestique types to try for victory like in 2012 when Iris Slappendel won ahead of Hanka Kupfernagel.

With the Scandanavian block coming so soon after the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift it will be interesting to see which teams send similar rosters and which pull from their riders that only raced the Giro Donne. If the race is primarily Tour starters, don’t be shocked if it goes to a surprise winner, as a lot of the riders who raced the Tour are still feeling the after-effects.

Both the road race and TTT were cancelled in 2020 and didn’t take place in 2021, so this is the first time the peloton will race in Sweden since Trek-Segafredo won the team event and Marta Bastianelli outsprinted Vos and Lorena Wiebes to win in 2019.

The Courses

Team Time Trial – Saturday, August 6

The team time trial is a pretty straight forward out and back 36 km race with the start finish in Vårgårda. The round out to the turn around in Herrljunga features a couple small hills, but nothing major.

The only technical feature of the course is the circuit in Vårgårda. After the start there is a sharp left into a sharp right, and once the teams come back to the finish there is a series of sharp bends with a final right hander into the finishline.

Road Race – Sunday, August 7

The finish for the road race on Sunday is the same as the TTT finish. After starting in Vårgårda the women will ride south for a big loop containing three gravel sectors and then back to Vårgårda where they will finish the race with eight laps of an 11 km circuit. In total, the peloton will race 125.7 km with nearly 9 km of gravel.

The long lap traverses rolling terrain and the first two gravel sectors are mainly uphill. The third starts on a downhill before it kicks up. However, the gravel is pretty far from the finish line, so while it might put some pressure on the teams to keep their leaders safe, it likely will not be the deciding factor in the race.

The final circuit in Vårgårda has a short steep climb that will slowly chip away at the peloton, but the final 3 km to the finish is flat. The riders will still have the sharp righthand bend to contest with in the final 250 meters.

The TTT Contenders

It’s been a jam-packed summer so not all of the WorldTour teams will be on the startline of the TTT. Plus, it’s a race that really requires some time in the paceline and the right equipment, if a team doesn’t have confidence in their ability to perform it’s a race that, unfortunately, they might as well sit out.

A few top WorldTeams will make an appearance, notably defending champions Trek-Segafredo. If only the riders could wear their national champion jerseys in a TTT. The American team will start French national ITT champion Audrey Cordon-Ragot, Dutch U23 national champion and U23 European champion Shirin van Anrooij and the world ITT champion Ellen van Dijk. American ITT champ Leah Thomas is probably taking some time off after the Giro-Tour double, but the team is still the strongest on paper. Experience will play a large role in the result on Saturday and Trek-Segafredo is not lacking there either.

Top rivals for the TTT crown is Canyon-SRAM. The German team seems to always put together a strong team time trial, and with 2021 mixed relay world champion Lisa Klein and Alena Amialusik on the roster it looks like they’ve pulled together an impressive lineup. Canyon-SRAM won the last ever TTT World Championships in 2018 with both Amialiusik and Klein.

Team SD Worx is starting the race one rider short which will definitely impact the powerhouse Dutch team. Demi Vollering and Chantal van den Broek-Blaak could pilot the reduced team to victory, along with Christine Majerus and Elena Cecchini, they are not lacking in strength. Cecchini was part of Canyon-SRAM’s TTT worlds win.

Other strong lineups include Team DSM with Lorena Wiebes and Pfeiffer Georgi and Team Jumbo-Visma with Anouska Koster.

The Road Race Contenders

The Postnord Vårgårda WestSweden road race will have an interesting mix of riders fresh off the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift, and riders with fresh legs after a few week’s break. There are a few teams that walked away from the eight days of racing in France empty-handed, and pressure will be on them to deliver. Other teams who had some sort of success at the Giro and Tour will likely hand leadership over to domestiques or young riders, which always makes the racing a bit more unpredictable. And after there was zero success for breakaways at the Tour, perhaps we will get to see the riders who dare to stick their noses in the wind walk away with a prize. 

One rider who sits a little above the rest is Demi Vollering. The SD Worx rider said after the Tour that she is in the form of her life, and although she came away from the stage race with second overall behind Annemiek van Vleuten, she was far and away better than the rest of the peloton. Her runner-up spot and the polka dot jersey were far from a consolation prize, but Vollering will still be hunting a victory in Sweden, as will her SD Worx team. They will only start five riders but among them are former world champion Chantal van den Broek-Blaak and forever domestique Christine Majerus

With Chloe Hosking on the start list for Trek-Segafredo, it’s up in the air if they will try to keep the race together for the Australian or throw some punches at it. Though they did win the best young rider classification with Shirin van Anrooij, who will be racing in Sweden, Trek-Segafredo weren’t able to steal any stage wins or land on the GC podium. Perhaps they will come into the one-day race in Sweden with a little extra fire. 

FDJ-SUEZ-Futuroscope is leaving their star riders at home, giving those who worked for Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig and Marta Cavalli in Italy and France a chance to get themselves on a podium. The most exciting prospect from the French team is Vittoria Guazzini, who finished second at the U23 European Championships road race and time trial and in the elite women’s Italian ITT national championships. She also finished third at Le Samyn earlier in the year after spending some time off the front late in the race. A talented up-and-coming rider, Guazzini is not someone to forget about. 

One of the more experienced riders in the peloton and also always on team duties is Alena Amialusik who will be Canyon-SRAM’s main hope for a result. The German team has a few young riders on the roster like Shari Bossuyt and Maud Oudeman, but Amialiusik was riding very well in France and spent a few stages up the road. She has taken surprise wins in the past, and Sweden might be a great opportunity for her to do it again. 

Every team will be watching Lorena Wiebes and Team DSM to see how they take on the race. If there is any possibility the race stays together, Wiebes will win. If the hills are too much for the Dutchwoman, they have Floortje Mackaij to throw up the road. But with Wiebes’s main leadout women Charlotte Kool and Pfeiffer Georgi on the startlist, it looks like DSM is hoping for yet another win from their champion. 

It’s still unclear who will start for Jumbo-Visma. The provisional start list includes 2018 winner Marianne Vos and Dutch national champion Riejanne Markus, both of whom have the ability to win on Sunday. Markus has been riding well all year, and if she can get up the road she can continue to make 2022 her best season yet, and Vos is…Vos…

How to watch

Both the TTT and road race will be shown live in their entirety on Eurosport and GCN+. The TTT starts at 15.10 local time and the road race kicks off at 11.00 am the following day.

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