World Championships: Women’s ITT Preview

The first event of the 2022 Road World Championships.

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The 2022 World Championships, and a week of racing in Wollongong, kicks off with the women’s elite individual time trial on September 18th. This year, for the first time ever, the women’s individual time trial route is the same distance and course as the men’s. Also for the first time in history, one U23 woman will be awarded a rainbow jersey.

The women are lining up in Australia after a long season of high-intensity racing. There have been more WorldTour races in 2022 than ever before, but only two of the races included a time trial. That means there have been precious few chances for racers who specialize in this discipline.

For those who hope to win on Sunday, the European Championships ITT may have been the best test. Even the riders who weren’t racing in Germany would have had their eyes on the race to see how two women in particular stacked up against the rest of the field.

The Course

The route consists of two laps of a 16.8 km circuit around downtown Wollongong. In total, both the U23 and elite women race 34.2 km.

What makes the race challenging is the number of corners. Since the course weaves through the city centre there are a whole lot of corners, a few are really sharp and a few are more gradual but the amount of time the women will spend on and off the gas will take its toll by the end.

Once the riders get roughly halfway through an individual circuit they have an almost straight shot back to the start/finish area. All in all, this is the only place to really put consistent power down.

On top of the twists and turns, the course features Mount Ousley, a short, relatively steep climb.

The Contenders

Because of the technical nature of the course, we are looking at the top-time trial specialists to take the jersey. It will really be a fight between two women, although there are a few other contenders who might factor.

Ellen van Dijk

Defending champion Ellen van Dijk is one of the two top favourites to take the title. A seasoned professional, Van Dijk knows how to peak for a race and she will have had her heart set on keeping the jersey. She is also incredibly skilled at handling a TT bike.

Van Dijk finished second in the European Championships ITT, but that would have given her an idea of where she needed to improve before the Worlds. She actually didn’t compete in the Giro Donne or the Simac Ladies Tour, the only WorldTour stage races to have a time trial stage. If we look back earlier in the season, however, she won the opening ITT at the EasyToys Bloeizone Tour. Her main rival finished third on that occasion.

She easily took home the Dutch national title in June.

Marlen Reusser

Van Dijk’s main competitor is Switzerland’s Marlen Reusser. Reusser bested the Dutch powerhouse in the European Championships in August, but she did the same in 2021 so that doesn’t necessarily mean anything by the time we get to worlds. The Swiss rider has been getting better each season, but her year with SD Worx has propelled her to new levels.

Like Van Dijk, Reusser wasn’t on the roster for the Giro Donne or the Simac Ladies Tour. She did, however, make stage 4 of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift into a time trial when she rode off the front and wasn’t seen by the peloton until after she’d won the stage.

Annemiek van Vleuten

Behind Reusser and Van Dijk, there are a few top contenders who have a good shot of being on the podium. At the top of that list is the two-time ITT world champion Annemiek van Vleuten. It’s not that Van Vleuten can’t win on Sunday, she is definitely in good form. The question is how can she stack up against two riders who have made it their mission to win this jersey and this jersey only. Van Vleuten has had her eyes on the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta, and quite possibly the road title the following Saturday.

That being said, Van Vleuten won the Ceratizit Challenge with a long-range solo move … it was basically a time trial. She is not lacking in power, and she has proven again and again she is the best in the world. She is the current reigning Olympic ITT champion after all.

Grace Brown

Grace Brown will be coming into Sunday with a lot of pressure on her shoulders. She is racing on home roads, with all of Australia behind her. But that pressure is not without reason. Brown finished fourth in the Olympic time trial behind Van Vleuten, Reusser, and Van Dijk. Since that performance, Brown jumped to a new team that focused a lot more attention on her time trial setup. She started her year off by winning the Australian ITT national title. More recently, Brown took home the Commonwealth Games ITT title.

Brown will really want this win. Maybe 1% more than her competitors, but in cycling 1% can make all the difference.

Leah Thomas

American Leah Thomas is coming off a huge block of time at home in California training for this event. Thomas had surgery early in the year and as such didn’t have the 2022 she was hoping for, but with a good amount of time spent away from racing, Thomas will be coming to Australia fresh. She also won the USA ITT title in July, when she was only a few months post-operation.

Thomas has always been a strong time trialist but now she has support from the same team that backs the current ITT world champion, perhaps Van Dijk will regret giving Thomas some tips come Sunday.

Riejanne Markus

The third contender for the Dutch women is current Dutch road champion, Riejanne Markus. Markus finished second behind Van Dijk at the EasyToys Tour, second behind Audrey Cordon-Ragot at the Simac Ladies Tour ITT, and this in the European Championship time trial.

We might be looking at an all-Dutch podium on Sunday.

It is worth mentioning that Cordon-Ragot, the French ITT champion and recent winner of the time trial at the Simac Ladies Tour, will not race the time trial or the road race, a real blow for France.

And for the U23 title

One rider stands above the rest when it comes to the U23 ITT title and that is Shirin van Anrooij. The U23 European ITT champion has had her best season ever for Trek-Segafredo. She will more than likely end the season as the Best Young Rider in the UCI rankings, after also winning the Youth Classification at the Tour de France Femmes.

Van Anrooij’s top contender for the title is Italy’s Vittoria Guazzini. Guazzini finished 11 seconds behind Van Anrooij in the U23 European Championships ITT. The Italian was second behind Elisa Longo Broghini in the elite women’s national championship as well.

One other rider to look out for is Marie Le Net of France, who finished third in the European Championships.

How to watch

The race will be streamed live on Eurosport and GCN+ as well as FloBikes for Canadian and American viewers. Since the event takes place in Australia it’s on very early for European fans, 1:35 AM CEST. For those in North America make sure you tune in on September 17th at 19:35 EST.

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