Switzerland powered to team time trial gold in a dominant display, with Italy taking silver and Australia the bronze. But that was only part of the story, the favourites Netherlands having a shocker of a day with a mechanical for Bauke Mollema and a crash for Annemiek van Vleuten absolutely wrecking their chances of a podium.
While the plaudits must go to the Swiss team of Mauro Schmid, Stefan Kung, Stefan Bissegger, Elisa Chabbey, Marlen Reusser, Nicole Koller for an incredibly professional display in what was an event full of drama, Van Vleuten’s unbelievable crash was by far and away the biggest talking point. She was able to walk away – but whether she is fit for the weekend's road race remains to be seen.
This event has only been run twice before at the worlds and consisted of two 14.1km laps. The three men went off first and as soon as the second rider crossed the line, the three women set off. But it wasn’t straightforward – the weather had changed hugely overnight, overcast conditions greeting the first riders off the ramp with a stiff breeze and the possibility of rain for the later starters.
Van Vleuten to ride World Championships road race with broken elbow
Tahiti got things underway, setting the time to chase – a 40:50.22. But it was the later teams that everyone was waiting for, with the Netherlands, Italy and Switzerland all boasting incredibly impressive line-ups. Defending champions Germany were going off last but knew they’d need the ride of their lives to retain their title.
Australia was the sixth team off the ramp, with the crowds out in force to cheer them on. The men - Michael Matthews, Luke Plapp and Luke Durbridge - put in a stellar ride to set the best time of the day so far as they handed over to the women, with Georgia Baker, Sarah Roy and Alexandra Manly looking to set a competitive time in what could well have been the best of the conditions with rain threatening.
- 'Completely devastated' Belgian junior forced to ride a different bike
- 'Oh dear!' – Rider misses time trial start after bike arrives late
- ‘I’m entering my peak!’ – Yates joins UAE Team Emirates on three-year deal
Austria dropped one of their riders on both the first and second lap which put paid to their chances, while further ahead of the course the Australian women were flying as they caught and passed Ukraine on the road. They crossed the line in 34:25.57 to take the lead by over four minutes. But would that time last the distance?
The French team were the next most likely to challenge, with the men riding their lap a couple of seconds quicker than the Australian time. The Danes were right on the pace too, with suddenly the gaps getting tighter and tighter. Still the rain held off with the leaden skies just adding to the unfolding drama on the road. Juliette Labous briefly lost the rear wheel after doing a big turn on the front for France – having to sprint to catch up.
She regained the wheel and then even did another turn on the front but it was to no avail – Coralie Demay was then dropped and France came home 20 seconds down on Australia to slot into provisional second. Behind Denmark were struggling too, having set the fastest time at the changeover. The Danish women were down to two riders only halfway through their lap, far earlier than ideal.
Emma Norsgaard was powering on but Julie Leith was struggling to hold her wheel, and with Rebecca Koerner already gone Norsgaard was having to ease off to keep her team intact. They crossed the line just 0.32s ahead of France to slot into second.
All eyes turned to the Netherlands team – but Mollema was heartbroken as he lost his chain in another twist in what was turning into a fascinating time trial. It was only 3km into the circuit, the other two - Mathieu van der Poel and Daan Hoole - couldn’t wait and although Mollema set off in pursuit, it didn’t look likely that he would catch up and be able to help his team-mates. With the Dutch women arguably the strongest female line-up, it was going to leave them a mountain to climb.
‘This could be a disaster!’ - Mollema drops his chain in mixed TT
If the Dutch women were the strongest outfit, the Swiss men were probably likewise and they were ahead on the road and on the clock. Kung and Bissegger were powering their way to the line, mouths set in a grimace as they handed over to the women with a 15-second lead.
But how much time would the Dutch women have to catch up? A lot it was looking like, with the men already 21 seconds behind at the time check. Italy meanwhile was in touch with the Swiss team when they handed over, and the Italian women were no slouches.
But the drama kept coming – the Dutch women were given 40 seconds to try and make up at the handover, and coming down the ramp Van Vleuten seemingly lost control of the front wheel and crashed into the barriers. Her team-mates turned back in shock to look as she sat in the road, head in hands. Within a few seconds, the Dutch challenge was over as even Ellen van Dijk and Riejanne Markus surely couldn't manage to take on a challenge of unbelievable proportions as a duo.
Van Vleuten suddenly crashes in freak incident
"We knew the guys had had bad luck already in the race and we said to each other just make the best out of it and see if we can make some time up," said Markus after. "I hope [van Vleuten] is okay as we didn’t hear yet. We had to find our focus and reset, Ellen and I gave everything we had and made the most out of it."
Close ups of van Vleuten’s bike showed the front tyre was off the rim, but was that as a result of the crash or the cause? It didn’t matter as what was done was done, and it was all eyes on the Swiss team who were powering to the line to snatch the lead from the Australians by 38.40s.
Would Italy be able to dethrone them? The clock was ticking down, and they crossed the line just in the red. It was only 2.9s, but it was silver for Edoardo Affini, Matteo Sobrero, Filippo Ganna, Elisa Longo Borghini, Elena Cecchini and Vittoria Guazzini.
Australia’s earlier time held up for bronze on home soil, while somehow van Dijk and Markus managed to power to an incredibly impressive fifth all things considered.
- - -
Stream the UCI Road World Championships live and on-demand on discovery+. You can also watch all the action live on eurosport.co.uk
Rider ratings: Kopecky the rider to beat in women's road race in Wollongong
'Disaster!' – Van Vleuten suffers elbow fracture in freak crash
Share this article