Women's Tour of California: Heavy hitters to contest team time trial in Folsom

Canyon-SRAM, Boels-Dolmans, Rabo-Liv among the favourites

Tiffany Cromwell (Canyon-SRAM) pointed to the Folsom team time trial, the second stage of the Women's Amgen Tour of California, as the place her team would try to make a mark. It will be a challenge for Canyon-SRAM since the race has attracted several of the best time trial squads in the world.

"It's sort of our pet event," Cromwell said at Wednesday's team presentation in South Lake Tahoe. "It's certainly one we will be targeting to step up on the podium together at the end of the stage."

Canyon-SRAM won the 2015 World Team Time Trial championship under the Velocio-SRAM banner and though the team's management, sponsors, and kit have changed the roster remains similar to the squad that won in Richmond. Several members of the championship team are in California including Alena Amialiusik, Lisa Brennauer, and Barbara Guarischi. The team will be a threat in all facets of the race but they enter the team time trial with high expectations.

"A lot of the girls on the team are really experienced and have been a part of the team that has won the World Championships four times," said Canyon-SRAM's American rider Alexis Ryan. "We've trained together on the time trial bikes several times already, though this is road bike specific. I think we'll put on a good show in the team time trial."

The women's field will not be using aero time trial equipment, and will be restricted to using road bikes. While this helps teams manage travel costs it is a disappointment for time trial specialists like current Individual Time Trial World Champion Linda Villumsen (UnitedHealthcare) and two-time Olympic gold medallist Kristin Armstrong (Twenty16-Ridebiker.)

Despite the equipment limitations it hasn't stopped Armstrong from preparing her team with a meticulous eye for detail. Armstrong and her team rode the course multiple times and broke down the different sections in subsequent meetings. Armstrong explained that the high degree of pre-race communication is important so riders know their strengths and weakness before the race starts. She also feels the pre-race communication will help set the stage for riders to provide a steady flow of feedback while the race is in progress.

"This course is very difficult. It is undulating and it might not look difficult but when you are out there it is very difficult," Armstrong said. "When you have to finish with four riders it is very important that you work together. It just takes a little bit of being off and the emotions fly."

Armstrong worked closely with team staff, which included Dean Golish and former World ITT gold medallist Mari Holden, to prepare the team for this year's race.

"It was amazing. Just within 36 hours of being together on a particular course the transformation that happened," Armstrong said about the team's preparation. "We talked about it off the bike as well and we talked about the different technicalities to it. We talked about wind, we talked about everything I would do even to this day with my experience in individual time trials."

Twenty16-Ridebiker was the top American team in Richmond and they have arrived in California with an upgraded roster that includes Armstrong and 2015 Junior World Individual TT champion Chloe Dygert. The extra horsepower will make the young team a contender for the podium on Friday which Armstrong speculated could make or break GC standings.

Domestic teams will have their work cut out for them on Friday with several of the top teams in the world lining up in Folsom. Boels Dolmans, Rabo Liv, and Wiggle High5 all finished in the top five at the World TTT last year and have arrived in California with a list of heavy hitters. Boels Dolmans will be lining up with an experienced team that includes Evelyn Stevens, Chantal Blaak and Karol Ann Canuel, all of whom stood on the TTT podium in Richmond.

Stevens, who set the set the hour record earlier this year, was excited to have a time trial in her home state.

"We got silver last year at the World Championship and we are looking forward to Friday," Stevens said at the close of the team presentation on Wednesday. "I have a feeling my teammates are going to make me suffer on Friday in that team time trial and that's a good thing."

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