A second consecutive world title in the team time trial was a special experience for the USA-registered Specialized-lululemon women's team, but it was also a remarkable day for women's cycling in general, as Evelyn Stevens, Ellen van Dijk, Lisa Brennauer, Katie Colclough, Trixi Worrack and Carmen Small broke through the 50 kilometer per hour mark en route to a resounding victory over the Rabo-LivGiant team.
"It's so special - there's no other event in cycling where all six teammates can go on the podium together," Stevens said. "You really feel like a unit. Last year was special, and having had that experience, knowing how amazing it is made us want it even more. I'm so happy to have it in the world championships."
Team director Ronny Lauke said that defending the title was never going to be simple. "Everyone had us as the big favorites, until earlier in the week when the other teams got louder and were saying they could win. It can affect the team, but we decided not to listen to that, only focus on our strengths and have a clear plan.
"It's difficult to win but it is even harder to defend. The team came in very well prepared and confident. There is always a last little bit you need, and that's luck, but everything went perfectly today."
Overcoming a night of nerves, the women awoke early to a crystal clear, fresh Tuscan sunrise to start the 42.8km test from Pistoia. The RusVelo team had the quickest early time, but the Rabo-LivGiant team came through 50 seconds faster. Orica was next across the line to edge the Russian squad down a peg but Specialized-lululemon had led at both intermediate checks with increasing gaps, and were hot on the heels of the Australians to come through with the victory 1:11 ahead of the Dutch team and 1:33 on Orica.
Stevens explained that while en route, they were never sure of their lead and just kept powering all the way through to the finish.
"At the first time check we only had two seconds on Orica, and at the second we had 40, but I think some of us thought it was 14. We put a fair amount of time in at the end.
"We had a plan and we were able to deliver. The first part was flat and all about aerodynamics, about keeping up the speed - some people took longer pulls, some took shorter ones but the speed was always there. Then in the technical section we had Lisa, Trixi and Ellen do the corners at the front, and Katie, Carmen and I sat on, which worked out well because then we could take some longer turns at the end. We're all so strong, there wasn't a weak link. All of us were up there pulling hard. Sometimes if you feel you're dropping the speed, so you just pull off."
The women averaged 50.1 kph en route to victory, a remarkable speed that Lauke thinks has never been accomplished in a road team time trial. "I told the riders they had to go faster than 50km/h and they did. I don't think any women's team has ever gone that fast."
On a much hillier course in Valkenburg last year, only winners Omega Pharma-Quickstep and runners up BMC broke 50kph, while the top women went only 44kph. The men are expected to be much faster on this year's largely flat course.