Specialized-Lululemon has turned to crowdfunding to ensure its survival when its sponsors withdraw at the end of this season, and the American squad was certainly value for its victory in the women’s team time trial at the World Championships in Ponferrada.
It was Specialized-Lululemon’s third win in as many years in the event, and they delivered a smooth, assured showing over the 36km course to finish 1:17 clear of Orica-AIS and 2:19 up on Astana-BePink. Powered by Evelyn Stevens, Carmen Small and Trixi Worrack, they led at each of the time checks, and increased their advantage all the way to the finish to seal an emphatic victory.
“There’s nothing more special than getting to win together,” said Stevens, who has been part of the team’s winning sextet each year. “It gives me goose bumps. I said at breakfast this morning that it feels like Christmas – it’s such a special event and it’s the highlight of the year.”
While there was little precious surprise about the gold medallist, there was no shortage of drama out on the road, much of it provided by the unfortunate Rabo-Liv. The Dutch squad was on course for a podium place as they entered the final kilometres, only for Annemiek van Vleuten to crash into the barriers and take her three remaining teammates down with her. Anna van der Breggen was the worst affected, and was unable to remount and complete the race. Early reports suggest that she sustained a fractured pelvis in the incident.
By that point, Rabo-Liv had already lost Marianne Vos, who was surprisingly dropped shortly after the second intermediate check with 10 kilometres still to race. When Roxane Knetemann also was distanced on the final climb, Rabo-Liv’s hopes of holding off Orica-AIS for silver were already rapidly diminishing, perhaps, but the crash ended the debate, and they eventually crossed the line 10:05 down in last place.
“I blew up. Team time trialling is not really my thing, but I was not really that good,” Vos said of her own showing, which will be a concern with Saturday’s road race in mind.
Specialized-Lululemon were the final team down the start ramp, and it was immediately apparent that they bore no ill-effects from their own crash while reconnoitring the course the previous afternoon. “Oh, I felt a million bucks,” Stevens said, and so, it seems, did all of her teammates. By the first time check after 12 kilometres, they were already 16 seconds up on Rabo-Liv and 20 ahead of Orica-GreenEdge.
That margin stretched out still further over the middle section of the course, and by kilometre 23, they had 40 seconds in hand on Vos et al, with Orica-AIS a further 16 second back. More tellingly, while their rivals were beginning to shed riders in the closing kilometres, Specialized-Lululemon retained a full complement of riders all the way over the top of the climb.
As Specialized-Lululemon tackled the technical drop to the line, the Astana-BePink squad were ensconced in the hot seat as the provisional leaders. The Italian-based squad had been sixth-quickest at the second check but produced a remarkable final ten kilometres to move up the standings. Their final elevation to the podium was down in part to Rabo-Liv’s crash, of course, but the bronze medal was a reward for a well-paced effort.
“It’s an incredible experience to get a medal. We might not have been favourites for a medal but we did a very good ride,” Alison Tetrick said. “We’re very proud of the result.”
Orica-AIS, meanwhile, were locked in a battle with Rabo-Liv for the silver medal place through the final kilometres, and despite being down to the minimum four riders in the finale, the efforts of Emma Johansson and Valentina Scandalora suggested that the balance may have been tipping in their favour even before the crash.
“To get everything right is the difference between taking a medal or not and we pulled out a really good ride and got everything right, so it was nice,” Emma Johansson said.
There was simply nothing to be done against the might of Specialized-Lululemon, however, as Stevens, Small, Worrack, Chantal Blaak, Lisa Brennauer and Karol-Ann Canuel’s cohesive display saw them cruise home with over a minute to spare.
It remains to be seen under what banner the team operates next season, and where many of its riders end up, but they’ll always have Ponferrada. “The outcome for next year was going to be what it was going to be – more than anything we were focused on this year and on today,” Small said.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Specialized - Lululemon||0:43:35.35|
|2||Orica - Ais||0:01:17.56|
|3||Astana BePink Womens Team||0:02:19.64|
|4||Optum P/B Kelly Benefit Strategies||0:02:25.75|
|5||Boels Dolmans Cycling Team||0:02:26.33|
|6||UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team||0:02:43.80|
|7||Bigla Cycling Team||0:02:55.54|
|11||Tibco / To The Top||0:04:10.25|
|12||Btc City Ljubljana||0:04:19.93|
|13||Topsport Vlaanderen - Pro - Duo||0:05:45.82|
|14||Rabo Liv Women Cycling Team||0:10:05.32|