Boels-Dolmans beat the heat to claim their first team time trial world title, capping off what has been a hugely dominant 2016 season. The Dutch squad has been streets ahead of the other women's teams, winning 10 of the 17 WorldTour races, including the Crescent Vårgårda team time trial in August.
Their victory in Qatar was equally as impressive, beating their nearest rival, defending champions, Canyon-SRAM by 48 seconds.
"We worked really hard this season, and I think that we've shown to be the most dominant team in world cycling," Lizzie Deignan (nee Armitstead) said of the team's performance. "It was really important to us that we finished this season off with this medal. It's been a long season, but we all came together and worked really hard. I'm very proud of the team."
It has been a rocky few months for Deignan after the revelations that she had come close to receiving a ban after missing three anti-doping tests. The first of those tests was later declared void by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and she was allowed to race at the Olympics in Rio. She had been the clear favourite ahead of the competition but the media storm that followed the news had clearly affected her. Two months on, she says that this was not the case in Qatar.
"I think, like I said before, I'm part of the strongest team in the world not just because we're great at riding our bikes but we're great at supporting each other," Deignan explained. "I've been very well looked after by the team and, mentally, this week it was no problem. I was here as part of a strong team, and I felt very much a part of the team."
No response to Wiggins case
Deignan's case is just one of several that has plagued British Cycling this year. The governing body finds its self in the middle of another storm after the hacking group known as Fancy Bears released the TUE data of Bradley Wiggins. Following an interview with the BBC, former Team Sky rider Jonathan Tiernan-Locke told Cyclingnews that Dr Richard Freeman, who also works for British Cycling, had offered the team the controversial painkiller Tramadol. This has led to Freeman not coming to the World Championships in Qatar.
Deignan will race for Great British next weekend in the road race, and when asked if she had any comments on the situation, she replied, "No, I'd like to focus on the fact that we've just won a world title."
She was also questioned on the furore that surrounds Wiggins, who, when the news of Deignan's missed tests were revealed, said that there was 'no excuse.' Deignan, on the other hand, maintained a more diplomatic approach.
"I don't believe that undermining other athletes is something that I should do in a press conference after just winning a world title with one of the most dominant women's teams there has ever been, so no, no thank you."
Desert heat and Steven's retirement
Heat played a bit role during the women's event as they started under the hotter afternoon sun and many riders suffered badly. While others wilted in the searing heat of the Qatar desert, the Boels Dolmans team stayed together for most of the course. They were down nine seconds at the opening check but remained consistent and jumped clear of Canyon-SRAM by the second time check at the 26.4-kilometre mark.
Time trial specialist Evelyn Stevens said that while the heat was far from enjoyable, the team was ready for it.
"I think I our team did a really good job preparing for the heat. We spent some time in a sauna last week in Holland, and we got here early enough to adapt to it," said Stevens. "It's not a heat that I ever want to ride my bike in again, but I think that we did a good job of managing it and getting prepared."
Stevens will not race for team USA next week, making the team time trial the final race of the season and of her successful career. She set the UCI Hour Record earlier this season after turning professional in 2010 after leaving a career as an investment banker. In August, she announced her decision to retire after the World Championships but she says that it is a moment she has been preparing for most of the season.
"I think I knew all season that I was retiring and I knew that this was the way that I wanted to go out. It was super special to win gold, and I have the utmost respect for my teammates and the staff and the sponsors so it is the perfect way to end my career," she explained.
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