Canyon-SRAM are the current – and final – world team time trial champions as the UCI removed the discipline from the World Championships program in 2018 after seven years, replacing it with a mixed relay (three men, three women) for national teams. They were among the favourites ahead of Saturday's PostNord Vårgårda WestSweden TTT but finished second after only starting with five riders.
"Alexis Ryan was supposed to race, but she is not feeling well after the crash in London," said Lisa Klein. "We are still young riders, and the health has first priority, so the team decided not to let her start. Our training went smooth, but it is different at race speed. We could feel from the start that the sixth rider was missing. On the way out, with a tailwind, it is much faster with six. I think we can be happy with our result with five riders."
Canyon-SRAM team manager Ronny Lauke told Cyclingnews that the changed World Championships program has also caused a change in the team's focus. Without the title of world champion to aim for, trade TTTs no longer have the same priority. The team has won the world title on five occasions under it's previous titles Specialized-lululemon, Velocio-SRAM and Canyon-SRAM (2012-15 and 2018).
"Since their inception, the TTT World Championships have always been a strong focus and a heavy investment for preparation. It was the only chance for a trade team to call themselves world champions. We are sad it's not held anymore. So, we carry the logo on our jersey and vehicles with extra pride, since we are the last ones who can wear it."
Trade TTTs on the decline in women's cycling
The number of TTTs on the 2019 women's race calendar has declined in comparison with previous years. In 2018, there were four team time trials on the UCI Women's WorldTour: The Giro Rosa opening TTT, Vårgårda, a stand-alone TTT at the Ladies Tour of Norway, and the stage 1 TTT at the Madrid Challenge.
In addition, the TTT World Championships were a highlight to close out the season, and the Tour of Thailand and Healthy Ageing Tour also included TTTs. In the years before, there were always between four and six trade-team TTTs at various UCI races.
For 2019, however, the number of team time trials on the UCI calendar has fallen to only two – the opening TTT at the Giro Rosa, which Canyon-SRAM won, and the Vårgårda TTT.
"With no world title on the line anymore, we don't put specific preparation into it," says Lauke. "We would rather use the financial resources to focus on development in ITT and other areas. For both TTTs this year, we have done one course recon and TTT practice the day before. That was our only preparation. So, no, we don't put the same focus into it anymore. With that in mind, I believe our group achieved a great result today."
The Yorkshire World Road Championships in September will see the first mixed relay world champions being crowned, with national selections taking the place of trade teams on the first day of the World Championships.
"The new team relay format is okay, but for trade teams, it doesn't have the same value. We don't know yet which riders will be selected for the team relay in Yorkshire. If our riders do get selected, we will give them full support, of course."