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Mollema, Brand, Pieters welcome new team time trial mixed relay at World Championships

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The Dutch squad, including Bouwman (left), Mollema (centre) and Pieters (far right) won the European Championships mixed relay

The Dutch squad, including Bouwman (left), Mollema (centre) and Pieters (far right) won the European Championships mixed relay
(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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Pieters (right) starts the mixed relay at the European Championships

Pieters (right) starts the mixed relay at the European Championships
(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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Bouwman and Mollema tackle the mixed relay at the European Championships

Bouwman and Mollema tackle the mixed relay at the European Championships
(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

The first-ever team time trial mixed relay will kick off the 2019 UCI Road World Championships on September 22 in Harrogate, Yorkshire. The event controversially replaced the trade team trial and will instead see national teams consisting of three male riders and three female riders.

The Dutch will field one of the strongest rosters that includes Lucinda Brand, Riejanne Markus, Amy Pieters, Koen Bouwman, Bauke Mollema and Jos van Emden.

"If I could choose, I would choose the [trade] team time trial," Brand told Cyclingnews. "It's something that you can work on all year with your teammates, and then the team can show themselves at the World Championships, and winning a medal was very important.

"On the other hand, a lot of teams complained about the costs involved in the trade team time trial. The UCI had to look for a different way to organise it. After all of the discussions on equality, too, there was the idea of including a mixed team. I'm glad there's still a team time trial at the Worlds, and I'm looking forward to racing it."

The UCI announced last year that the trade team time trial would be replaced by the new team time trial mixed relay raced by national teams. The last trade team time trial was held in Innsbruck in 2018 where Canyon-SRAM won the women's title, and Quick-Step Floors won the elite men's title.

The UCI felt the need to change the format after many of the WorldTour teams and women's teams pushed back at the pressure to ride the trade team time trial. The weaker time trial teams saw the race as a waste of their resources. Teams faced costs of around £24,000 to prepare and compete at the World Championships, with the UCI reluctant to help cover all the costs.

Once the UCI announced the new format, however, there were riders and teams that lamented the loss of the trade team event. Some said it was a disappointment to lose the prestigious event and that it would affect other team time trials on the season calendar. Some said its loss would be bad for team sponsors. Others said the new national team format was weird.

European Championships experience

The European Championships hosted a test event of the team time trial mixed relay this summer where the Dutch team won the first-ever title. Amy Pieters said she enjoyed competing in the new event and that it received positive reviews from the cycling community who watched it via live streaming.

"I was surprised because a lot of people wanted to watch it and there were good comments after the race," Pieters told Cyclingnews. "In a mixed relay there is so much more happening. The men start and race for 20 minutes, then the women start, and there is so much going on in between. All that makes it more interesting to watch than a trade team time trial. It's more dynamic."

In Yorkshire, the three male riders will set off first, and the three women will replace them on the road as soon as the second male rider has crossed the finish line. Officials will take the final times when the second female rider crosses the finish line, and the fastest team will be declared the winner.

“It’s quite special to do a TTT with just three guys - it’s completely different to doing it with seven,” Bauke Mollema, who was also part of the European title-winning team and will line up on Sunday, told Cyclingnews.

“It’s much harder, your average power is higher, there’s less recovery, and you also have to think even more about each other because, being three rather than seven, if you lose one it really makes a big difference.

"You have to be smart also, especially on this technical course, because there are a lot of corners, a few tricky descents, short and steep. Especially with the rain tomorrow, it will be technical, and it’s only 14km, so it will be explosive. The differences will be small.”

The trickiest part to navigate seems to be the hand-off phase. There is space for three women's teams to lineup up in individual lanes. Something akin to a traffic light - red, orange and green - will be positioned at the front of each team's lane. As soon as the men's team pass 200 metres to go, the light will turn from red to orange. When the second rider of the men's team crosses the finish line, the light will turn green, and the women are permitted to start.

"I wasn't sure what to expect at the European Championships," Pieters said. "It's nice that we have done it already once. They have changed some of the rules for Worlds, but they are small changes. The new lights and sensors are better than the flag used at European Championships."

That experience at the European Championships is what should stand the Dutch in good stead in Yorkshire, according to Mollema.

“Four of the six from tomorrow’s team already raced in Alkmaar, so we have some experience of the new event," he said. "I think that’s really an advantage. We know already a little bit what to expect, how it will feel with three.”

After winning the European Championships title, Pieters said the men's and women's teams have had opportunities to train together, and they previewed the Yorkshire course this week, riding it a full four times. She said there isn't much strategy between the two teams – rather, it's just matter of each team racing as hard as they can to have the fastest time.

"We each have our strategy," Pieters said. "We have spoken about the race with men's team, though, and in that way, we learn things from each other.

"You can only go as fast as you can. You want to be good and to give your best. When we were finishing our time trial at the European Championships, the men were still waiting there watching us finish, and that was very special. It makes us all feel like one team, especially when we share the podium."