On Thursday evening, Team Sunweb were the fastest team over the 24.3-kilometre Ladies Tour of Norway team time trial, a stand-alone event before the three-day race starting Friday 17 August. Sports director Hans Timmermans was happy with the result and confident in his team's strength looking forward to the defence of their World Championships TTT title in September.
The six-rider team - consisting of Lucinda Brand, Leah Kirchmann, Liane Lippert, Floortje Mackaij, Coryn Rivera and Ruth Winder - won convincingly, beating Mitchelton-Scott by 38 seconds and Cervélo-Bigla by 1:09.
"The six riders made the difference, but we have 10 very strong riders who can come in and compete," said Timmermans. "The whole team works together like a machine. After doing the reconnaissance twice, we knew that it would be a difficult TTT. We executed it well, using the particular strengths of our riders."
The Team Sunweb riders also received a special prize on the podium - one that is not unusual for Norwegian races. 15 kilograms of salmon were awarded to the winning team, and Team Sunweb got another 10kg on top of that as they were also the fastest up the finishing climb to the Fredriksten fortress. This will likely keep the team fuelled for a while.
Amanda Spratt and her Mitchelton-Scott team finished second in the TTT, and the Australian took comfort from the team's progress in the discipline.
"We wanted to challenge our pacing. We had lost 20 seconds to Sunweb at the first time check, but from there to the finish, we only lost another 17 seconds. That gives us some good points to work on," Spratt said.
"It is less than six weeks until the World Championships so this shows that we are on track. It is great that we have so many girls in the team becoming so strong in this discipline. It is such a hard event but at the same time it feels special to suffer together with your teammates and then stand together on the podium afterwards."
As UCI Women's WorldTour leader Anna van der Breggen chose to skip the Norwegian races, both Spratt and her team mate Annemiek van Vleuten closed in on the leading Dutchwoman in the rankings. A good result in the Ladies Tour of Norway could put Van Vleuten or Spratt at the top of the standings and into the purple leader's jersey. Returning to racing from an altitude camp in Livigno, Van Vleuten said that she would not go for a result herself this week.
"I wanted to do this TTT, but the stage race is not a goal for me. I told the team that I will gladly support my teammates. It is nice to be able to do that after they rode so hard for me in the Giro Rosa."
Cervélo-Bigla finished third, holding onto a two-second advantage over Canyon-SRAM at the end, and Sports director Thomas Campana was proud of his young team's performance.
"They are consistently within the best three teams in the world - that makes me very proud," he said. "It was a beautiful course. It looked easy but the gusty winds made the race hard, that is why we could perform so well with two climbers in our team."
The Cervélo-Bigla team will now go on a team time trial training camp, skipping the Ladies Tour of Norway, and return to action at the GP de Plouay on 25 August.
WaowDeals were the only team to finish with more than the minimum of four riders. All other teams had four riders left at the finish, and some squads even disintegrated fully in the last metres, losing valuable seconds. But WaowDeals sports director Jeroen Blijlevens explained that the team did not target a good time, as such, instead concentrating on team performance and cohesion.
"We focused on the TTT technique instead of going for the fastest time possible. With an eye on next month's World Championships, we wanted to ride as a team and finish with all six riders," he said. "If you go all out, the team will not work together as smoothly. It went very well, and we posted a good time even though we did not take any risks."
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