As the reigning World Team Time Trial Champions, the Team Sunweb Women were the overwhelming favourites for the TTT that kicked off the Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta on Saturday – even more so as many of their closest competitors had opted out of the Spanish race. The Dutch team won, putting Leah Kirchmann in the purple race leader's jersey, but the race was not without hiccups.
"We raced here with the same team that will also do the World Championships. And to be honest, it was not our best team time trial. We made quite a few mistakes, and we were down to four riders quite early."
One of the riders who could not keep up with the team was Lucinda Brand. Normally a mainstay of the TTT squad, Brand did not have her best day.
"I could feel before the start that I did not have the best legs. But I started out as I always do, and that was clearly too much for me today. I was really struggling after a few kilometres and had to let the others go after 6.5 kilometres, leaving only four riders together."
Kirchmann was accompanied only by Ellen van Dijk, Coryn Rivera, and Liane Lippert on the second half of the course. The Canadian crossed the finish line first, and despite the suboptimal circumstances, this was enough for the stage win and the leader's jersey.
"We held it together and rode quite a fast race in the end. Today's TTT was short and technical with a lot of corners. The Worlds will be a totally different race. But knowing that we still came away with the victory even though we did not race our best race today definitely gives us some confidence going into the Worlds."
Alexandra Manly and her Mitchelton-Scott team also had a hard time keeping the team together on the technical course but eventually finished in third place.
"It was a short course, but there were a few punchy hills. Those were the main spots where you could make up or lose time. It was always a fine line between riding safely and going too hard through the corners and over the speed bumps. The team broke up in the second half, and we lost a lot of time there. This was the first time we raced with our Worlds line-up, and now we know what we can still improve on. Tomorrow we will all support Jolien D'hoore who has won the sprint in Madrid twice already."
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