Switzerland claimed its first UCI World Road Championships title in the team time trial mixed relay on Wednesday, taking a narrow victory ahead of Italy, with Australia rounding out the podium in third.
The Swiss trio of Stefan Küng, Mauro Schmid, and Stefan Bissegger was the fastest of the men's squads on the course in New South Wales, setting up the trio of Elise Chabbey, Marlen Reusser, and Nicole Koller with a hefty advantage that the women's trio held onto – if only just – to take the win.
The Italian team, which set out four minutes after the Swiss riders, put in a valiant effort, but came up less than three seconds short on the day, settling for runner-up honours in the event.
The home team of Australia, whose six riders had spent quite some time in the hot seat after setting a solid early time to beat, would at least manage to hold off last year's winners Germany for the third best time of the day.
The Dutch squad, winners in 2019 and second in 2021, landed a disappointing fifth after Bauke Mollema was slowed by an early mechanical and then Olympic TT champ Annemiek van Vleuten hit the deck just moments after the women started their leg of the race.
How it unfolded
The third ever edition of the mixed relay TTT took place under overcast skies, where each nation's men's and women's squads would take on a 14.1km circuit for a total of 28.2km of racing.
As they have done for the other time trials contested on multiple laps of a circuit at this World Championships, organizers broke the field up into multiple groups of starters with short breaks in between each group. For this event, the groups consisted of four different teams starting at four-minute intervals with a 25-minute gap between groups.
Tahiti was the first of the 16 teams that would roll down the start ramp for Wednesday's TTT, holding its provisional lead until the UCI World Cycling Centre squad set a faster mark to close out the first group. From there, however, the hot seat would change hands twice in quick succession. Ukraine briefly took the lead but that would not last as the Australian squad trumped their time immediately afterwards, the home team delivering a solid performance for the fans in Wollongong.
The Australian trio of Luke Plapp, Luke Durbridge, and Michael Matthews set a men's mark that was far and away the best provisional time. Then the women's trio of Alexandra Manly, Sarah Roy, and Georgia Baker followed up on that success with a very strong ride of their own to set a new fastest overall mark of 34:25, more than four minutes quicker than Ukraine's time.
The Australian team held on in the hot seat for a lengthy spell as one team after another came up short. Austria, Spain, and Poland failed to come particularly close, while the French men put in a strong first effort before the French women struggled to hold onto any gains. The French team would ultimately finish seventh.
The Belgian team also came up short of the Australians and so did the Danes, albeit only by 20 seconds, but then it was finally Switzerland's turn to make a statement.
Days after securing the silver medal in the elite men's individual TT, Küng led the way for the Swiss men through much of the circuit, helping to set a blistering pace that would stand as the day's best at the halfway mark. Reusser was then a powerful engine for the women's trio, which stopped the clock at 33:47 for a new best time.
That left three teams to challenge for the hot seat, including 2019 champions the Netherlands and 2021 champions Germany. First up, however, was Italy, where Filippo Ganna, Edoardo Affini, and Matteo Sobrero combined for a solid men's half. That was followed by a particularly impressive performance by the Italian women.
By this point likely racing with some idea of Switzerland's recent headlining performance, the Italian trio of Vittoria Guazzini, Elisa Longo Borghini, and Elena Cecchini stormed a circuit that had its fair share of technical segments faster than any other women's trio on the day – but it would not be enough. The Italian squad arrived three seconds slower than the Swiss, settling for second.
Then it was the Dutch squad's turn to attempt an overhaul of the Swiss, but things went awry for the former winners almost immediately as Mollema was taken out of contention by a mechanical. That left just Mathieu van der Poel and Daan Hoole to finish the men's leg together before Van Vleuten, Ellen van Dijk, and Riejanne Markus set out for the women's leg.
Within seconds of rolling down the start ramp, however, Van Vleuten crashed heavily. Van Dijk and Markus went on to put in an impressive two-rider effort, but all told, it would only be good enough for fifth on the day for the Dutch.
Germany, the final team on the road, was unable to continue last year's success, putting in a solid effort for fourth but missing the podium by seven seconds and not seriously challenging for the win. By the final few kilometers of the German ride it was clear that the Swiss would be taking their first ever World Championship win in the event.
"We're a small country but I would say a big cycling nation, especially in the TTs," Küng said after the win. "We're rocking it."
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