Team Sunweb take clean sweep of gold medals on day one of 2017 UCI Road World Championships
Team Sunweb have soared to victory in both the women’s and men’s team time trials at the 2017 UCI Road World Championships on Sunday, clinching gold twice in a single day on Bergen’s relentlessly undulating 42 kilometre time trial course.
First in the opening race of the World Championships on Sunday morning Team Sunweb’s women’s squad were the fastest, and then the men’s squad made it a double time trial triumph for Team Sunweb in the afternoon.
Gaps were much narrower in the women’s team time trial than in the 2016 World Championships in Qatar, where, over a course just two kilometres shorter, Boels-Dolmans beat Canyon-SRAM by 48 seconds and Cervélo-Bigla at 1-56.
This time round Team Sunweb had the edge on Boels-Dolmans by 12 seconds and Cervélo-Bigla repeated their bronze medal by finishing 28 seconds back, but well clear of fourth-placed Canyon-SRAM, 1-05 down.
In Bergen, Team Sunweb had had a very conservative start, crossing the first time check 15 seconds down on Cervélo-Bigla’s fastest time.
Boels-Dolmans, on the other hand, appeared to be getting stronger in the team time trial’s second half, moving to 15 seconds ahead of Team Sunweb. But with five kilometres to go, Team Sunweb had bounced back to within half a second of Boels-Dolmans and come the finish were ahead of the defending champions.
“None of us really expected this - we were going for the podium,” said Team Sunweb’s Ellen van Dijk.
“It was so important not to overpace it on the climbs, because then you blow up the whole team. That was our strength today, and we used each other’s strengths in a really good way. It was incredible to win like that.”
Their male counterparts in Team Sunweb took an even tighter triumph in the afternoon, beating BMC Racing Team by a narrow eight seconds and Team Sky by 22 seconds.
Just like their bronze medallist counterparts in the women’s team time trial, Cervélo Bigla, Team Sky had made a very strong start, clocking the fastest early time ahead of defending champions Quick Step Floors.
However, the three kilometre Birkelundsbakken climb proved critical, as one of their Team Sky’s strongest time triallists, Geraint Thomas, lost contact. Despite four times Tour de France winner Chris Froome’s best efforts to keep the pace high, eventually Team Sky were forced to settle for a repeat of their bronze medal in the 2013 UCI Road World Championships.
Team Sunweb, though, had kept all their six men team together on the Birkelundsbakken climb and it proved vital in the second part of the time trial as they crowned the summit with a five second advantage on Team Sky. However, BMC Racing Team showed their strength in depth, too, as the American squad gained three seconds on Team Sunweb at the same checkpoint.
The descent back to the Festplassen and fast series of sweeping bends alongside Bergen’s docklands provided a last-minute twist to a thrilling finale, though, as BMC Racing Team’s fifth man began to struggle badly. The chinks at the end of their line of riders became wider and wider and finally, Team Sunweb celebrated a narrow but well-deserved triumph. Just as in 2016 when BMC Racing Team lost to Quick Step Floors, the World Team Time Trial Champion in 2014 and 2015 was forced to settle for silver once again.
“It's crazy. First the women, and now us. It's crazy,” said Team Sunweb’s Tom Dumoulin. “The team was so homogenous. It was absolutely amazing.”
"We had a very good pace and kept it all the way to the line. We tried to keep together especially on the long climb, and that just about worked out - barely. It's the team event of the year, and we pulled it off."
Racing continues on Monday with the Junior Women’s Individual Time Trial, over 16.1 kilometres, and the Men’s U-23 equivalent event, which is 37 kilometres long.