The team time trial is one of the most beautiful cycling disciplines. Cycling is a team sport, but normally only the winning rider stands on the podium. The TTT is the exception to the rule, where the entire team celebrates together on the podium in victory. Some of my worst and best racing experiences have been in TTTs. The worst was a horrible crash with an entire team, and the best was winning a World Championship title.
A great TTT squad needs to work like a well-oiled machine. The fastest teams have figured out how and where to use each rider’s strengths in the best possible combination. A smooth team is a fast team. I remember how smooth and machine-like we were that day Team Sunweb surprised the cycling world to take the TTT victory in Bergen, Norway.
Sadly, since the UCI changed the format to a Nation’s TTT at Worlds this year, the discipline has almost disappeared from the race calendar. For perspective, last year there were six TTTs (Healthy Aging Tour, Giro Rosa, Sweden, Norway, Madrid, Worlds), while this year there were only two (Giro Rosa and Sweden). The Giro Rosa event was also almost entirely uphill, so not the best representation of how well a team can work together.
Last week at the Sweden Vargarda World Tour race, we joked a bit that it was like the unofficial TTT World Championships. Trek-Segafredo won over Canyon-SRAM, while I finished third with Team Sunweb. The anticipation and speculation about potential winners felt different this year without other events leading up to the race for comparison. In the past, the Vargarda race was a good indicator of the teams doing well leading up to Worlds, and it was part of an entertaining season-long racing narrative for fans to follow.
The competition was fierce last season with seconds separating rival teams at many races. I think the discipline really pushed women’s cycling teams to raise their game in terms of fitness, technique, equipment and technology in order to target GC goals and compete for the ultimate World Championship prize. Most top teams organized specific TTT camps during the season to train the discipline, raising everyone’s level since the efforts to train this event are very difficult! In the last few years, more races featured TTTs, as this was a good way to draw teams to their event and gave everyone the opportunity to improve their game.
As I am not opposed to trying new things, I will keep an open mind about the new Nation’s TTT until we see it executed at the upcoming World Championships in Yorkshire. The new format consists of teams of three men and three women from each country completing a lap of the course as a relay. The final times are measured after the top two riders complete each leg of the race. I foresee a challenge in teams preparing properly for this new format, as it is difficult to train together with national teammates if you live and race abroad.
I would love to see the return of a separate trade team World Championships at an accessible event location so as to overcome the cost to teams, which I believe was the reason why the event was removed from Worlds. Maybe the Sweden Vargarda event could be the official TTT World Championships in the future? I just hope that in the hunt for innovation that this beautiful discipline that was driving positive change in the sport doesn’t disappear completely from the calendar.
Thanks for reading, until next time, Leah Kirchmann