Tuesday already sees the women elite riders take on the Timetrial course in Innsbruck. After the kids warming up the roads this is the first big prestige event even though it feels really early in the week. With just one restday between TTT and TT you wonder if that isn’t in the back of some riders minds when they plan for this race? More on that later.
As often is the case this is the same course used by the U23 men. It takes us 27.8 kms from Hall-Wattens to Innsbruck.
No city lap means no starting groups either which makes for a better chance of a fair race should weather act up. As we saw in the Monday races the course is fairly straightforward and one that works for the classic tempohorses. There is climbing but not the type that should cause a problem even for the heaviest specialists. It’s not a very technical route either although the significant downhill sections do feel like they are quite decisive. Most of all it is a course where pacing can turn out to be crucial.
The lazy version of this would simply be to do a rundown of the Dutch championships result list and you wouldn’t be too far off the truth. It all begins and ends with the dutchies. And then there are some other random women in supporting roles. There are four dutchwomen in the race and it wouldn’t actually be a huge upset if there were four dutchwomen in the top five in the end. Or in the top four for that matter. That’s not what is going to happen of course because most likely one or two won’t have their best day but I’m saying no one would be shocked if it did.
Last year it was Annemiek Van Vleuten who beat out Anna van der Breggen for the title, something that has developed into a bit of a theme ince then. In the Euro champs a month ago it was Ellen van Dijk’s turn to relegate AvdB to second place. As incredible as it sounds, Anna vdB has yet to win a Worlds title, either roadrace or TT. Somehow that statistic has to change at some point and it feels like this might be the place. She is too consistent not to walk away with the title and all the second places she’s racked up this year must give her a little anger in the stomach. That said the feeling is that Annemiek van Vleuten is the one who has really perfected the art of peaking for target races with altitude camps in Livigno and the kind of preparations we are mainly used to seeing from the top male stars. She also noticeably sat out Sunday’s TTT, leaving Mitchelton significantly weakened and out of the medals. No doubt this was with the TT, and perhaps most importantly Saturday’s road race in mind and it should tilt the scales in her favor. She keeps saying the TT is a huge goal but one can’t help but think that she must see Saturday as her best chance of a road Rainbow jersey and if there is any kind of conflict between performing on Tuesday and Saturday then she would give priority to Saturday.
Without such conflict is Ellen van Dijk who is still well capable of upsetting her two compatriots if she has the day. The hilly Rio course in 2016 worked great for her, even when you thought she would be too much of a power rider for it, and she looked on top of her game in the TTT so she could well be the joker in this race. So could Lucinda Brand who has made a career of performing spectacularly in the unlikeliest places in the last few seasons, to the point where I wouldn’t dismiss her entirely from the medal speculation.
And that’s all I got........... oh no wait , there are non-dutchies in this race too believe it or not. They’re all looking a bit....... underwhelming...... in the shadow of the dutchies but they’re here at least. You have a few stalwarts, like Amber Neben and Trixi Worrack who feel like they should be a bit long in the tooth to be a factor but Neben looks evergreen like her compatriot Kristen Armstrong when it comes to timetrialing and Worrack podiumed in the Euro champs and led her team to a win in the TTT so who knows? On the other end of the spectrum are up and comers like Mathiessen of Denmark and Elena Pirrone of Italy, both of whom look like they are destined for medals in the ITT Worlds, albeit perhaps not yet. Sadly absent in this gang is USA’s Chloe Dygert who hasn’t fully recovered yet from a concussion in the Tour of California in May or she would have been a medal contender for sure the way she’s been developing.
More likely to factor for the podium are solid riders like Lisa Brennauer and Ann Sophie Duyck. Brennauer is a former champion who seems to be regaining her old mojo more and more. I can’t see her beating all the orange ones but a podium spot is well in reach on a good day. Same goes for the Belgian champ who is one of the most dependable TTers in the World. She is fairly consistently one rung below the best too though so she would be an outside bet at best.
So, what will happen?
Against rational reasoning my bet is Anna van der Breggen gets the monkey of her back and delivers a ride that no one can match to finally get back on the top step of the podium. Whether the timetrial will work as an aid in predicting the road race on Saturday remains to be seen though.