Team Sunweb backed up the incredible ride of their women’s squad to make it a double at the World Road Championships in Bergen. The squad, led by Tom Dumoulin, took victory in the men’s team time trial ahead of BMC Racing and Team Sky.
After the drama that filled the women’s team time trial, it was with eager anticipation that we awaited the outcome of the men’s race. The same 42.5km course would be tackled, which featured a tough cobbled section as well as a rolling course which culminated in the tough climb of Birkelundsbakken. 17 teams lined up for the race with Team FixIT.no getting racing underway. The battle was expected to be hottest though in the final few teams, as defending champions Quick-Step Floors would be last to go. BMC Racing, Team Sky and potentially event Katusha-Alpecin with Tony Martin were expected to ride strongly over the course of the day.
While the Norwegian outfits were first out on the course, Astana were the first World Tour team to leave the start ramp. They were not expected to be major players in the race, but LottoNL-Jumbo with Lars Boom, Primoz Roglic and Jos van Emden all in the mix were expected to fare better and indeed they did over the course of the day. They were followed by Katusha-Alpecin who featured both Martin and Alexander Kristoff; the Norwegian riding his home race.
The early pace setters at the first time check were CCC Sprandi-Polkowice who set a time of 12.06mins, significantly quicker than Astana; who were visibly finding it hard to really find their groove. LottoNL-Jumbo bettered the Polish outfit at the first time check by 13 seconds while at the same time the Sunweb squad of Tom Dumoulin, Lennard Kamna, Wilco Kelderman, Søren Kragh Andersen, Michael Matthews and Sam Oomen were getting ready to set out on the course.
While they began Katusha-Alpecin were surprisingly going slower than LottoNL-Jumbo, despite the input of Tony Martin.
One of the team’s expected to fare best, and arguably the favourites for the win, were Team Sky. With Owain Doull, Chris Froome, Vasil Kiryienka, Michal Kwiatkowski, Gianni Moscon and Geraint Thomas in the line up their chances were good; and supported by the fact that the course was so long and challenging. The course was really expected to play to their strengths, but of course nothing could be certain.
If anyone was going to seriously challenge Team Sky though it would surely be BMC Racing, who had been so strong in team time trials past. With Rohan Dennis, Tejay van Garderen and Stefan Kung all there the strength of the team was plain to see.
Last to go were the Quick-Step Floors outfit which featured New Zealand national time trial champion Jack Bauer. Alongside Bauer were Philippe Gilbert, Bob Jungels, Yves Lampaert, Niki Terpstra and Julien Vermote. As they left the start ramp Sunweb went through the first time check 5 seconds faster than LottoNL-Jumbo. That wasn’t too surprising but it would be more telling to see how the others behind them would go. Team Sky immediately went through quicker still by 10 seconds, but Orica-SCOTT could only manage 13 seconds slower. BMC Racing were slower too, by 9 seconds. But Quick-Step Floors were going strong, with a deficit of just 1.34seconds.
So as Sky set the pace Movistar were beginning to make a move on the big climb of the day, keeping five riders together they bettered LottoNL-Jumbo while further up the road Astana crossed the line, unable to overcome CCC Sprandi Polkowice. Katusha-Alpecin were also struggling out on course but LottoNL-Jumbo were faring well, setting a new best time of 49.10mins to slot into top spot by 24 seconds.
As Sunweb crested the climb though it became clear that they were a force to be reckoned with. They still had all six riders together and with Dumoulin leading they bettered Movistar’s time at the top of the climb by a whopping 55 seconds. It was on the climb that Team Sky were also showing signs of struggle, losing their first and second riders, with Geraint Thomas unable to keep pace surprisingly. They went through the second check 5 seconds slower than Sunweb after their strong start.
Meanwhile BMC Racing were matching Sunweb, going through just 3 seconds up on Dumoulin’s squad. Quick-Step Floors however were also faring badly on the climb, going through 16 seconds slower than BMC Racing. For now though at least three teams were all in the hunt with less than 10 seconds separating BMC, Sunweb and Sky.
Sunweb charged on though and stopped the clock in 47.50mins, putting them in the hot seat and now leaving them to only watch and wait to see what would happen behind them. But one by oe the teams just faded, much as the women’s teams had done before. Team Sky rallied well together but they could only stop the clock, in 48.12mins. BMC Racing had led for so long in the race, but they too faded in the latter stages, finally going through in 47.58mins; 8 seconds slower than Sunweb.
And now all that was left was Quick-Step Floors who had already dropped Jack Bauer and Niki Terpstra earlier in the race. But they were no match for Sunweb, crossing the line 4th at 35 seconds. Sunweb had done it, they’d achieved the double of both men’s and women’s team tiem trial titles and they’d done it in style.