Switzerland raced to rainbow jersey glory in the mixed relay team time trial at the World Championships on Wednesday, becoming the third different winners in the three editions of the event.
The male Swiss trio of Stefan Küng, Mauro Schmid, and Stefan Bissegger was the fastest of the men's squads on the course in Wollongong, Australia, with Elise Chabbey, Marlen Reusser, and Nicole Koller following with another good time. They pipped Italy by just three seconds, with Australia coming in third.
Switzerland set a time of 33-47 over the 28.2km course, at an average speed of 50.084km/h, with Italy three seconds behind, and Australia a further 35 seconds behind that.
The Netherlands, heavy favourites after winning in 2019 and coming second in 2021, and with Annemiek van Vleuten and Mathieu van der Poel in the team, could only manage fifth, 52 seconds down. Bauke Mollema had a mechanical early on and then Van Vleuten crashed heavily, which left them with two riders - Riejanne Markus and Ellen van Dijk - on the female leg.
Each team competed over the 14.1km course, with the three men racing first in a team time trial, followed by the three women.
The first team down the start ramp was Tahiti, with the UCI World Cycling Centre and Ukraine going faster, before Australia set a fastest time, 34-25, that would stick around for most of the event.
Luke Plapp, Luke Durbridge, and Michael Matthews went fastest for the male trio, before Alexandra Manly, Sarah Roy, and Georgia Baker went fastest for the women too, which left them four minutes faster than Ukraine.
The course clearly favoured those teams which were stacked full of rouleurs, with the Swiss men all riders that have done well in time trials recently; both Küng and Bissegger finished in the top five of the elite time trial on Sunday. Meanwhile, Reusser has finished on the podium of the individual time trial three times in her short career so far, including third on Sunday.
It was Küng and Reusser who set the pace for their respective gender trios, while allowing the group to remain intact through the ride, a key part of TTTs.
“Our strategy was to start strong and finish strong,” Reusser explained. “We wanted to go only so hard so that we could all finish together.”
Italy, the Netherlands and defending champions Germany were still to come, but failed to quite pip the Swiss to the rainbow stripes.
Filippo Ganna, Edoardo Affini, and Matteo Sobrero put in a solid effort for the men's half of the Azzuri's effort, but it was Vittoria Guazzini, Elisa Longo Borghini, and Elena Cecchini who took the race close with a storming ride, but it was not enough.
The Netherlands' ride was full of drama, first with Mollema having a mechanical, and then Van Vleuten crashed heavily just after leaving the start ramp. While Markus and Van Dijk put in a brave ride, one woman down, it was not enough to challenge the podium. Germany came last, and shorn of the recently-retired Lisa Brennauer, did not look the same power as last year, so victory went to their southern neighbours.
“It’s amazing to win,” Küng said. “We are a small country, but we’re a big nation in time trials. We knew we were going to be good, but it’s amazing to see that it worked out.”
WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS 2022 - Mixed relay team time trial (28.2km)
1. Switzerland (Stefan Küng, Stefan Bissegger, Mauro Schmid, Marlen Reusser, Nicole Koller, Elise Chabbey), in 33-47
2. Italy (Filippo Ganna, Edoardo Affini, Matteo Sobrero, Elisa Longo Borghini, Vittoria Guazzini, Elena Cecchini), at 3s
3. Australia (Luke Plapp, Luke Durbridge, Michael Matthews, Sarah Roy, Georgia Baker, Alex Manly), at 38s
4. Germany (Nikias Arndt, Miguel Heidemann, Jannik Steimle, Liane Lippert, Romy Kasper, Mieke Kröger), at 46s
5. Netherlands (Daan Hoole, Bauke Mollema, Mathieu van der Poel, Annemiek van Vleuten, Riejanne Markus, Ellen van Dijk) at 52s
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