It was an eighth rainbow jersey and an emotional goodbye for 36-year-old German Tony Martin as he took yet another UCI World Championship title yesterday in Flanders.
Martin dominated the team time trial mixed relay alongside Lisa Brennauer, Lisa Klein, Mieke Kröger, Nikias Arndt and Maximilian Walscheid. It was Martin’s fourth victory in the team time trial after previous triumphs in 2012, 2013 and 2016 (when the event was contested by UCI trade teams).
He’s also won four titles in the individual time trial (ITT) in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2016.
“It’s the best finish, isn’t it?” Martin celebrated. “Leaving cycling with a gold medal is the best I could have imagined and I’m very thankful to the team, especially the women. I think they made the difference today,” said Martin.
By his side, Lisa Klein said, “It means a lot. It was a super painful race; we all went over our limits and it’s so great to be part of this team. Congrats to Tony on his last race. It’s a big honour for us to fight for the win with him today and to give him this present.”
Winners in 2019, the Dutch team of Annemiek van Vleuten, Ellen van Dijk, Riejanne Markus, Koen Bouwman, Bauke Mollema and Jos van Emden took the silver medal.
Bronze went to Italy (Marta Cavalli, Elena Cecchini, Elisa Longo Borghini, Edoardo Affini, Filippo Ganna and Matteo Sobrero) with a very narrow margin over Switzerland (Elise Chabbey, Nicole Koller, Marlen Reusser, Stefan Bissegger, Stefan Küng and Mauro Schmid).
The first riders on the road, out of 13 teams, raced under the banner of the UCI World Cycling Centre, with six representatives from different countries.
The men – Burkina Faso’s Paul Daumont, Rwanda’s Jean Eric Habimana and Syria’s Ahmad Badreddin Wais – covered the 22.5km from Knokke to Bruges in 28:10.66 before their female teammates – Lithuania’s Akvile Gedraityte, Belarus’ Anastasiya Kolesava and Slovakia’s Teresa Medvedová – took on the final lap of 22km and clocked an overall time of 57:18.08.
Right behind them on the road, the Spanish team soon beat that time, in 54:54.65, but they were immediately passed by the Polish team, thanks to a strong second relay from Karolina Karasiewicz, Karolina Kumięga and Aurela Nerlo. They were trailing by 31.81secs after the men’s course and leading by 42.37secs at the finish.
The second wave of starting teams (the USA, Great Britain, Switzerland and France) featured some of the world’s best individual time trial specialists. Among them, Swiss stars, led by their ITT European Champions Marlen Reusser (also a silver medallist in the UCI Worlds ITT on Monday and Olympic silver medalist) and Stefan Küng, were the most impressive.
Küng, Bissegger and Schmid covered the first 22.5km in 24:52.49. In the female trio, Chabbey was dropped by Koller and Reusser halfway through their 22km loop around Bruges, but the Swiss team still clocked the fastest time up until then, of 51:26.89.
Five teams were still to challenge the Swiss reference: Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands. Halfway through the relay, the Squadra Azzurra were at the helm, with the two-time ITT UCI World Champion Ganna, Affini and Sobrero setting a time of 24:18.12, ahead of Tony Martin’s Germany (+19.86).
Behind the leading two teams, Denmark (+32.30), Belgium (+33.59), Switzerland (+34.38) and the Netherlands (+42.02) were all part of a tough fight for the podium. Great Britain also appeared in the mix at this point (+41.55), but they couldn’t match the Swiss pace in the second relay.
The German squad had an impressive cast of female experts to pick things up after their male teammates: Brennauer (UCI World Champion in the ITT in 2014 and in the team event in 2013, 2014 and 2015), Klein (TTT UCI World Champion in 2018) and Kröger (TTT UCI World Champion in 2015). After 11km, they were already leading the standings, 15.23secs ahead of the Dutch team, with the Italians trailing by 15.84secs. The Swiss (+21.39), Belgians (+45.35) and Danish (+49.21) were dropping off the pace.
Germany held on until the line, taking victory in 50:49.10 (52.540km/h) ahead of the Netherlands (+12.79). The Italians (+37.74) very narrowly held on to a podium place, only 0.05secs ahead of the Swiss team!
The mixed relay was the final time trial of the 2021 UCI Road World Championships. Danish riders dominate the medal standings so far with two victories, while Germany, Russia, the Netherlands and Italy have one apiece. The competition will return with the road races: on Friday for Men Junior and Men Under 23, Saturday for Women Junior and Women Elite and Sunday for Men Elite.