Boels-Dolmans lined up in Ravnanger, Norway as the defending team time trial world champions. Chantal Blaak, Karol-Ann Canuel, Megan Guarnier, Christine Majerus, Amy Pieters and Anna van der Breggen were the final squad of six to power off the start line. Fastest at the first two intermediate time checks and two-tenths of a second off the fastest time at the third and final check, Boels-Dolmans came home with the silver medal in Bergen.
“I’m disappointed in the result, but I think that’s normal. We could only lose today, so only the win would make us happy,” said Blaak. “We didn’t win, but I don’t think we can be disappointed in our performance. We gave everything, and we couldn’t have gone any faster.”
Blaak was part of Boels-Dolmans’ winning team in Doha, Qatar last October. Majerus and Canuel were also part of the 2016 gold-medal ride. Van der Breggen, Pieters and Guarnier made up a trio aiming for its first worlds win. Boels-Dolmans raced three team times trials this season at Healthy Ageing Tour, the Giro Rosa and Vargarda. The team won all three. In fact, Boels-Dolmans hadn’t lost a team time trial in 18 months.
“We didn’t come here for second place,” said Pieters. “Being on the podium with a silver medal around our shoulders is disappointing, but there’s nothing we could have done better today. We did a good ride.”
The final 10 kilometres of the 42-kilometre effort proved most decisive. This section of the rolling race included the steepest climb, the Birkelundsbakken, which proved the undoing of several teams, followed by a downhill and a cobble sector.
“We didn’t know if we could hit the climb with six or not. We didn’t have a plan about that specifically,” noted Blaak. “The reason we hit the climb with six was because everyone was that good. I think we showed that because on top of the climb we were fastest. I think it says something about our strength. We lost the race in the downhill.”
“My chain got stuck on the last cobble sector, so I don’t know how the last five kilometres went for my teammates,” said Pieters. “It’s frustrating because that’s the section of the race where Team Sunweb took back a lot of time. I feel bad that I wasn’t able to contribute when the team needed me the most. I still had something left in my legs in the closing kilometres.”
Van der Breggen led her teammates across the finish line. Boels-Dolmans stopped the clock at 55:53, averaging 45.63 kilometres/hour over the 42.5-kilometre course. The time was 12 seconds slower than Sunweb in first, 16 seconds faster than Cervélo-Bigla in third.
“I don’t understand how we lost so much time in the last section,” said Van der Breggen. “It’s cruel when you are so close. We did our time trial according to plan, and we arrived atop the climb with the six of us, which was great. We left it all out there.
“A team time trial is about suffering and going deep, and that’s what we all did during the ride,” Van der Breggen added. “There’s nothing anyone could have done differently, and apparently our ride was worth a silver medal today.”
“I’ve won the world title in the team time trial three times,” said Canuel” I can’t say anything that went wrong today other than we weren’t the fastest. I heard some of the splits, and it sounds like we lost it on the downhill.”
A depleted and disappointed Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team stood on the podium together.
“After the race, we said to each other that we were proud of each other, and that we gave 100 percent,” said Blaak. “We didn’t blame each other because it was no one’s fault. We all knew it was better to say nothing, so no one said much. Just before the podium, we said: ‘okay, smile out there.’ Win or lose, we do it together."