It would be a fifth-place finish for the Great Britain Cycling Team in the Team Time Trial Mixed Relay at the 2021 UCI Road World Championships, with the six riders, three men and three women giving it their all on Wednesday afternoon in Bruges.
Dan Bigham (Team Leader), John Archibald, Alice Barnes, Alex Dowsett, Anna Henderson and Joscelin Lowden were all in action – four of the team bringing their experience from the only other showing of the event at the 2019 world championships in Yorkshire.
The GB six would be locked into a battle with Switzerland on the road, setting off three minutes apart on the start list, however at the finish line it would be the Swiss team who overhauled the British time by 17 seconds to take the hot seat with five teams left to ride.
Once all five remaining teams had completed their ride, only 55 seconds separated the Great Britain from eventual winners Germany. The Netherlands would win silver and Italy bronze.
Team Time Trial Mixed Relay
Flanders, Belgium hosted the second ever running of the Team Trial Mixed Relay at the 2021 UCI Road World Championships on Wednesday.
In short, the mixed relay consisted of three men ride the first half of the course, three women the remainder. A total of six riders, between them would cover a 44.5-kilometer route from Knokke-Heist to Bruges.
The male trio rolls out of Knokke-Heist and team time trials through 22.5 kilometres to Bruges, once they cross the finish line, the three women get given a green light and take over the racing, heading back out of Bruges completing a 20-kilometre lap and finishing back in the city over the same finish line as the men.
It was a rocky start for some, with the UCI World Cycling Centre, Spain, Poland, and Austria being the first four teams down the start ramp in Knokke-Heist, both Poland and Austria would come up against some sticking points.
A Polish rider would suffer a rear puncture in their stint, a standard mechanical in cycling terms, whereas the Austrian team would face something rather unique to the event.
At the changeover point, television cameras would show Kathrin Schweinberger (Austria) starting too early, having to slow herself as she slid down the ramp with the changeover light still on red. A few nervous seconds later, it would finally go green, and the trio were allowed on their way.
It would be a further 40-minute wait until the next nation set off, the United States of America, followed by Great Britain three minutes later.
It was a brilliant start from the British men, comprised of team leader Dan Bigham, John Archibald and Alex Dowsett. Bigham and Archibald bringing their experience having won the bronze medal in the same event at Yorkshire 2019.
Given the bad luck marring other teams, Great Britain managed a smooth run to Bruges, and a big pull by Alex Dowsett a kilometre from the finish was his final action pulling off and leaving Bigham and Archibald to power to an intermediate split time of 24 minutes 59.67 seconds.
Unfortunately, the next team on the road was Switzerland who would cross the line three minutes later, 7.17 seconds quicker. The British trio of Alice Barnes, Anna Henderson and Joscelin Lowden -the latter two also competed in Yorkshire alongside Bigham and Archibald - were already on the road and would have no doubt been told they face an uphill battle to regain the lead.
It would be Henderson and Barnes that crossed the line in Bruges after the women’s stint, grabbing the provisional gold medal position and registering a total time of 51 minutes 44.09 seconds, 1 minute and 14.69 seconds quicker than the USA.
With the Switzerland team including the silver medallist from the elite women’s individual time trial, Marlen Reusser (Switzerland) just behind them, all eyes were on the clock.
Eventually a powerful Ruesser would come into picture around the final corner, sprinting to the line alongside her Swiss teammate, 17.2 seconds quicker than the time of Great Britain to take top spot.
Only five teams remained on the road that could displace GB however, they included reigning champions The Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Germany and favourites, Italy.
Once all remaining teams changed over from their male to female trio, four of them excluding the Dutch had gone quicker than the British effort, the Italian team leading by nearly 20 seconds.
A final time of 50 minutes 49.1 seconds from Germany at the end however would be enough to win the competition, and despite the Italian female trio losing time, they would seal Bronze. The reigning champions, The Netherlands crossed the line last, 12 seconds slower than Germany to take silver. The British team would finish a fantastic fifth on the day.
5. Great Britain +54.99