The 2016 Amgen Women’s Tour of California featured a very unique stage in the form of a team time trial, wherein riders on the same team roll out of the starting box in a race against the clock. But it wasn’t just any team time trial, which are typically contested on the world’s most aerodynamic, purpose-built time trial bikes like the Felt DA. It was a “Merckx-style” time trial, named after the legendary Belgian cyclist, and arguably the greatest bike racer of all time, Eddy Merckx. Riders must compete on bikes and equipment that are UCI-legal for road race events. Despite some impressive performances from many of the athletes in attendance, it was the Felt-powered TWENTY16 Ridebiker team who took the victory by setting a blisteringly fast time. Felt caught up with TWENTY16 General Manager Nicola Cranmer to hear exactly how the event played out.
FELT: Going into the Tour of California, the team was focused on working for Kristin Armstrong, correct?
NICOLA: Stage 1 was always going to be a big race for our team’s captain, Kristin Armstrong. She was the one we were always planning to work for. She hasn’t put herself up against level of competition seen at the Tour of California this year, as she’s been racing domestically. Being a World Tour race, the Tour of California was the perfect setting for us to see where she is at, in terms of her fitness. And her third place finish on Stage 1 really showed the world that she’s right there with the best riders in the world, which was a great result. For her to race against and go toe-to-toe with the best women in the world is really a testament towards her selection for the U.S. Olympic team heading to Rio.
Team TWENTY16 riders warm up before their team time trial effort. (Photos: Joe Savola)
FELT: Tell us about the Stage 2 team time trial at the Tour of California.
NICOLA: The girls had gone to a team time trial camp prior to the Tour of California in anticipation of putting in the work to get a strong result. That’s really a big sacrifice to take those extra days away from home and add in extra training. But everybody was really eager to get in some team time trial training, which is a truly unique discipline in our sport and not something that every team gets the opportunity to try. We knew that our team had a very strong foundation to build on due to our development riders. And we also knew that we’d be able to utilize some extra horsepower in the form of Kristin Armstrong and Junior World Time Trial Champion Chloe Dygert. Everybody on the team really wanted to win that stage. We don’t always have the opportunity to race against those top teams, either, so it was a bit of an unknown for us. But everyone was really prepared, and they learned a lot at the camp. Some things they learned were patience and the importance of being smooth. We didn’t have to worry about equipment because of our confidence in the Felt bikes. It was a “Merckx-style” time trial, so it involved road bikes as opposed to time trial bikes We used a combination of AR and F series bikes, all of which are extremely fast bikes.
FELT: Walk us through the actual stage. How did it play out?
NICOLA: The team time trial started slowly, and that was because it began straight into to a left-hand turn going downhill. So our riders approached it conservatively, and that was another reason to get everyone calm and collected at the start in preparation for really hitting the gas hard at the bottom of the course. We set off third-from-last with two other squads behind us. And we knew that two other teams had already set a very fast pace, which were super impressive efforts. The girls put the hammer down after the turnaround point, and they ended up beating winning by six seconds. It was a really huge deal. For me, it was one of the major goals for the team for this season. And the team time trial discipline is unlike any other in road cycling. It’s really special because it’s a true team effort.