Excellent news that the team will be able to soldier on.
The Women's World Tour got back up and running today with the 42,5km TTT at Vårgårda in Sweden, the race in honour of the mighty Fåglum Brothers. It is the World Tour's only standalone TTT (though a few of them have infected stage races) and a great opportunity to showcase some unique battling - especially now that the World Championships TTT is to be no more. Over the past few years, the same group of teams have duked out the podium - Boels-Dolmans, Rabo-Liv/WM3/WaowDeals, Specialized-Luluemon/Velocio/Canyon-SRAM, and latterly Cervélo-Bigla, who surprised many with their 2016 podium but were able to back it up in style last year.
In respect of the victor, no real surprises were to be had, as the orange juggernaut kept on rolling; Boels-Dolmans have won nearly all TTT events in the last three years and this was no different - they are a large problem where races organising TTTs as part of a stage race are concerned, on the basis that they're generally the strongest team in most races anyway... and they also have the benefit of relatively even top-down strength with nary a weaker rider to tow along; they didn't lose a single rider in the race, and their sextet of Chantal Blaak, Karol-Ann Canuel, Amalie Dideriksen, Christine Majerus, Amy Pieters and Anna van der Breggen features a LOT of flat engine firepower as well as those short bursts of speed that are vital in maintaining the wheel in a fluid TTT - especially Dideriksen, Majerus and Pieters have this quality in spades. They were the strongest team on paper, and they were likewise the strongest team on the road.
A new face joined them in second place, however, just 16 seconds behind - though it's probably no shock to learn that, given their starting lineup of Lucinda Brand, Leah Kirchmann, Juliette Labous, Floortje Mackaij, Pernille Mathiesen and Coryn Rivera, that Team Sunweb were a threat. They were 4th last year, jumping up from 9th in the Liv-Plantur days, and this year having strengthened the TT corps with Mathiesen and with again versatile riders with a good burst of speed top-down in that lineup (Kirchmann, Brand and Mackaij all have decent sprints where needed and Rivera is of course a top level sprinter in her own right), they managed to vault past Cervélo, who move down to third after two runners-up spots in a row; their depth in their smaller squad is of course less, but they have a very well-drilled TTT unit, and beneath their triple-headed leadership group of Lepistö, Ludwig and Moolman-Pasio (I'm more or less making the decision to upgrade Cille of my own volition, as she's a secondary head in climbing races to Ash, but after the July she had I feel she's also a clear cut above the rest of their riders in terms of results priority too), they also upgraded the TT strength with the signing of Ann-Sophie Duyck, with Clara Koppenburg and Emma Norsgaard completing their unit.
This relegated last years' third placed team, Canyon-SRAM, to fourth; they suffered with the loss of Tanja Erath and Tiffany Cromwell on the course so while they may have been scheduled, finishing with just 4 riders, the minimum allowed, probably affected their result compared to the top 3 who all finished with the whole team intact. Their final quartet consisted of Elena Cecchini, Alice Barnes, Trixi Worrack and Lisa Klein, so they had riders with strong TT skills and riders with good burst, but it's notable that all of their hilly riders are absent, even those like Amialiusik who are also capable against the clock and would likely have been beneficial here, while in terms of riders with sprint capabilities and rouleur strength Alexis Ryan being absent and Hannah Barnes being unavailable due to injury possibly affects the team's result too. They came in just ahead of the outgoing Wiggle-High 5 team, despite a very strong on-paper squad of Katie Archibald, Lisa Brennauer, Audrey Cordon-Ragot, Annette Edmondson, Emilia Fahlin and Kirsten Wild; Brennauer and Cordon-Ragot are strong time triallists, Fahlin is more than capable and on home roads, the others are coming off of track performances at the European Championships other than Edmondson who is a more than capable pursuit rider herself; perhaps their performance shows the differences between a TTT made up of strong ITTers and a TTT made up of balanced elements that shows the difficulty of the event in settling a team together.
WaowDeals and Mitchelton-Scott round out the 'major' teams if you like; both were missing some of their stronger names, WaowDeals notably without Vos and Mitchelton-Scott missing Spratt, van Vleuten and d'Hoore and with a Lucy Kennedy making her return after her second injury layoff of the season.