The ‘Mixed TTT’ generated a buzz in Wollongong on day four of the world championships and although it’s the least understood of the medal events for #Wollongong2022, it was an interesting spectacle with exciting racing.


– Story and photos by Rob Arnold

Wollongong has sacrificed much to host the 2022 UCI Road World Championships and there are signs of promise for the final weekend but the atmosphere of the opening days of racing has been lacking… a lot of the time. Interestingly, however, the latest innovation for the #RoadWorlds – the Mixed TTT – drew a good, vocal crowd and anticipation was high through to the end.

With 16 teams of six riders each it was, in most parts, a showcase of cycling with an international cast that included three Pacific Island nations – Tahiti, New Caledonia and Samoa. But misfortune for the Dutch team meant that this innovation to the racing program has hindered the campaign of one of modern cycling’s biggest drawcards.

The mixed team time trial offered an opportunity for three Pacific Island nations – Tahiti, New Caledonia and Samoa – to get a taste of racing at world championship level.

Switzerland was the winner of the event, taking the gold medal with an impressive ride by Stefan Küng, Stefan Bissegger, Mauro Schmid, Nicole Koller, Elise Chabbey and Marlen Reusser. They beat Italy by just three seconds.

The Australian team – who started sixth and spent much of the day in the hotseat on the stage at Lang Park near Marine Drive – held onto the bronze medal by eight seconds ahead of last year’s winners, Germany.

Meanwhile the Dutch were left to mop up after mishaps for both Bauke Mollema and Annemiek van Vleuten cost the team dearly. Although the Netherlands finished fifth, the real story is about the team’s misfortune where mechanicals played a pivotal role in destroying the medal prospects.

For Mollema a tangled chain after around seven kilometres forced him to swap bikes and ride the rest of the course on his own while Mathieu van der Poel and Daan Houle did what they could to rescue the race.

With only two riders, the Dutch men finished the course 50 seconds slower than the Swiss but that was the least of their concerns on a day when Annemiek van Vleuten, a big favourite for the penultimate race of the championships, came crashing down in a bizarre incident.

Mollema’s incident was only the beginning of the woes for the Dutch but fortunately it didn’t injure anything other than his pride. AVV, meanwhile, was left stunned by an accident that happened around 100 metres into her race. The pictures suggest a snapped rear derailleur bolt but whatever it was that caused the wipe-out, the impact was obvious.

Without warning, van Vleuten lost control of her bike which suddenly steered left into the gutter and barricades and she came crashing down in dramatic style.

Shaken, shocked and sore, she sat bamboozled on the road while staff members of the Dutch team tried to console her… and work out what the hell happened.

With skin missing on her knee and elbow, van Vleuten’s race was over almost as soon as it began. And we wait to see if the injuries force a change of plans for Saturday’s race.

Bernard Hinault arrived in Wollongong and was on hand to see the Mixed Team Time Trial. Meanwhile, Brad McGee was also on hand to capture the moment (and get familiar with how the relay works).

While the race played out, the Australian riders sat on the podium after posting a time of 34:25 (49.149km/h). Luke Plapp, Luke Durbridge and Michael Matthews arrived back early and waited for the women trio to finish before appearing on the hot seat.

When they did walk onto the stage, it was only a matter of moments before the crowd began to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ as Georgia Baker blushed, smiled and then waved in thanks.

Alex Manly and Sarah Roy joined them on the podium, and they waited to see how the other teams would cope with the windy conditions. Although it was an overcast day with an omnipresent threat of rain, the roads remained dry throughout the Mixed TTT and teams experienced varying degrees of windy or very windy conditions.

The UCI World Cycling Centre scored a little bit of podium time as they waited on the hot seat before the arrival of the Australian team…

Getting an understanding of the event

The relay is an innovation that the UCI introduced at the world championships in 2019. And although it seems like an odd concept, it took no time to understand how it works.

In summary:

  • The men start first.
  • When the men arrive inside the final kilometre, the red light in front of the start house turns to amber… alerting the women that it’s almost their time to race.
  • When the men cross the finish line, the lights turn green and it’s go-time for the women!

The order of departure had Tahiti as the first team to start. Then New Caledonia, Samoa and a combined ‘UCI World Cycling Centre’ team featuring riders from three countries (South Africa, Algeria and Ethiopia), before Ukraine and then Australia.

There was barely time for either of the Pacific Island nations to sit on the hot seat before the six riders of the UCI combination team – Nesrine Houili (Algeria), Selam Amha (Ethiopia), Maude Le Roux (South Africa), Kiya Rogora (Ethiopia), Negasi Haylu Abreha (Ethiopia) and Hamza Amari (Algeria) – got a moment on stage.

They soon shuffled off when the Australians set what would ultimately be a medal-winning time.

Having the home team on the stage helped raise the tension as the wind got stronger towards the end of racing and rain threatened. Still, nothing could dampen the mood except for the splits of the Swiss and Italian teams… as it soon became apparent that hopes of an Australian victory were slipping away.

The atmosphere is building… slowly

Although the centre of Wollongong is oddly subdued, there are signs that the world championships will soon build into the sporting carnival it has long promised to be. The time trials are now over and competition resumes on Friday with the road races getting underway.

It has been relatively quiet – actually, the locals tell me, it’s a lot quieter almost everywhere in Wollongong compared with when things are operating as per normal – but there are cycling fans in town and their voice can be heard on the streets of The ’Gong.When the Australians emerged from the start house for the TTT yesterday, there was one brave soul offering an “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie…” chant. And a few even replied: “Oi, oi… oi!”

It’s a six-word song that raised some smiles and may have even made a few nostalgic for the days when “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie… Oi, oi, oi!” was sung with pride – and repeated often.

It might happen again in Wollongong this weekend. But what is certain is that the appearance of riders like Michael Matthews, racing in Australia again for the first time in years, ignited a spark for those who have been waiting for the chance to see world-class cycling in this part of the world.The buzz is slowly building and it should get stronger every day from now through to Sunday. Of course, the AFL grand final – which is scheduled to clash with the women’s road race – is likely to impact the TV audience. That being said, it hasn’t been easy for Australians who aren’t in Wollongong to follow what’s going on at the championships.

Until the final two events on the closing weekend of #Wollongong2022, the TV coverage has been limited to the pay-only option via Stan. The elite women’s and men’s road races this coming Saturday and Sunday will, however, be shown on free-to-air television (via Channel 9).Rain is falling on the ‘Rest Day’ of the 2022 UCI World Road Championships and there seems little hope of the clouds lifting before racing resumes on Friday. Still, the sun should be shining by the weekend and the crowds will surely start to build.

There are the best of intentions to turn Wollongong into an epicentre of cycling and although many things have been considered, the buzz isn’t quite here yet. Still, there’s hope and with good reason, as the best is yet to come.

– By Rob Arnold


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