Dutch power to worlds gold in mixed team time trial

(Reuters) - The Netherlands underlined their favorites tag as they claimed gold in the mixed team time trial on the opening day of the UCI Road World Championships in rainy Harrogate on Sunday.

The Dutch team dominated over two legs of the undulating 14km circuit, taking gold by 22.75 seconds from Germany.

Britain took the bronze ahead of Italy, 28 seconds behind a German squad featuring multiple world champion Tony Martin.

The mixed team time trial, tested out at this year’s European Championships, was making its debut in the world championships, having replaced the pro teams TT that had been a fixture of the event since 2012.

It featured three male and three female riders tackling the same circuit, although not together.

The male trio went first, with the women’s riders then setting off when the second male rider crossed the line.

The rainbow jersey was decided by the lowest combined time -- the clock stopping on the second female rider home.

The Dutch male trio of Jos van Emden, Bauke Mollema and Koen Bouwman put down a powerful lap before ‘tagging’ the women’s trio of Lucinda Brand, Riejanne Markus and Amy Pieters.

Pieters was dropped halfway through the circuit but Brand and Markus never looked like surrendering the advantage.

“It’s amazing. So fantastic to be world champion here,” Mollema said. “It was so hard to do a TTT with three riders, so much harder than with seven or eight.

“The course was really hard with the rain, it was technical and up and down. I think we did a really good performance. Jos Van Emden and Koen Bouwman were pulling so hard. The women did an amazing job as well. We won! It was really nice.”

Britain, the fourth team to start, were helped into the medals as Italy’s Elisa Longo Borghini suffered a puncture.

The Italians, whose men’s trio included Olympic track champion Elia Viviani, were on course for a bronze medal until Borghini punctured.

Initially her two team mates, Elena Cecchini and Tatiana Guderzo, left her when they should have slowed down. Borghini rode incredibly to get back with her team mates but Italy’s advantage had leaked away and they missed out.

Cycling’s governing body the UCI are considering adding the mixed TTT to the Olympic road program at Paris 2024.

The women’s elite individual time trial takes place on Tuesday when the Dutch are tipped for more gold with Annemiek van Vleuten seeking to defend her title.

Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar