Great Britain’s ‘Plan B’ for the mixed relay team time trial at the UCI Road World Championships came close to success on Tuesday, the six-rider squad ending up just 12 seconds short of adding to their 2019 bronze medal in the discipline.
The team were forced to call up U23 rider Josh Charlton in a last-minute substitution for Ben Turner, who fell ill with COVID-19 before the race. And if the late call-up wasn’t enough to disrupt team plans, the 20-year-old rider pulled out partway through the men’s leg of the race with an eye on Wednesday’s U23 time trial.
Still, he and his British teammates – Dan Bigham, Elynor Bäckstedt, Anna Shackley, Ethan Vernon, and Pfeiffer Georgi – put in one of the rides of the day to finish fourth, 1:03 down on gold medallists Switzerland and just behind third-placed Germany.
“Frustrating, eh? It seems like it’s the World Championships of ‘nearly’ kind of results,” Bigham told Cyclingnews after the race, referring to his half-a-hundredth of a second loss to Filippo Ganna in Sunday’s individual pursuit final.
“We lost Ben yesterday with COVID, so then with bringing Josh in, who has a race tomorrow, the plan was always that he does a few turns and pull out. To ride basically the whole thing with two and be in the mix is satisfying for sure, but we come here to win or at least get on the podium.
“We fought for that, but in hindsight looking back over the last week, it’s definitely one that will stick in my memory for different reasons – not for being successful but for learning lessons the hard way.”
Bigham said that various members of the Great Britain squad have had different focuses throughout the week, admitting that the mixed relay team time trial was his third priority behind the team pursuit and individual pursuit on the track.
Nevertheless, despite a far-from-ideal lead-up to the mixed relay team time trial and not being able to fully prepare for the course, Bigham said that the team did the best they could.
“Even though we’ve done recces and have worked on optimising around it, it’s still it’s a course which rewards preparation,” he said. “I think we did the best we could with what we had, but when we have so many different priorities, it’s not the easiest thing to come into and sit on the start line thinking ‘there’s nothing more we could have done here’. It’s more of an ‘it would’ve been nice if…’ scenario.
“In hindsight having someone with a pure focus on it could be beneficial for sure – it probably would…