Ellen Van Dijk (Netherlands) lived up to her tag as absolute favourite in the women’s individual world time trial in Florence, dominating with a powerful performance on the flat 22.05km course.
The Dutchwoman set a time of 27:48 after a supersonic start and rode 100% effort all the way to the finish.
Linda Villumsen (New Zealand) finished 24 seconds slower to take the silver medal. The USA’s Carmen Small edged out her compatriot Evelyn Stevens to take the bronze, 28 seconds slower than Van Dijk. Stevens was just four hundredths of second slower in the official results.
Van Dijk is known as the “Animal” by her Specialized-lululemon teammates due to her ability to produce huge power and speed in team time trials. She played a key role in Specialized-lululemon’s second consecutive victory in the women’s team time trial world championships on Sunday.
She was overjoyed with victory and close to tears as she sung the Dutch national anthem after being crowned world champion for the first time in her career.
“I’m super happy. It’s difficult to describe how I feel now. I’m so excited because I dreamt so long of this one and the pressure was high to finish it off. It’s great to have won,” Van Dijk said.
“My intention was to start fast but I wanted to keep going a bit longer than I did. I maybe got over excited and a went too fast, but I maintained the time difference and so it was all ok.”
Villumsen secures her fifth podium spot
The Danish-born Villumsen rode her heart out to try to challenge Van Dijk but lost 20 seconds by the first time split and was unable to make amends in the final part of the 22km course.
It was her fifth consecutive time on the world championship podium. She now has two silver medals and three bronze medals but has yet to win gold and so pull on the world champion’s rainbow jersey. She dismissed a suggestion that it was down to bad luck.
“It’s not bad luck. If someone is better, they deserve to win,” she said.
“A place on the podium is still nice. I go close every year but something is missing. I’ll try to work it out and go all the way to the top perhaps next year.”
Bittersweet success for Small
Carmen Small was happy to take the bronze medal for the USA but felt sorry for her teammate Evelyn Stevens, who missed a place on the podium by 0.04 of a second.
“It’s a very bittersweet feeling for me. Evelyn is a good friend, a teammate and a fellow countryman. We’ve spent a lot of time together this season and it’s hard to have been beaten and have it be so close,” she said.
“I knew that it was going to be a close race but never doubted that Ellen would win. She’s incredibly strong. I’ve been fortunate to be her teammate all season. She’s special and has worked so hard. She deserves it.”
Van Dijk fast from the start
The 22.05km time trial course was considered short by many, but the high-speed circuit in the Cascine park in Florence and then the finale in the city centre and along the Arno river, produced a thrilling race.
Mountain biker Annika Langvad (Denmark) was the early leader after setting a time of 28:27 and stayed in the hot seat for a long time before eventually finishing sixth fastest.
Trixi Worrack (Germany) took over the hot seat with a fine ride and lunge to the line, setting a time of 28:19. However the big favourites started last. They were still out on the course but showed their intentions with some fast intermediate times at the two intermediate time splits after 12.7km and 17.1km.
Van Dijk immediately showed she had something more than her rivals, going 20 second faster than Villumsen and 24 seconds faster than Small. At the second split the gaps were 25 and 28 seconds.
Van Dijk lost one second to Villumsen in the final five kilometres but had a huge margin of victory.