Lisa Brennauer's powers of endurance won out in the elite women’s time trial at the world championships in Ponferrada as the German scorched through the final five miles to claim a decisive victory in what was shaping up to be remarkably close-fought race.
Just over two seconds separated the top five riders at the first time check after 12 kilometres and the top three were all still within five seconds of one another at the second split at the 21km mark. Down the stretch, however, Brennauer simply went into overdrive to claim the rainbow jersey, 18 seconds clear of Anna Solovey (Ukraine) and 21 ahead of Evelyn Stevens (USA).
At 29 kilometres, this was the longest women’s time trial since the inaugural event in Sicily twenty years ago, and some seven kilometres longer than last year’s contest in Florence. Brennauer, who was lying fifth at the first check, must have viewed that extra distance as something of an ace up her sleeve.
"I knew that for me it was good that the race was so long because I’m very good in the end of the race," Brennauer said. "I gave it my all on the climb, I took the risks on the descent and then in the end I just went full gas to the line."
By contrast, the extra distance seemed to take its toll on defending champion and pre-race favourite Ellen van Dijk. The Dutchwoman was the last rider off and just under a second off the pace at the first time check, but she faded over the second half of the course to finish a disappointed 7th, 1:11 down on Brennauer.
The fastest through the first two time checks was Anna Solovey, who tested positive for an anabolic steroid at the age of just 19, but returned after a two-year ban to claim the European under-23 time trial last season. The Ukrainian stopped the clock in 39:06 to move into the hot seat ahead of the early pace-setter Mieke Kröger (Germany) and it appeared as though an upset might be on the cards.
"I knew I would be second because I’m still young," Solovey said afterwards, adding that she was unsure of her plans for 2015 due to the ongoing violence in her home country and, in particular, her home town of Lugansk, close to the Russian border. "I don’t know what I’ll do next year. I just live this moment because I am from Lugansk. This city is very dangerous."
Meanwhile, as the later starters reached the second time check, the podium picture was beginning to come into focus. Van Dijk and Linda Villumsen (New Zealand) were clearly flagging, Brennauer was building up a head of steam, while Stevens remained in contact, hitting the 21km point in fourth place, 10 seconds down on Solovey.
The climb of Mirador has proved decisive throughout the time trialling programme to date, and so it proved once again here. Stevens, as she put it, "went into the pain cave" and emerged at the summit having overhauled Kröger and moved into a podium place. Driven on by the disappointment of Florence, when she narrowly missed out on bronze, Stevens went to finish reach the finish just three seconds down on Solovey and in provisional second place.
"I had information on the radio throughout and I knew I was in contention and it was exciting to be in the running for a podium spot," Stevens said, whose teammate Carmen Small was a non-starter due to illness.
Brennauer, too, had made light work of the climb of Mirador and as the German swooped down the descent, she could sense that she was closing in on her second world title of the week, having claimed team time trial gold with Stevens and Specialized-Lululemon on Sunday morning. The 26-year-old was duly the only rider to break 39 minutes on the day and she flashed across the finish line some 18 seconds up on Solovey to claim a resounding victory.
A loud thunder clap boomed overhead as Brennauer made her way towards the hot seat, and the leaden drops of rain that had fallen intermittently through the afternoon turned suddenly into a torrential downpour.
The unfortunate Van Dijk and Villumsen were thus the only two riders to face such treacherous conditions in the finale, and their ginger descents undoubtedly cost them some seconds and perhaps even a place or two. In truth, however, neither woman was in contention for a podium place even before the conditions turned, and they finished 7th and 9th, respectively, and almost a minute off the medals.
"In the downhill I took no chances because it wasn’t worth it anymore, but I only lost 15 seconds or so," van Dijk said. "I heard along the way that I was over 15 seconds down on Anna Solovey, and I thought, ‘what’s wrong with my legs?’"
The race belonged to Brennauer, however, who followed fellow countrywomen Judith Arndt and Hanka Kupfernagal into the record books as gold medallist in the event. "I can’t believe it right now. I’m overwhelmed," she said. "I think this needs some time for me to know it’s reality."
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Lisa Brennauer (Germany)||0:38:48.16|
|2||Anna Solovey (Ukraine)||0:00:18.68|
|3||Evelyn Stevens (United States Of America)||0:00:21.25|
|4||Mieke Kroeger (Germany)||0:00:38.29|
|5||Ann-Sofie Duyck (Belgium)||0:00:45.31|
|6||Karol-Ann Canuel (Canada)||0:00:51.26|
|7||Ellen Van Dijk (Netherlands)||0:01:11.64|
|8||Alison Powers (United States Of America)||0:01:14.17|
|9||Linda Melanie Villumsen (New Zealand)||0:01:14.28|
|10||Trixi Worrack (Germany)||0:01:15.25|
|11||Katrin Garfoot (Australia)||0:01:23.36|
|12||Martina Sablikova (Czech Republic)||0:01:25.62|
|13||Chantal Blaak (Netherlands)||0:01:35.47|
|14||Eri Yonamine (Japan)||0:02:06.48|
|15||Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy)||0:02:14.86|
|16||Tatiana Antoshina (Russian Federation)||0:02:27.75|
|17||Serika Guluma Ortiz (Colombia)||0:02:29.51|
|18||Mayuko Hagiwara (Japan)||0:02:30.78|
|19||Eugenia Bujak (Poland)||0:02:33.04|
|20||Tatyana Riabchenko (Ukraine)||0:02:37.18|
|21||Julie Leth (Denmark)||0:02:42.53|
|22||Rossella Ratto (Italy)||0:02:57.21|
|23||Audrey Cordon (France)||0:03:01.53|
|24||Doris Schweizer (Switzerland)||0:03:09.45|
|25||Christine Majerus (Luxembourg)||0:03:30.97|
|26||Lija Laizane (Latvia)||0:03:34.93|
|27||Leah Kirchmann (Canada)||0:03:35.36|
|28||Lotta Lepisto (Finland)||0:03:40.03|
|29||Mia Radotic (Croatia)||0:03:48.42|
|30||Martina Ritter (Austria)||0:03:59.36|
|31||Sari Saarelainen (Finland)||0:04:04.65|
|32||Belen Lopez Morales (Spain)||0:04:11.65|
|33||Daiva Tuslaite (Lithuania)||0:04:16.37|
|34||Lourdes Oyarbide Jimenez (Spain)||0:04:27.21|
|35||Dana Rozlapa (Latvia)||0:04:35.38|
|36||Aude Biannic (France)||0:04:38.06|
|37||Ana Teresa Casas Bonilla (Mexico)||0:04:39.90|
|38||Jacqueline Hahn (Austria)||0:04:40.91|
|39||Katazina Sosna (Lithuania)||0:04:49.12|
|40||Alexandra Burchenkova (Russian Federation)||0:04:55.29|
|41||Liisi Rist (Estonia)||0:05:03.62|
|42||Katarzyna Pawlowska (Poland)||0:05:14.67|
|43||Heidi Dalton (South Africa)||0:05:43.86|
|44||Veronica Leal Balderas (Mexico)||0:05:44.31|
|45||Varvara Fasoi (Greece)||0:06:04.47|
|46||Clemilda Fernandes Silva (Brazil)||0:06:15.57|
|47||Daniela Reis (Portugal)||0:07:48.82|
|DNS||An-Li Kachelhoffer (South Africa)|
|DNS||Carmen Small (United States Of America)|