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Ellen van Dijk: I've been chasing this second world title since 2013

Ellen van Dijk (Netherlands) wins the time trial world title at the UCI Road World Championships 2021
Ellen van Dijk (Netherlands) wins the time trial world title at the UCI Road World Championships 2021 (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Eight years after winning her first time trial world title in 2013, Ellen van Dijk (Netherlands) added a second rainbow jersey to her collection at the UCI Road World Championships. Van Dijk won a thrilling battle against in-form European Champion Marlen Reusser (Switzerland) on the dead-flat, straightforward course between the coastal town of Knokke-Heist and Bruges in Belgium.

“It’s a dream come true for me. This discipline is my passion. I knew the course suited me and that it would become hard. Marlen was better than me the last few weeks. I had to do something extra compared to the last few weeks. It happened,” Van Dijk said.

The Wout van Aert vs Filippo Ganna story that unfolded in the elite men's individual took place the previous day, and it seemed to be a repeat with Reusser and Van Dijk as protagonists.

Reusser had the best split times after 13.8km and 20.8km but Reusser lost time in the last third of the race and found herself ten seconds behind Van Dijk after 30.3km at the finish on the Zand square in Bruges.

“I started fast and finished fast. I didn’t know if it would be enough. Knowing now that it was enough is something that I could not have dreamed of," the 34-year-old said.

Van Dijk has never finished outside of the top seven in the individual time trial at the World Championships during the past decade. She last won the rainbow jersey eight years ago in Florence, Italy. Since then, she has also secured the silver medal in 2016, and the bronze medals in 2018 and 2020.

“I’ve been chasing this second title since 2013. Every medal I ever won at championships has a story. There’s always frustration if you don’t win so now there’s a lot of relief because I won. At this moment this feels like the most beautiful win," she said.

"It’s been a very long time since my first title. Back then I only felt pressure and that’s a pity because you’re punishing yourself. I wasn’t even able to wear it during training because people would look at me. Now I want to enjoy every moment because I also know that my career isn’t going to last too many years.”

Last week, Van Dijk also won the European title in the elite women's road race, and she said her world title is a great addition to her achievements this season.

“It’s becoming a nice collection of shirts for next year. I’ll need a lot of washing powder for white colours,” Van Dijk smiled. “I won the European Championships road race and that was quite a surprise to me because in the ITT I was good but someone was better. If someone is better then it doesn’t get noticed that you’re good."

Van Dijk was one of the top favourites together with European Champion Reusser and Olympic Champion Annemiek van Vleuten (Netherlands). Nevertheless, she started much earlier than the other favourites and didn’t know how that would turn out.

“I saw the start list and wasn’t so happy with that. I started one hour earlier and I saw the wind was picking up a bit,” Van Dijk said.

Before the race, Van Dijk stated she wanted motor in her race but halfway through the race a real scooter suddenly popped up in front of her. Luckily she was able to pass without problems.

“I wanted to come and scooter away but suddenly found a scooter driving in front of me. I thought they were trying to make it harder for me. What was happening there,” Van Dijk laughed.

She powered through the 30.3km-long course and blasted by Lisa Klein (Germany) at the second intermediate point. At the finish, she clocked a time of 36:05, averaging 50.377 kph, which is a record at the World Championships.

“That’s a nice top speed. We were lucky with the tailwind because that makes quite a difference. It went fast and it had to go fast,” Van Dijk said.

What she didn’t know was if it would be fast enough. Reusser was four seconds faster at the first intermediate point and still three seconds faster at the second split.

“I never want to hear intermediate times. I want to ride my own time trial. I knew I had to completely die, that the world would end at the finish line. I had to give everything. I think I did. I’m always critical and find points that I could improve. My boyfriend said that I did a great job.

"I rode strong time trials before but then Marlen still did beat me. It was nerve-wracking. I knew it was possible. When I saw she was four seconds better at the first intermediate point I thought she would beat me. At the end, I was less nervous about Annemiek because she was already a bit behind,” Van Dijk said.

The 2021 cycling season didn’t kick off very well for Van Dijk but the last few weeks the tide has turned in her favour.

“At the beginning of the year I had the coronavirus and was unable to ride the Classics. I focused on the end of the year. Not riding at the Olympics was a big disappointment. This was always a big goal for me. It all seems to go automatically nowadays which isn’t true obviously,” Van Dijk said.

“Now I’m going to have a party but then there’s the team relay discipline in two days. Luckily, there’s teammates who’re strong. This is something that doesn’t happen very often. You’ve got to enjoy this.”

That was clear enough when she was asked about her next goals. “Everything was focused on today. I haven’t even looked at the profile of the road race. I’ll take it step by step. This was my dream. It’ll take a while before there’s a new dream.”

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