Oceania had a mixed bag in the elite women's individual time trial at the UCI road world championships on Tuesday: while naturalized New Zealander Linda Villumsen claimed the silver medal in the 22km test, Australian champion Shara Gillow was on an off day, and her 12th place finish belied her potential in the discipline.
For Villumsen, formerly a Danish national champion who switched to the nationality of her residence in 2010, it was her fifth straight podium at the world championships. She took her first bronze in 2009 with Denmark, two more in 2010 and 2012, with her highest finish coming in her former home country in Copenhagen in 2011.
Despite not being able to match the pace of Dutch rider Ellen van Dijk, who won by 24 seconds, Villumsen was happy with the result.
"Ellen van Dijk has been riding very well all throughout the year, she has won all kinds of time trials, short ones, long ones. She really deserved to win," Villumsen told Cyclingnews.
While van Dijk revealed in the press conference that she had gotten out before the crack of dawn to preview the course free from the majority of Florence's traffic, Villumsen did not have many opportunities to see the course, and felt it may have harmed her chances.
"I prefer to be able to see the course a few more times before doing a world championships. We did parts of it for the team time trial, but I did it as well as I could.
"I know that Ellen is very good technically, and I'm not too bad myself, but if I'm not confident and I don't know the course maybe I was holding back a little bit more than I should have."
Villumsen experimented with a different kind of season, doing her national championships in January then backing off until June, when she started racing again in Europe at the women's Giro d'Italia. She claimed the overall win at La Route de France, and won the time trial at the Tour Cycliste Féminin International de l'Ardèche before heading to Worlds, and clearly had good form.
"It was a different year for me but a good year. I started late and with a different approach. I trained more at home and then did race after race. I enjoyed it. I was still there on the podium so I can thank my team for helping me this far."
What will it take to replace silver with gold? "I don't know what's missing, I'm going to try to find that out and try again next year."
Gillow lacking edge
Australian champion Shara Gillow was tipped as one of the outside favourites for the time trial podium, and was fourth from last on the start sheet due to her strong results throughout the season, which included a win in the time trial of the Internationale Thüringen Rundfahrt der Frauen, but the 25-year-old had an off day.
"We were hoping for 5th or 6th on this course with the form that Shara took in today." said team director Martin Barras. "She rode her heart out as she always does, but there was just a bit of an edge lacking out there pretty much from the start of the race today."
"I knew it was such a short course that the top 10 times were going to be very close," Gillow said. "The strategy was to go from the gun, but the course was actually harder than I thought. It was windy in the first section. I wanted to start out fast, and that's always the risk you take in a time trial. I kind of died a few kilometers down the road, and it took a bit to come back.
"Ellen van Dijk really deserves to win, and congratulations to her."
Gillow discounted that any physical or mental effects of her crash in training ahead of the team time trial caused her to not perform to expectations.
"I don't like to use excuses. I went out there and did the best I could today."
Gillow is motivated to work toward Saturday's road race to help Australia take home a medal.
"She's going to wake up tomorrow wanting to make a point after today." Barras said. "We definitely expect her to go quite deep in the road race and regain that edge that was lacking today."