No Olympics for Van Dijk, but happy with worlds

By Ben Atkins and Shane Stokes in Manchester, England

Women's scratch race winner Eleonora Van Dijk is delighted with the first track world championship title, but the Dutch rider will not contest the Olympic Games in Beijing, China this August. Despite now being a track world champion, Van Dijk hasn't qualified for the Olympics in her preferred discipline, the individual pursuit, having only started track racing four months ago.

"I was never World champion so it is my biggest victory so far!" exclaimed newly crowned scratch race champion Van Dijk. That victory came when she put in a solo attack with around four of the 10 kilometres remaining, and was not pursued by the rest of the pack until it was far too late.

But the Dutchwoman, who rides with the Vrienden Van Het Platteland team on the road, came to these championships with an entirely different objective in mind, "I was focused on the individual pursuit," explained the Dutchwoman. "Everything for me was on that."

A victory in that event would have brought automatic qualification for the Beijing Olympics, the only way for Van Dijk to get there since she hasn't managed to qualify through the World Cup races. "My individual pursuit was good, but I was fifth and just missed the finals," she said. "I was very disappointed because I also missed the Olympic Games, because I only started riding on the track four months ago. I didn't have enough points to ride in the individual pursuit in the Olympics."

The pursuit and the scratch race are entirely different events; the former relying on your own strength and focus against a single opponent, the latter an unpredictable race where anything can happen.

"My plan was to attack about 10 laps from the finish," she said of the late move. "I wanted to go when the speed was a bit lower. I did it about eight laps before the finish."

All of the previous attacks in the race had been seized upon by at least one other rider and smothered by the pack, but not this time. "I was surprised," continued the 21 year-old. "But every country has just one rider so they don't work together. That was better for me to ride away.

"I didn't look behind, just once," she added. "I knew I had to give it everything and if there was no gap, then there was no gap. But it worked out well."

Despite having quite a considerable gap coming into the final lap, Van Dijk refused to believe that the race was won until the very end. She detailed the point at which she realised that she was definitely going to triumph. "Just 100 metres before the finish," she said. "I didn't know how big the gap was [before then], I didn't look back, I was just focused on riding hard and getting everything out."

A few days on from the frustration of non-qualification, her new rainbow jersey and gold medal provide her with a great deal of compensation. "I was really, really disappointed with that," she confirmed. "But this makes up for it."

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