Linda Villumsen has praised Marco Pinotti for helping her return to the top of women’s cycling. The New Zealand rider took an extended break from international cycling at the end of the 2012 season but came back in July of this year. Despite the gap in racing she rode to an impressive overall victory in the La Route de France this month.
Villumsen has been coached by Pinotti ever since the pair rode together under the HTC-Columbia banner in 2010.
“It was the last year when I was on HTC and we started talking about training. We’re both the same type of riders, both time trialists who like to study the numbers in training. But I couldn’t thank him enough because without him I couldn’t have come back because it was a long time to be away from that level. My first race back was the Giro and I can only thank him because he obviously gave me the right training,” she told Cyclingnews.
“He’s there any time of the day, any time I have something to ask him about, he’s there within minutes to reply with the best possible advice. He plans days, or weeks ahead depending on what’s coming up and at the moment we’re looking together at the Worlds.”
There are a number of races between now and the Worlds but Florence will mark a year since Villumsen decided to take a break from racing.
Villumsen rode for the Orica team in 2012 but towards the end of the year the press were informed that the she would be retiring.
“I was taking a break. The press release from Orica was more like I’d retired but what it meant to say was that I’d retired from the team. I had been training and racing with my local team. I’d done a few races over Christmas and nationals so it wasn’t like I had complete time off but I’d really not been racing near enough.”
The reason for Villumsen’s decision to take a break only became clearer much later. Having missed out on a medal at the London Games, the 28-year-old decided that a much needed break was in order. Four years of preparing for one event, and only to miss out on a medal by a matter of seconds, had been a huge disappointment and when she informed Orica that she would not be ready for the start of the 2013 season, there was little option but to leave.
“I didn’t want to quit but I also knew that if wanted to continue on a team like Orica I needed to be committed 100 per cent. It was a four year build up to the London Olympics and I was disappointed after it. I just felt that it was four years with that build up and I missed out on what I hoped for. That knocked my confidence and I might have lacked the motivation a little bit and I also wanted something more in my life than just cycling. To be on a team like Orica, that’s so professional, I just couldn’t promise them that I’d be ready by January this year but I said I could be ready for maybe May or June and that didn’t sit with their plans.”
Despite not having a team, Villumsen carried on training and raced on the domestic circuit back home in New Zealand.
At the time, Wiggle Honda was busy building their roster for 2013. A rider searching for a new challenge and a team looking for a proven winner were a match made in heaven and within no time at all a contract had been dispatched.
“So I started looking down other paths and I was very lucky to find the perfect set up. I couldn’t ask for anything better and the team has been really amazing.
“I had some information from Rochelle Gilmore and it just went from there and I ended up signing pretty quickly. The girls made me feel really welcome from the start and all the pieces just fell into place.”
The Giro helped Villumsen improve her fitness and there was steady progression as she went on to finish 5th overall at Thüringen-Rundfahrt before sealing her comeback with the overall win at La Route de France.
“Just being around a professional environment it already gives every rider a bit of a boost. Everyone is really good together off the bike. Okay, we travel a bit but being away from all of that for a while gave me more motivation to come back to it again. It’s never easy to have everything come together the way you want it but I have some great people around me and some good friends who take care of me.”
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Daniel Benson was the Editor in Chief at Cyclingnews.com between 2008 and 2022. Based in the UK, he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he ran the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.