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Van Dijk delivers clutch medal at Worlds for Dutch team

IMOLA ITALY SEPTEMBER 24 Podium Anna Van Der Breggen of The Netherlands World Champion Jersey Ellen Van Dijk of The Netherlands Bronze medal Celebration Mask Covid safety measures during the 93rd UCI Road World Championships 2020 Women Elite Individual Time Trial a 317km stage from Imola to Imola ITT ImolaEr2020 Imola2020 on September 24 2020 in Imola Italy Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images
Ellen van Dijk takes bronze in TT and congratulates Dutch teammate Anna van der Breggen on gold medal (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Ellen van Dijk only had a few days to mentally prepare for the UCI Road World Championships. She was added to the Dutch elite women’s roster soon after compatriot Annemiek van Vleuten fractured her wrist in a crash on stage 7 of the Giro Rosa and withdrew. 

In fact, just two weeks ago, Van Dijk took to Twitter to say how she’d miss competing at the world championships in Imola, Italy. 

“Have to say it hurts a lot to not be able to ride the Worlds TT. Guess that’s the downside of being part of such a strong cycling country. And a result of not having fair UCI selection criteria in my opinion. Gonna make the best of the road race though!”

When Van Vleuten crashed in the closing metres of stage 7 of the Giro Rosa and broke her wrist, Van Dijk, 33, the 2013 World Champion and four-time European Champion in the time trial was called up to take her place.

Van Vleuten had surgery on September 19 and after being fitted with a brace for her wrist, is still considering a returning to competition in the road race this Saturday. But she did not want to unseat Van Dijk from the time trial.

"I should have explored the course for the time trial, then I should have traveled to Italy earlier. I have really been able to give the wrist maximum rest. But it didn't feel right to take [Van Dijk's] place with this hand," Van Vleuten said about supporting her Dutch teammate.

Van Dijk finished third on the 31.7km Imola course, 31 seconds behind winner and countrywoman Anna van der Breggen.

“I’m happy with the bronze medal. Only one week ago I was allowed to start. I wasn’t selected [originally for the time trial], so I’m here. That’s a good sign,” van Dijk said at the post-race press conference. 

Van Dijk was the 40th of 51 riders to roll down the start ramp on the flat, non-technical course, which began with a headwind and made times at the first checkpoint a little slower than expected.

“My feeling is I really started too slow. I really lost all my time in the first straight, the first half part of the race. It is something that I can only regret. I didn’t do it in the first part, I had a good second part. I am not completely satisfied, but in the end, I need to be happy with this medal,” said Van Dijk, who adds a fourth World Championship TT medal to her collection of a gold from 2013, silver from 2016 and a bronze from 2018.

"In the second round I was hardly inferior to Anna. I raced without an earpiece and without a power meter, " Van Dijk told ad.nl. "I wanted to have some left over for the second round, but afterwards I failed myself."

Van Dijk had enough to take over the hot seat from Australian Grace Brown for a while due to her closing effort as the first woman to complete the course recording a speed over 46kph. She was bumped from the top spot, but not off the podium. Next she will focus on the road race for another medal chance.

“In two days I ride the road [race] with the team, so we’ll try to get another rainbow jersey for The Netherlands,” Van Dijk said.

“Annemiek is probably going to race the road race. I’m very happy for her that she can still participate. I’m really happy for her that she can still do it [with the wrist fracture] because it was a big disappointment to leave the Giro Rosa in the pink jersey, and also to miss this time trial.”