Two years ago at the World Championships in Richmond, Linda Villumsen stormed to victory in the women's time trial. It was a stunning win for a rider who had built a reputation on so many near misses in major championships. The ensuing drama that developed over her decision to ride a non-team regulated bike somewhat overshadowed the post-race euphoria but two years on, the experienced Kiwi is back at the Worlds and hoping to repeat her Richmond experience – minus the bike drama.
On Sunday the 32-year-old marshalled her Team Virtu teammates through the demanding team time trial and helped secure a respectable fifth place finish. The former world champion's responsibility within the six-rider team grew in importance after they lost Amber Neben early on to a mechanical.
"My legs are feeling good and I've got a day to recover and to get my head in the game," Villumsen told Cyclingnews at the finish. "Today was a good TTT but it would have been better if we'd had all six of us together. We had some bad luck but hopefully, that turns around.
"At first I thought I could help Amber by giving her a push but then I saw that it was wrapped around her pedal. There wasn't much I could do and we were told to just keep going. She nearly came back but we couldn't look behind. We had a bit of a communication problem but we're new at this. We've not done many TTT together and we've lots of girls but I think that we had a really good effort."
Like Neben, Villumsen has raced sparingly this season. She skipped the spring because she 'doesn't like small roads and elbows' and is 'too old for that now' but she has cherry-picked a calendar of races in order to prepare for the Worlds. She was on the attack at La Course earlier this summer with a trademark move that was only snuffed out towards the end of the race. In August, she finished third in the individual test at the Boels Ladies Tour and finished fifth overall.
It's against the clock where Villumsen excels and although she played down her form, Tuesday's power-course has elements that suit her.
"I think I'm where I need to be but you never really know. Things like this either go really, really well or they go the opposite way. Things are going better for me and I'm getting fitter with the more races that I'm doing," she said. "I've not done that many race days but that's because I didn't do the spring. That's not something that I really enjoy. I've done other races in the last few months but just not the spring."
Neben is looking to defend her 2016 crown but the women's field is stacked with talent and a favourites.
"You just don't know," Villumsen said when asked to predict the leading contenders. "Even if you're going really well you can be like Amber and be riding well and then you see what happens. She was the strongest on the team and then she has a mechanical. The course is good but I don't think that it really suits anybody. It's a special route, and it's different. It's either really fast or really slow. There are no flat sections.
"Year after year there are more and more people specializing in the time trial. It means that there's more and more competition."
As for which brand of bike Villumsen chooses to ride, all bets should be on her trade team Cervelo, but like her form, we'll just have to wait and see.
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