Ellen van Dijk (Netherlands) secured her second rainbow jersey, eight years after winning her first title in 2013, in the elite women's individual time trial at the UCI Road World Championships in Bruges, Belgium.
The powerful Dutch specialist covered the 30.3km flat route with a winning time of 36:05 and an average speed of more than 50 kph to beat silver medallist Marlen Reusser (Switzerland) by 10 seconds. Olympic Champion Annemiek van Vleuten (Netherlands) claimed bronze, taking third at 24 seconds.
"It's been a dream for so long to get that world title again. This year everything felt so good, but there was always this Marlen Reusser who was so strong this year. I knew that I had a really good level but I also knew that she was super, super strong," Van Dijk said.
"In the last couple of weeks, she beat me in every time trial, and I knew it would become super difficult and that I would have to ride the best-ever time trial. It was good that I had no idea if it was good enough because I started one hour earlier than the favourites. [Reusser] had a faster intermediate time [check points], and I thought she would be faster, and in the end, I saw that she lost some seconds. I can't quite believe it yet. It's been a dream for so long."
Van Dijk started her effort mid-way down the start list order and set the benchmark time for everyone else to follow. It was a perfect route for the powerful specialist, with almost no elevation gain between the start in Knokke-Heist and the finish in Bruges.
Although Reusser was slightly faster at the first two intermediate checkpoints, she lost time in the final section of the race finishing 10 seconds slower than Van Dijk, but it was enough to secure the silver medal, a repeat of her performance at the Imola Worlds in 2020.
Van Vleuten was the last rider off of the starting ramp, and while she won the gold medal in the discipline at the Olympics in July, she said the hilly route there suited her much better than the flat course offered at the World Championships. Still, she was third fastest at the intermediate time checks and finished 24 seconds slower than her compatriot but it was enough for the bronze medal, putting two Dutch riders on the podium.
When asked what it was like to sit in the hot seat for more than half the event, Van Dijk said, "It was quite horrible."
"When I arrived in the hot seat, Annemiek still hadn't started yet, so I really didn't know. I thought my time trial was good, but I really didn't know. It was nerve-wracking to sit there with nothing to do. For me, time trials are my favourite discipline and something I love with all my heart. It feels like my discipline and I knew this was going to be a really good course for me. I put everything into this, and that it worked for me is a dream come true."
How it unfolded
The elite women started their time trail at Knokke-Heist, upon the North Sea coast by the Dutch border, and raced 30.3km with an elevation gain of just 54 metres, before finishing in the centre of the historic city of Bruges.
The event started without the defending champion Anna van der Breggen (Netherlands), who pulled out of the race after experiencing a drop in her form following the Olympic Games.
Also missing from the start was former world champion Chloe Dygert (USA), who has ended her season early to continue recovering from the injuries sustained in a crash in the event at last year's Imola Worlds. Other specialists not at the event were Sarah Gigante and Grace Brown (Australia), while former Olympic medallist Olga Zabelinskaya (Uzbekistan) was on the start list, but did not participate.
Fernanda Yapura from Argentina was the first rider off the starting ramp but it was the second rider down the ramp, Riejanne Markus (Netherlands) that set the early benchmark time of 38:04.
It was soon clear that her Dutch compatriot Ellen van Dijk was going to blow that time out of the water as she crossed through the first two intermediate time checks with times of 16:28 at check 1 (14km) and 24:50 at check 2 (21km). Van Dijk, who won the time trial world title in 2013, finished with a blistering new best time of 36:05, an average speed of more than 50kph.
Lisa Klein (Germany), Karol-Ann Canuel (Canada) and Leah Thomas (USA) finished with fast times, too, 37:57, 38:53 and 38:56, respectively, but nearly two minutes or more slower than Van Dijk.
Joss Lowden (Great Britain) made headlines in February when she unofficially broke the current hour record of 48.007km, held by Vittoria Bussi, in a training attempt, covering 48.160km. She set quick times at the two checkpoints and finished with a time of 38:04, in eighth place.
France's Juliette Labous told Cyclingnews earlier this year that she wanted to improve her time trial in order to be a contender in future stage races, and she certainly has after finishing the event in 37:52, she briefly sat in second place behind Van Dijk, but finished in sixth place on the day.
Van Dijk's biggest rivals and the fastest contenders in the world were positioned later in the event. Former double world champion Amber Neben (USA) started with a big question mark over her form after fracturing her hip last month when the driver of a car turned in front of her and caused a collision. She seemed to have recovered well with a time of 37:30, and briefly slotted into second place behind Van Dijk, before ultimately finishing in fourth place.
Another former world champion Lisa Brennauer (Germany) also posted fast time checks at 48 kph, but she was not fast enough to overtake Van Dijk, finishing with a time of 37:35, and in fifth place.
The race for the gold medal ignited when Olympic silver medallist and European Champion Marlen Reusser of Switzerland raced through the first and second intermediate checkpoint three and two seconds faster than Van Dijk. However, the Swiss Champion could not overtake Van Dijk where it mattered over the final section, crossing the line 10 seconds slower than her Dutch rival in a time of 36:16 and securing the silver medal for the second year in a row.
Former two-time world champion and reigning Olympic champion Annemiek van Vleuten (Netherlands) told Cyclingnews ahead of the race that the route did not suit her because it had almost no elevation gain, but she put forth a powerful performance, albeit ever-so-slightly off the mark of Reusser and Van Dijk, at the time checks and finishing 36:29, enough to secure the bronze medal.
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Ellen van Dijk (Netherlands)||0:36:05|
|2||Marlen Reusser (Switzerland)||0:00:10|
|3||Annemiek van Vleuten (Netherlands)||0:00:24|
|4||Amber Leone Neben (United States Of America)||0:01:24|
|5||Lisa Brennauer (Germany)||0:01:30|
|6||Juliette Labous (France)||0:01:47|
|7||Lisa Klein (Germany)||0:01:52|
|8||Joscelin Lowden (Great Britain)||0:02:00|
|9||Riejanne Markus (Netherlands)||0:02:00|
|10||Alena Amialiusik (Belarus)||0:02:19|
|11||Leah Kirchmann (Canada)||0:02:35|
|12||Emma Cecilie Joergensen (Denmark)||0:02:43|
|13||Karol-Ann Canuel (Canada)||0:02:48|
|14||Leah Thomas (United States Of America)||0:02:51|
|15||Valeriya Kononenko (Ukraine)||0:02:51|
|16||Audrey Cordon Ragot (France)||0:02:56|
|17||Anna Kiesenhofer (Austria)||0:02:57|
|18||Nathalie Eklund (Sweden)||0:02:57|
|19||Eugenia Bujak (Slovenia)||0:02:59|
|20||Karolina Karasiewicz (Poland)||0:03:04|
|21||Marta Jaskulska (Poland)||0:03:06|
|22||Julie van de Velde (Belgium)||0:03:07|
|23||Omer Shapira (Israel)||0:03:15|
|24||Vittoria Guazzini (Italy)||0:03:17|
|25||Pfeiffer Georgi (Great Britain)||0:03:19|
|26||Ganna Solovei (Ukraine)||0:03:30|
|27||Katrine Aalerud (Norway)||0:03:31|
|28||Dana Rozlapa (Latvia)||0:03:38|
|29||Elena Pirrone (Italy)||0:04:08|
|30||Sara van de Vel (Belgium)||0:04:08|
|31||Rebecca Koerner (Denmark)||0:04:08|
|32||Rotem Gafinovitz (Israel)||0:04:19|
|33||Tamara Dronova (RCF)||0:04:22|
|34||Lina Marcela Hernandez Gomez (Colombia)||0:04:22|
|35||Ziortza Isasi Cristobal (Spain)||0:04:31|
|36||Fernanda Yapura (Argentina)||0:04:33|
|37||Agusta Edda Bjornsdottir (Iceland)||0:04:54|
|38||Frances Janse van Rensburg (South Africa)||0:05:16|
|39||Yanina Kuskova (Uzbekistan)||0:05:19|
|40||Hayley Preen (South Africa)||0:05:36|
|41||Daniela Campos (Portugal)||0:05:48|
|42||Yeny Lorena Colmenares Colmenares (Colombia)||0:06:15|
|43||Phetdarin Somrat (Thailand)||0:06:44|
|44||Briet Kristy Gunnarsdottir (Iceland)||0:07:08|
|45||Luciana Roland (Argentina)||0:07:39|
|46||Adyam Tesfalem (Eritrea)||0:08:43|
|47||Diane Ingabire (Rwanda)||0:09:12|
|48||Kanza Malik (Pakistan)||0:14:49|
|49||Asma Jan (Pakistan)||0:15:44|
|DNS||Olga Zabelinskaya (Uzbekistan)|
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