Fastest woman in the world: Annemiek van Vleuten wins world individual time trial title

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Annemiek van Vleuten’s tears started flowing before the final riders had even crossed the finish line. When Olga Zabelinskaya (Russia), Katrin Garfoot (Australia), Ellen van Dijk (The Netherlands) and Amber Neben (USA) were all unable the match her time, Van Vleuten jumped out of the hot seat. Arms stretched into the air waving to the throngs of fans near the podium, the Dutch rider knew she had done it: she was now the new world time trial champion.

Van Vleuten, however, was eyeing only one person, and as soon as defending champion Neben crossed the finish, she climbed over the barriers and straight into her mother’s arms. Fourteen months ago, her mother had watched in horror as Van Vleuten crashed horrifically in the Rio Olympics road race. Today, however, there were only tears of joy.

“The downs make the ups even more beautiful,” an emotional Van Vleuten told media. “[Winning the world title] after crashing in Rio makes the story really special…I am amazingly happy.”

The silver medal went to compatriot Anna van der Breggen. The Women’s WorldTour winner was second to roll off the starting ramp, and set the bar high for her competitors, completing the course in 29:02:51. The Olympic TT bronze medalist spent an excruciating 45 minutes in the hot seat before Van Vleuten powered through the finish, 12 seconds faster.

With an impressive ride, Australian Katrin Garfoot rounded out the podium, earning her second consecutive bronze medal in the worlds time trial championships.

The 2017 world individual time trial championships podium.
1. Annemiek van Vleuten (The Netherlands) 28:50:35
2. Anna van der Breggen (The Netherlands) 29:02:51
3. Katrin Garfoot (Australia) 29:09:08

Annemiek van Vleuten in her mother’s arms

How the race unfolded

Leading up to the women’s individual time trial at the Bergen world championships, the talk was dominated by two questions: will anyone be able to upset the Dutch squad? And will the weather hold?

Held on a course with sharp turns, a fast downhill and some cobbles, riders feared wet conditions. At the time of first rider Lauren Stephens’ (USA) start, the rain seemed to hold off but late starters wouldn’t be so lucky.

This was in favour of Anna van der Breggen, who was second to take to the 21.2-kilometre course, and who experience a mere drizzle on the far end of the course while her competitors faced much slipperier roads.

“It was really hard because it started to pour rain, I lost some seconds in the descending for sure,” commented Van Vleuten after the race. “I was actually thinking, ‘oh shit, I’m in top form and now the weather is disturbing my form!’.”

Finished while half the riders still had to start, Van der Breggen sat in the hot seat and anxiously watched on as her biggest competitors were among the last to start.

The first serious contention came from young American Chloe Dygert who had started just before Van Vleuten. The former junior world champion would come in a mere 25 seconds behind Van der Breggen. But just seconds after her pink booties crossed the finish, Van Vleuten crested the corner. Sprinting with all her might, the noise was deafening as fans banged the boards welcoming her in. The clock was ticking but not fast enough for Van der Breggen, who looked deflated as Van Vleuten punched the air. It may have been too soon to celebrate but she was confident with her result.

“I think it was the best time trial of me this season. So I have mixed feelings. I already have this colour [medal] but I’m happy with how I rode,” Van der Breggen commented.

Anna van der Breggen on her way to the hot seat.

Eighteen riders had yet to finish, and while Van Vleuten got cleaned up, her main competition would have to come from last year’s podium, including European time trial champion and 2013 world time trial champion Ellen van Dijk. Before the start Van Dijk had said that despite the climb, she liked the course and after the boost of a gold medal in the team time trial with her Sunweb team three days earlier, she would line up in good spirits. However, just as she had feared, the rain would be a factor for late starters and be the second to last to start, Van Dijk definitely had to contend with rain and slippery roads on the backside of the course. In the end, Van Dijk’s time was only good for fifth place.

Defending champion Amber Neben couldn’t even crest the top-10, which meant Van Vleuten could celebrate early as the Dutch went 1-2 in the time trial, with Van Vleuten’s Orica-Scott teammate Katrin Garfoot rounding out the podium.

“First I wasn’t really happy but it’s a good achievement. It would have been nice to step up but maybe in the future. We’ll see. I definitely reckon the strongest rider won today. I am happy for her,” said Garfoot.

With three riders in the top 5, the powerful Dutch squad will go into Saturday’s road race with confidence.

Be sure to check back for more 2017 UCI Road World Championships coverage throughout the week.

Katrin Garfoot (Australia) on her way to bronze.

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