Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images

Van Dijk surprised to win her third Worlds TT, Brown a close second at home

The Dutchwoman defended her title in sunny Wollongong, despite saying goodbye to her jersey a day earlier.

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WOLLONGONG, Australia (CT) – She might have won it twice before, and as defending champion, she might have started as one of the riders to beat. But when Ellen van Dijk crossed the finish line on the Wollongong foreshore on Sunday afternoon, taking her third time trial world title, the victory came as “a bit of a surprise”.

“I kind of said goodbye to my [rainbow] jersey yesterday,” the 35-year-old said in her winner’s press conference. “I put it at the bottom of my bag. I thought ‘OK, it was a really great year. I really enjoyed it.’ That was the most important [thing] for me. I felt happy. I felt like anything that could come today was a bonus. And yeah, it’s a great bonus.”

That “bonus” was a third stint in the rainbow skinsuit, nine years after the Dutchwoman’s first and a year after her second. Australia’s Grace Brown took silver on home soil with Switzerland’s Marlen Reusser taking bronze.

With another gold medal, Van Dijk now moves into second place on the all-time list for the Worlds time trial, only behind four-time winner Jeannie Longo.

Van Dijk on her way to gold, again. (Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Much of Van Dijk’s surprise at winning was the result of how her last competitive TT went – an unsatisfying second at the European Championships.

“My last race was the Europeans and I didn’t feel very good there,” Van Dijk said. “And last week I had a little bit [of] problems with my back, but in the end it probably was more stress than anything else.”

Van Dijk also didn’t know what to expect from the course, except that its technical nature probably didn’t suit her.

“It had a lot of rhythm changes the course,” she said. “Up, down, left, right, corners. I don’t mind riding corners, but I don’t like to change my rhythm all the time. And so I really trained on that in the past couple of weeks. I did all kinds of effort where I changed my rhythm constantly, like above threshold, under threshold, stuff like that. So I tried to prepare in the super specific way and it turned out to be good.”

As defending champion, Van Dijk was the last rider down the ramp to start the 34 km, two-lap effort around central Wollongong. On a warm and sunny day with occasional gusts of wind she set the fastest time through both of the intermediate time checks, before crossing the finish with a time of 44:29 (average of 46.1 km/h), just 12 seconds faster than local favourite Grace Brown.

For Brown, it was a day of real mixed emotions. The Australian was 10th rider down the start ramp and set off to emphatic applause from the home crowd. She set times at each intermediate time check that wouldn’t be beaten until the last two riders rolled through. And at the finish, Brown’s time of 44:41 was an early mark that would earn the Australian more than 90 minutes in the hot seat, waiting for her biggest rivals to take to the course.

A key moment came when Brown’s ride proved good enough to hold off two-time TT world champ Annemiek van Vleuten by more than 90 seconds.

“She obviously didn’t have her best day out there and there was quite a difference between my time and her at a lot of the checkpoints,” Brown said afterwards. “And that sort of started this feeling of hope that maybe I was on an absolute flier. But then yeah, obviously the last two riders, Marlen Reusser and Ellen van Dijk started and they came to the first checkpoint ahead of me. From there it was sort of a bit of a nervous journey on the hot seat, especially knowing that I’d done a faster second lap than my first.”

But she still had hopes of victory.

“Even though Ellen came through well above me in the first lap, I still thought that there was a chance I could get the rainbow jersey,” Brown said. “But yeah, she had a phenomenal ride. And I can be satisfied with the second, I think.”

Brown’s silver medal is the equal-best result for an Australian woman in the time trial Worlds, following in the footsteps of Anna Wilson who achieved the feat in 1999.

“I think this would have to be close to the top of my result experiences,” Brown said. “Especially being in Australia and having all the cheers on the roadside and my family in the crowd, on the podium, and while I was in the hot seat. Just the whole day was really special and to come away with a medal here is pretty big.”

Brown in action on home soil. (Photo by Con Chronis/Getty Images)

Bronze medalist Marlen Reusser left the race feeling similarly satisfied, after a heavily interrupted lead-in that included recovery from a concussion suffered at the Tour de France Femmes.

“It was all small things, but all these small things just summed up,” she said. “And for example, this concussion. It took me around about 10 days until I could really go back to train somehow. And then we had to cancel the races that I planned to do. So I didn’t do Sweden or Tour of Norway. And then I went straight into Europeans and Europeans, you know, you need to taper, so you cannot do a training block really.

“And then I was sick again after Europeans somehow, and it was really annoying. So I had to stop training again.”

Reusser’s bronze medal comes after silver at the past two Worlds time trials, and likewise at last year’s Tokyo Olympics.

The U23 women’s podium. (Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Van Dijk wasn’t the only rider leaving Sunday’s time trial with a rainbow jersey. For the first time in Road Worlds history, a rainbow jersey was also handed out for an U23 women’s classification, with Italy’s Vittoria Guazzini taking coming out on top.

Guazzini came close to the time of trade teammate Brown at the first intermediate check, and ultimately finished fourth in the combined elite/U23 field, ahead of US duo Leah Thomas and Kristen Faulkner, and Van Vleuten in seventh.

Shirin van Anrooij (Netherlands) took silver in the U23 field, ahead of Germany’s Ricarda Bauernfeind, the very first rider off the start ramp. 

The 2022 Road World Championships continue Sunday afternoon with the elite men’s time trial, held on the same course, over the same distance.

World Championships WE - ITT (WC) Wollongong → Wollongong

VAN DIJK Ellen Netherlands
BROWN Grace Australia
REUSSER Marlen Switzerland
THOMAS Leah United States
FAULKNER Kristen United States
VAN VLEUTEN Annemiek Netherlands
BAKER Georgia Australia
KOPECKY Lotte Belgium

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