Linda Villumsen, who has won medals and honours at the highest level around the world, finally grabbed her first major victory in New Zealand when she dominated the Calder Stewart elite national road championship women's race today.
Villumsen, who now resides in Christchurch, pushed to the lead on lap three and road solo for more than 80km of the 120km race in blistering hot and windy conditions today.
The Commonwealth Games time trial gold medallist finished a remarkable seven minutes 49 seconds clear of the field for what is believed to be the biggest solo win in the recent memory at the national championships.
The 29 year old also earned the first victory of 2015 for her new American-based United Healthcare professional team in a race that Villumsen thought she was never destined to win after twice finishing second
“It’s amazing. I thought I was jinxed, I thought it was never going to happen,”Villumsen said. “I’ve been here so many times and just missed out. I am really happy.”
Villumsen won by 7:49 from 22 year old former Hokitika rider Sharlotte Lucas, now living in Canterbury, with veteran Nelson cyclist Karen Fulton out-sprinting national representative Emily Collins for third.
Olympic and Commonwealth Games track specialist Lauren Ellis (Mid South Canterbury) made the first move when she opened a 40 second lead on the second of eight laps, setting up the target for her fellow New Zealand representatives Villumsen and Jaime Nielsen to chase.
The pair bridged up and overtook Ellis on the climb up Dyers Pass on lap three but Nielsen, who beat Villumsen in yesterday’s time trial, withdrew suddenly from the efforts of the hot conditions at the top of the climb on the next lap.
“I thought it was a bit early. I wanted her to get over the climb and work together for at least another lap or two. But I must have had pretty good legs today.
“It’s great to have the national jersey to wear for my new team this year. We have kept it in the family because Rushlee (Buchanan) won it last year and she is my teammate at United Healthcare.”
From that point Villumsen took complete control, extending her lead from three minutes on lap three, increasing the margin on every lap.
It was a complete master class from the cyclist who has won five world championship medals, was fifth in the Beijing Olympic road race and fifth at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. She enjoyed an outstanding 2014 road season including eighth in the road race at the world championships, and victory in the Tour of Ardeche and 13th in the women’s Tour de France.
Lucas, the Canterbury champion, broke away from the chase bunch on the final lap for her second placing while Fulton outsprinted Collins in what she said was her final time at the elite national championships.
Tomorrow is the elite and under-23 men’s race over 183.7kms, starting with the usual full lap on the flat before 10 circuits up the Dyers Pass climb and a final flat lap to the finish.
Results, Road Race
Elite Women, 120km: Linda Villumsen (Canterbury, United Healthcare) 3:35:39, 1; Sharlotte Lucas (Canterbury) 3:44.29, 2; Karen Fulton (Tasman) 3:47.03, 3; Emily Collins (Auckland, Team TIBCO) same time, 4; Haley Mercer (Canterbury) 3:47.11, 5.