New Zealand cyclist Linda Villumsen, denied an Olympic medal by less than two seconds last month, has finished on the podium at the UCI Road World Championships in the Netherlands today.
The 27 year old Danish born rider placed third in the elite women’s individual time trial around a challenging 24.1km course near Limburg that included the telling climb of the famous Cauberg Hill.
It is the fourth straight year that Villumsen has earned a medal at the world championships in the individual time trial, and she remains the only New Zealand rider to win an elite medal at any road world championships.
The Orica-AIS professional said the hilly circuit, including the tough finish up Cauberg Hill was the complete opposite from the London course.
“When you think of Holland you would not think it is hilly but I think they have chosen the hilliest area of Holland and the hilliest part of that part for the course today,” Villumsen said. “It was pretty hard. It was never any time for any recovery during the time trial. It was up and down the whole time and then to finish up Cauberg which is the hardest hill in the area and that was tough.
Villumsen said it had been a difficult assignment to set her sights for the world championships following the Olympics, where she was pipped for a medal by 1.8 seconds.
“Every time trial is different. Some are flat power courses like London, some are technical with lots of turns and this one was hilly. When you have form, then you have form and I think it does not matter if it is flat or hilly.
“It is a matter of hitting the form. After the Olympics it was it was hard for me because I did not know if I could find the form back after London. I have had nearly two months of work and it was hard not knowing where I stood compared to the others.
“We did some team time trials where I was suffering a lot and it was only the last week that I found my legs again.
“It was hard mentally because in my eyes I saved everything for that performance in London and to come back and train again and know there is another big race at the end of the season. It is difficult when you have just missed out like I did in London and to come back from that.”
As much as Villumsen dearly wants a world title, she was thrilled that friend and teammate Judith Arndt (Germany) won the rainbow jersey today ahead of her retirement from the sport following the championships.
“I am very happy for her. She deserved that. She has been the best of the best for many years in my eyes. She is the best rider and the best teammate that anyone could have and I’m a bit sad that she is not going to be around next year but that means we are all have to step it up.”
The diminutive rider, who has an all-or-nothing approach to time trials, said she held something back early, going through the first time check in second place with only Arndt behind her. She remained second fastest before Arndt set the standard to win in 32:26.46, finishing 34 seconds ahead of American Evelyn Stevens with Villumsen a further seven seconds back in third.
“Well I didn’t know. I never want to know my time splits because I go as hard as I can all the time until I cannot go any more. I did go a little slower at first because of the hills but it was so hard and I had nothing left.
“Naturally to get on the podium at a world championship is great. But I would like to swap it for the top spot on the podium.”
She will now prepare for the women’s road race on Sunday (NZ time) where she will be joined by young teammates Emily Collins, Emma Crum and Kate Chilcott.
Tomorrow is the men’s individual time trial that features the Olympic medallists Jesse Sergent and Sam Bewley that features many of the sport’s big names including recent Vuelta a Espana winner Alberto Contador and defending champion Tony Martin (GER) although four-time champion Fabian Cancellara and Olympic gold medallist Bradley Wiggins are not racing.
Results, Women’s individual time trial, 24.1km: Judith Arndt (GER) 32:26.46, 1; Evelyn Stevens (USA) 33:00.23, 2; Linda Villumsen (NZL) 33:07.03, 3.
CAPTION: Linda Villumsen on the podium (with Eveyln Sevens, left, and winner Judith Arndt) in the women’s time trial at the UCI Road World Championships in Limburg, Netherlands today.