The first individual gold medals on offer at the 2013 Road World Championships on Monday have been taken by Frenchwoman Severine Everaud in the Junior Womenâ€™s Individual Time Trial category and Damien Howson in the U-23 Menâ€™s.
Everaud was the last rider to start the 16.19 kilometre flat, untechnial course, starting and finishing in Firenze and was not at all sure, she said afterwards, that she could win.
Everaud: fourth at intermediate time split
â€śKnowing that I had the fourth fastest timeâ€ť - 13 seconds down - â€śat the intermediate time split meant I was extremely unsure of my chances,â€ť Everaud said, â€śalthough I still hoped I could get on the podium.â€ť
â€śFor that reason, actually winning is a real unexpected pleasure. [But] I know it will be noticed back at home, in France theyâ€™re really interested in up-and-coming bike riders and I hope it continues like that in the future.â€ť
Australia could not take the gold, but even so managed to secure both silver and bronze medals with Alexandria Nicholls and Alexandra Manly. Nicholls, the first rider to start the course on Monday morning, came within just 2.6 seconds of the title, with Manly eight seconds slower than the winner, and four seconds faster than fourth placed Lithuanian Zanvinta Titenyte.
â€śIâ€™m not disappointed, but amazed by my performance,â€ť a clearly delighted Nicholls, who marked the quickest time at the time split after eight kilometres said. â€śI did think I could even get a medal and Iâ€™m just one step away from winning the race.â€ť
â€śI really liked the course, and two of us made it to the podium,â€ť Manly added, â€śMaybe we didnâ€™t win, but it was good we were both there.â€ť
Having secured bronze and silver in the morningâ€™s race, Australia went one better in the afternoon, as Damien Howson clinched gold in the Menâ€™s U-23 Individual Time Trial event.
Howson:Â pre-race favourite lives up toÂ expectationsÂ
A bronze medallist in 2012 in the same World Championships category, his countryâ€™s reigning U-23 TT champion and the winner of the U-23 Time Trial and Road-Race in the Oceania Championships this spring, it is fair to say that Howson was one of the top favourites for the 43.47 kilometre course in Toscana.
If so, Howson more than lived up to his promise, becoming the only rider to complete the fast, flat course from Pistoia to Firenze in under 50 minutes. His time of 49 minutes and 50 seconds was 57 seconds faster than second placed Yoann Paillot of France, with Denmarkâ€™s Lasse Norman Hansen rounding out the podium with bronze at 1 minute and 10 seconds. Campbell Flakemore of Australia took fourth at 1 minute and 22 seconds, completing an excellent dayâ€™s racing for his country, with Lawson Craddock of the USA in fifth.
Seven riders, in fact, were less than two minutes slower than Howson: but with nearly a full minuteâ€™s advantage on the second fastest rider on the day, Paillot, it is fair to say he stood head and shoulders above the rest. That Howson was actually a fraction of a second slower than Lasse Norman Hansen at the first intermediate checkpoint, but then opened up a gap of 36 seconds by the second checkpoint simply confirms that.
"At the start of the season I won the Australian and Oceania titles and so set myself the goal of taking all three," Howson said. "The world title has been a major focus of mine all year, so I'm so happy to have done it."
"I always try and maintain a constant pace from start to the finish. I was told doing a good ride and I think this is one of the best riders I've ever done."
Tomorrow (Tuesday) racing continues with the Junior Men and Elite Womens Individual Time Trials.