Netherlands net historic gold and silver in Elite Women’s Time Trial, Great Britain Wins Men’s Junior Title
Annemiek van Vleuten and Anna van der Breggen have clinched a historic double triumph for the Netherlands in the UCI Road World Championships, taking gold and silver in the Elite Women’s Time Trial.
It is the first time since Jeannie Longo and Catherine Marsal netted the top two Time Trial placings in Lugano, Switzerland in 1996 that gold and silver have gone to the same country in this event.
Earlier in the same day, Thomas Pidcock captured gold in the Junior Men’s Time Trial for Great Britain, the first medal success for his country in the 2017 Championships.
In the Elite Women’s Time Trial, Van Der Breggen, second of the 54 starters , quickly set the best time of 29-02, clocked in an impressive average speed of over 43.5 kmh. With all the best provisional time splits in her favour, Van Der Breggen would clearly be an important reference point for the rest of the field on the challenging Bergen course.
Young USA contender Chloe Dygert, more than 30 riders later, was the first to come close to beating Van Der Breggen’s first intermediate time split, just nine seconds back and Belgium’s Anne-Sophie Duyck, eight seconds down, was another. But the narrowest margin behind Van Der Breggen at this point was set by none other than her Netherlands’ team-mate, Van Vleuten, a mere seven tenths of a second down.
Rainfall in the middle part of the time trial then made it tougher for Van Vleuten to keep such a promising high pace, and she only pulled ahead of Van Der Breggen at the third time check. But by the finish line the 34-year-old was 12 seconds ahead of her compatriot, eventually adding her first World Championships Time Trial title to her multiple TT victories in the Netherlands’ National Championships.
“This season I've surprised myself with what I can do," Van Vleuten said. "To be world champion in the Time Trial, I never thought I’d be able to do this.”
"It was really hard because it started almost pouring rain on the course. I lost some seconds in the descents, I practiced in dry conditions and I had to be really careful. But I was still focussed on what I needed to do.”
Whilst gold and silver seemed clearly resolved in favour of the Netherlands, the battle for bronze was only decided at the last minute.
Several of the top pre-race contenders like defending World Champion Amber Neben (USA) faded badly. However, Australia’s Katrin Garfoot, already a bronze medallist in Qatar last year, put in an impressive late surge to push Chloe Dygert down to fourth and repeat her 2016 podium TT position.
Already a Junior World Cyclocross Champion this January, earlier in the day, Britain’s Thomas Pidcock secured gold in the Junior Men’s Event with a consistently strong performance.
The 60th of 78 starters on a course seven kilometres shorter than in Qatar last year, Pidcock clocked the fastest times at all the intermediate checkpoints and as the only rider to record an average speed of over 45 kmh, it looked as the 18-year-old would be very difficult to beat.
And so it proved. Local favourite Andreas Leknessund was the only one of the late starters able to inch past the Briton early on, overhauling Pidcock by just over one second at the first two time checks. But whilst the Norwegian dropped back on the second hillier part of the course, Pidcock’s consistency allowed him to stay on track for the victory, simultaneously clinching his country’s first medal of the 2017 UCI Road World Championships.
Silver went to Antonio Puppio of Italy, 11 seconds back, only a second down on Pidcock at the first check but then who slowly lost traction on the difficult Birkelundesbakken climb. Meanwhile Poland’s Filip Maciejuk overcame an notably slow start to round out the podium for bronze 13 seconds down.
"I knew a podium was a possibility, but I didn't really think I'd take the lead and then hold it all the way to the finish like that," said Pidcock afterwards.
"I haven't recovered yet, I was struggling to sit on that chair [as provisional race leader]. When I recover, I think it will sink in a bit more.”
Pidcock is sometimes seen as a much younger version of Peter Sagan, given his similarly phenomenal win rate, and he said of the comparison “It feels pretty good. He wins bike races, but then also has fun doing it. It’s what I like to do.”
Racing continues on Wednesday with the Elite Men’s individual time trial. Running over a distance of 31 kilometres and culminating with a tough climb and summit finish at Mount Floyen, it is the last of this year’s UCI Road World Championships time trial events.