Linda Villumsen finally knows what it feels like to stand on the top step of the podium.
After winning two silver medals and three bronze at the world championships, the rider from New Zealand finally captured gold on Tuesday, besting Anna van der Breggen of the Netherlands by just 2.54 seconds in a time trial that came down to the final rider.
It was not until reigning champion Lisa Brennauer of Germany, last to roll off the start line, crossed the finish line five seconds adrift that Villumsen threw her arms up in victory.
“I hit the right notes all the way through the race. Everything was working my way today,” Villumsen said. “I can’t really believe it.”
Brennauer wound up with the bronze medal. Katrin Garfoot of Australia was fourth and two-time Olympic gold medalist Kristin Armstrong of the US finished in fifth.
“I gave it everything I had today,” Armstrong said.
Earlier in the day, Leo Appelt of Germany won the junior men’s time trial, with Adrien Costa and Brandon McNulty giving the US two more medals. Costa won his second straight silver and McNulty took bronze in his first championships.
“It’s definitely bittersweet,” Costa said. “You want to go one better, but to be able to podium two years in a row, it shows consistency. I can’t be too upset about that.”
The competition was to continue yesterday with the elite men’s time trial.
Armstrong, in the midst of her second comeback from retirement, was the second rider onto the course and posted a time of 40 minutes, 50.45 seconds. However, without the benefit of time splits from other top contenders, she had to rely only on her own benchmarks to determine her position.
She later conceded those going out later in the day had an advantage.
“It was a tough, tough course. I definitely left some time behind on the technical pieces of it,” she said. “If I wasn’t laying down the foundation time I could have taken some more risks.”
Still, her time left her on the hot seat for nearly two hours as other riders took their shot at the 30km course beginning and ending in downtown Richmond. Among those who came up short were German star Trixi Worrack and Armstrong’s own teammate, Carmen Small.
It was not until Villumsen hit the course that Armstrong’s time was put in jeopardy.
The Danish-born time trial specialist was fastest through the second and third time splits, finishing in 40:29.87 to take over the lead. However, with van der Breggen and Brennauer still on the course, she had to weather a few tense minutes in the hot seat.
“It’s pretty much always my tactic to go as hard as I can as long as I can,” Villumsen said. “I always worry that I start too fast, but this time I was so determined to do the same time the second lap as the first lap because the fastest riders were still out there.”
When Van der Breggen and Brennauer crossed the finish line, Villumsen was nearly overcome by emotion, holding her head in her hands for a moment before throwing her arms up to celebrate.
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