Featured Stories

2011 Road Worlds Elite Women’s ITT Report, PHOTOS – Arndt Takes Gold, 3 Canadians in Top Ten

by Laura Robinson

September 20, 2011 (Copenhagen, Denmark) – Novice Canadian National Team member Rhae Christie Shaw set the scene when she finished the Elite Women’s 27.8km course with a blistering time of 37:48.61 and headed for the hot seat – a seat she kept warm for some time – right until the last dozen or so riders were finishing the race.

She was joined by veteran rider and teammate Clara Hughes, who, after not being at a Road World Cycling Championships since 2000, finished in 37:44.17 to take over the top spot. Canada enjoyed the 1-2 spotlight for a good 30 min until Dutch rider Eleonora Van Dijk finally bumped Shaw down to third place.

Then Canada’s Tara Whitten came across the line with a stellar 37:33.94 in the 51-strong field moving Hughes into second with Van Dijk now third. It was a nail biter all the way as the Canadians waited for the last, but fastest riders who were seeded at the end of the event.

New Zealand’s Linda Melanie Villumsen created more furor when she bested Whitten’s time stopping the clock at 37:29.11. But more drama was about to unfold as Judith Arndt from Germany, who won ITT Worlds silver and bronze previously, was on course leaving it all out there.

In the end it was the veteran Arndt had the most incredible ride of the day besting Villumsen by 20+ seconds demolishing the field with a finishing time of 37:07.38 for an average speed of 44.931 km per hr to claim the title and the rainbow jersey.

These were Arndt’s fifteenth world championships, but her first gold in the time trial. Villumsen took home the silver, 21.73 seconds back and reigning road world champion Emma Poole scooped up the bronze 24.13 seconds back.

Canada’s Whitten placed 4th at 26.16 seconds back, while the multi-decorated Hughes ended up 5th at 36.79 seconds back. Dutch rider Van Dijk claimed 6th at 38.88 seconds back, and Shaw rounded out the top seven at 39.23 seconds behind Arndt. This meant Canada had three riders in the top 10.

Holland put two riders in the top ten, with race favorite Marianne Vos grabbing the 10th spot, but no other nation could match Canada’s team effort of three riders in the top ten. It was a momentous day for the women’s team, especially after Monday’s junior women’s ITT where the Maple Leaf claimed 7th and 11th.

“I have chased this medal for many years. I won my first time trial medal in ’97 and since then I have tried to win the gold. I can’t tell you how much it means to me. It is really a long time goal,” said Arndt, the thirty-five year old multiple world cup, world champion and Olympic medalist.

Villumsen, who was the smoothest rider in the field, said the cool windy weather was definitely a factor. “The difference was in the cornering. You never know if the pressure in the tires will last or not. Is it slippery or is it less slippery? I took the first lap as a sort of test run but and on the second lap I was going up.”

U.K. rider Poole accepted the bronze graciously. “I’m quite pleased with my bronze medal. Of course I’m also a bit sad not to be the World Champion any longer. Denmark is a bit flat for me.”

The Canadians simply could not stop smiling, despite the difficult conditions and their close but not quite close enough placements.

“I’ve been checking the weather for the last week and a half,” said Whitten after a prolonged wait at the anti-doping station. She was referring, as Villumsen did, to the mix of wind and rain distributed on the course, making for slippery cornering on the technical course and wind that could knock a disc wheel off course. “I was trying not to worry about the rain, but everyone had the same conditions.

“I’m really happy with the results. It’s always hard to come fourth – it’s definitely disappointing – at the same time it’s my best result at the Worlds in this event.” Last year Whitten was seventh.

“I wasn’t in the hot seat as long as Rhae,” she quipped, as Whitten was in the last wave of riders, “But it was really exciting to have that sense of camaraderie. Just goes to show that Canada can be a dominant force in cycling. In the Canadian women’s program things are progressing in the right direction. It’s a great time for us-the year before the Olympics.”

When asked if it is a bit of an advantage to not be in the top three going into the Games she responded, “It’s definitely motivating to be just off the podium – knowing you have what it takes, and still having something to prove,” she added, with one of her everlasting Canadian smiles.

Hughes too was smiling. “It was a long day of sitting – it was torturous,” said Hughes of the hot seat, which consisted of three rickety plastic chairs. The race was pretty torturous as well she added.

“A huge storm blew in on my second lap. I’m really satisfied with my race and did everything I could – I didn’t crash.” The storm Hughes referred to was a big factor in relative times. With a course that included many bike lanes that are demarcated with blue paint and cobblestones through the palace grounds, the surface became very slippery.

The wind picked up, but the rain came as a slight drizzle, mixing with the oil from automobiles that seeped into the pavement from decades of driving. After she finished, the rain came down harder, actually making the course less slippery as the initial oily surface was partially washed away. Riders after her were able to corner at higher speeds.

Despite being away from the world championships for eleven years Hughes knew she could ride to a top five result. “I did everything I could to prepare for this race. That said, I know I can do lots more to prepare for next year. I’m sure I can do better than I was today. I’m sure Tara and Rhae feel the same way.”

With the rest of the road team arriving today, the women will focus on their strategy for Saturday’s road race which takes place on the outskirts of the city. “With seven riders, I’m excited to be part of it.”

Shaw who was in the hot seat for some time continued her beaming smile with her top ten finish. She decided to stop doing triathlons and try bike racing in January 2011 and has been making waves ever since. As a Canadian living in Seattle, and a U of Waterloo grad working as a systems design engineer at Microsoft, she joined her local cycling club.

The Tour of Redlands was her first race. She soon realized that if she was going to get somewhere in the sport she’d have to make cycling her full-time job. So she left Microsoft in March 2011 and it’s been a very fast ride ever since.

“Tara is my roommate and I asked her last night if I was going to come in last,” she admitted. “I was really hoping for a top 20. I’m thrilled with seventh. I’ve improved in the time trial so much this year and there’s more to learn. But I’m taking one step at a time. I’m excited about the upcoming road race.”

Full results HERE.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.