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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.