September 18, 2012 (Valkenburg, NED) – Within minutes of the start the skies suddenly darkened and thick clouds covered the area sending down a quick burst of heavy rain, enough to slick the roads from Eijsden to Valkenburg but that didn’t dampen the spirits of the forty Junior women – and especially Elinor Barker (GBR), the favourite, who covered the 15.6km course in 22:26.29 mins at 41.7kmh torching the field.
Still, it was a day of upsets and as one Director Sportif exclaimed looking at the clouds, “Sure it’s wet here, it’s always wet, but well at least they didn’t have to climb the Cauberg this morning!”
It was a day full of crashes and a few surprises as 34th-seeded Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (DEN) sat in the hot seat for most of the race as her time of 23:02.16 held up beyond the curtain of mid +23 minute times marked by all the riders.
Finally, second seeded Barker laid the hammer down and dipped under 23 minutes for the only sub-23 min time of the today. Ludwig, who came out of nowhere, held on for the silver saying,
“As I haven’t raced many international races and don’t have a lot of experience I had no idea what to expect today. I had no communication with how my split times were or how others were doing and so this is a huge win for me, especially because I was not feeling well at all until the end.”
Although Barker was favoured due to her silver last year and her success in track racing winning the gold at the European Track championships this year, top-seeded Corine Van Der Zijden (Netherlands) seemed noticeably upset with her performance dropping to 12th commenting, “I didn’t have the legs today, it was not my day, it’s how it goes.”
Canadian national TT champ, Saskia Kowalchuk, ranked 18th going in was another surprise that didn’t have a happy ending. Her first Road World Championships was marred by slippery road conditions as she went down soon after she was out of the chute: “I hit the white paint in the first 100 meters and I just lost control of the bike but as it was so close to the beginning of the starting point, I was able to recover fairly quickly although I had to switch to my road bike as the derailleur and chain got twisted.”
Although time trials are best-suited for this Junior powerhouse, Kowalchuk finished last due to the mechanical problem but her pride was intact and she promised a better showing at the road race. Fellow Canuck Allyson Gillard ranked 31st coming in placed 37th at 25:32.66.
Fourth-seeded Addyson Albershardt (USA) also found pain on the pavement as she went down and had problems with her TT bike she found the reserves to get through but dropped to 18th at the end.
Barker’s electrifying performance capped a young career for another reason – it’s only happened a half dozen times that a silver medal winner in the Junior women’s TT came back the following year and grabbed the gold, but that’s exactly what this Brit’s goal was.
When she got off the bike it was clear she had nothing left to give after the clock took all of her energy as she doubled over the railing gasping for air like a fish out of water, not knowing she’d won until her DS quietly told her…“you’re the new world champion”.
Barker dropped to the ground and recovered, then a sudden shock and smile surfaced through her pain. When Pedal asked her the significance of this moment she couldn’t day anything but shake her head and began to cry in happiness. Later,when she recovered at the press conference Pedal asked her about the course compared to her silver medal win in Copenhagen last year. She admitted that this was a much easier course for her in that “…it was less technical with a few fatty long rollers with less tight technical turns—but this was very satisfying as we worked all year for this day—and I actually didnt know how well I was doing in the race.”
Full results here.
Judith Arndt powers to repeat as World Champion in Time Trial.
Sometimes the cream rises to the top, and today it was a true battle of the best as the dramatic test of individual cycling prowess rose in the women elite time trials. In true epic fashion the race went down to the last two women riding to decide who would be the next rainbow jersey victor for 2012. It no surprise that the multi-decorated Judith Arndt (GER) with her depth and love of a challenge vanquished her closest rival by more than a half minute at 32:26.46 winning every split in the process during the 24.3km course.
Canadians Joelle Numainville (ranked 23rd) and Rhae-Christie Shaw (ranked 6th) came in 21 and 22nd, respectively. Joelle showed true grit as the UCI announcer said nicely “ look at that beautiful face in a world of hurt” as she labored up the Cauberg and was noticeably numb after the race. Despite the life being sucked out of her lungs after the race, she was in great spirits relishing the hard course’s challenge “ it was one of the hardest, but best time trials I’ve experienced, I loved it.” Shaw was disappointed with her performance but she said matter of factly, I’m happy to have competed with such talent, it’s fine.”
The only woman to time trial under 15 minutes in the first split (at 10.7km), Arndt gained seven seconds on American Evelyn Stevens (ranked 7th) who averaged 43.8kph but couldn’t turn the hurt on as hard – but did beat second-seeded Melanie Villumsen (Nzl) by almost seven seconds taking the silver home with Villumsen winning bronze.
Right after she crossed the finish line Arndt was emotional after seeing she’d won, breaking into a huge grin after she hugged a friend from the crowd. “Wow, I knew I was hitting the pedals hard, but I didn’t know it was going be by this margin, it’s quite a win for me.”
Local favorite Eleonora Van Dijk (NED) took 5th as an 8th seed with the crowd rallying behind her while she struggled up the Cauberg with 1,700 meters to go.
The one surprise the crowd witnessed was Emily Pooley (Gbr) as she was leading all riders in the first split (save Ardnt’s later sub-15 minute split) but lost over 6 seconds before the second split and never recovered doing her best to absorb the Cauberg climb.
The first climb, the Gronsvelderberg, was just beginning after about 6 kms (2,100m long with a 100-meter climb at 3.5%) with a higher grade (4.1%, the Bukel) just a few km after the first climb but just 900km long.
After that the course featured a lot of rollers with a steep descent around 22kms right before the Cauberg, which isn’t that tough of climb – but in a time trial, it can put the brakes on ambitions, legs and lungs at 5.8% grade, and has ended many dreams this week as it has in the past.
Pooley, who beat Arndt two years ago for the rainbow jersey and the bronze in Copenhagen last year, is the perfect rival for Arndt, yet the two had nothing but kinds words for each other after the race.
Tune in for the Women’s Road Race this Saturday at 2:30 pm local time.
Full results here.