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Sunday, September 25, 2022

Ellen van Dijk pips Grace Brown to win Highway World Championships opener | Biking

The solar was shining, the waves had been rolling in and a Dutch lady was profitable the opening race of 2022 UCI Highway World Championships. It was seemingly the pure approach of issues – a predictable lead to a flawless setting on the beachside streets of Wollongong, as Ellen van Dijk defended her girls’s particular person time trial crown and the Dutch nationwide group received the sixth version of the race over the previous decade.

But when the 35-year-old’s victory on Sunday appeared predestined – her third world title since first profitable the self-discipline in 2013, alongside 4 European time trial titles – it virtually wasn’t to be. Australia’s Grace Brown sat within the hot-seat all day, after beginning within the opening wave of riders and setting a blistering tempo over a technical, undulating 34.2-kilometre course.

Brown’s ending time, slightly below 45 minutes, was unmatched till the very finish, when the final rider out, van Dijk, lastly crossed the road. But it surely was a close-run factor: Van Dijk was pressured to exit quick to match Brown’s earlier tempo, and regardless of main on the first and second intermediate time verify, van Dijk pale within the final kilometres.

Ultimately solely 12 seconds separated the Dutchwoman from her challenger. It was sufficient, albeit solely simply, for Van Dijk to defend the winner’s rainbow jersey and relegate Brown to the silver medal place. Swiss rider Marlen Reusser was third, including bronze to her silver medal from final yr’s Olympics.

“I’m a bit stunned to win,” van Dijk instructed reporters after the race. “For me I by no means thought it might be the proper course.”

She is now the second most profitable lady of all-time within the self-discipline, with three world titles, one silver and two bronze medals, behind solely French legend Jeannie Longo. “I type of mentioned goodbye to my jersey yesterday – I put it on the backside of my bag, and thought: it was an incredible yr, I actually loved it,” Van Dijk mentioned. “I felt pleased, and I felt that something to return at the moment can be a bonus. That was an incredible bonus.”

For Brown, her silver medal is Australia’s finest efficiency within the race since 1999, when Anna Millward completed second on the world championships in Italy. “My purpose was to be on the rostrum and my dream was to win the race,” mentioned Brown. “I achieved my purpose and I can nonetheless intention in direction of that dream. It could have been superb to win it on house soil, nevertheless it was nonetheless a extremely special occasion. I’m happy.” Compatriot Georgia Baker positioned eighth on Sunday, a powerful exhibiting from the Tasmanian rider in her first full season on the street after a glittering monitor biking profession.

Brown’s enduring high-quality type, having received time trial gold on the Commonwealth Video games final month and a stage on the latest Ceratizit Problem by La Vuelta, places her among the many favourites within the elite girls’s street race subsequent weekend. “I’m going to have a good time this primary after which slowly work in direction of the street race,” she mentioned.

Grace Brown on her way to setting the early pace.
Grace Brown on her approach to setting the early tempo. {Photograph}: Dean Lewins/AAP

It was a historic version of the race, which has been contested since 1994, as the primary to be raced throughout the identical distance, on the identical course, on the identical day, as the lads’s particular person time trial. “It’s a no brainer – hopefully it continues like that,” mentioned Brown. “It’s good to be on the identical enjoying subject.”

The sluggish march in direction of gender equality in biking was additionally evident as 21-year-old Italian Vittoria Guazzini completed fourth general to safe the first-ever girls’s Beneath-23 time trial title, after governing physique the UCI agreed so as to add a separate girls’s Beneath-23 class to match the lads’s occasions. The Beneath-23 males have their very own race – to be contested on Monday; the UCI have promised the Beneath-23 girls will even race individually within the years forward. “For now we now have to be happy with this – and hopefully with two totally different races [from 2025], it is going to be even higher,” Guazzini mentioned.

The Dutch nationwide group’s unshakeable dominance in girls’s biking might have continued in Australia on Sunday – the European nation’s sixth time trial title matches their six street race rainbow jerseys over the previous 10 years. But it surely did present indicators of cracking – Van Dijk solely narrowly held off Brown, whereas reigning Olympic gold medallist Annemiek van Vleuten was properly off the tempo in seventh. “By far not my finest day on the bike sadly,” the Dutch legend tweeted afterwards.

However having defended the rainbow stripes within the time trial, Van Dijk was defiant with the street race to return. “The one purpose is profitable,” she mentioned. “For positive the Dutch group shall be prepared.” The world championships proceed on Monday and run till subsequent weekend, when the elite males’s and girls’s street race champions shall be topped.

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