The Netherlands rocketed up the 2018 UCI World Road Championships medal table Tuesday sweeping the podium in the elite women’s individual time trial.
Annemiek van Vleuten successfully defended her world championship title won last year in Norway, beating Anna van der Breggen by 30 seconds. Ellen van Dijk was third in the 27.8km race, 1:25 behind.
“There’s not too many times someone has won twice the time trial world championships,” van Vleuten said. “It added a bit of pressure but I also felt the pressure last year so it was no different.”
From the outset, it was clear that van Vleuten was on a brilliant ride in Innsbruck, Austria.
Starting last in the order, the 35-year-old had a fast mark to follow, set by her teammate van der Breggen.
At the intermediate checkpoint, 18.1km into the course, van Vleuten was 19 seconds ahead of her compatriot and 47.6 seconds ahead of van Dijk.
Van Vleuten finished in 34:25, averaging 48.46kph.
“We came in May and covered it four or five times on recon, then I covered the entire course every day since we got here with the team,” said Van Vleuten. “I know every single corner.
“I usually make up time on the climbs and I put the pedal down on the climb, I went out fast and I know I had an amazing second part but then I just died at the end, I had no energy left.
“So I was exhausted and unsure If I’d won so I was surprised it was 28 seconds.”
This is just the latest result in her remarkable season that saw van Vleuten win the Giro Rosa overall and La Course by Le Tour de France.
Leah Thomas was the top American finisher in fifth, just six seconds behind Canadian Leah Kirchmann.
Van Vleuten also revealed she had been wearing ‘lucky’ earrings her recently-deceased father had given her before the Rio Games.
“After what happened in Rio I wasn’t sure they were lucky and said so to my mum, but she was like ‘no, no, they’re lucky,'” she said.
“But I wore them last year in Bergen [where she won the 2017 world time trial], which was a new chapter and now I wore them again today so I think now we can say they are lucky.”
Looking ahead to Saturday’s road race, Van Vleuten said there was plenty of time to rest up.
“I won’t be going dancing tonight,” she joked. “So don’t worry, I’m in really good shape.”
Van der Breggen also finished second last year in Bergen and said: “It’s nice we made history with the 1-2-3, which is great for Dutch fans, I just wish it had been in a different order.”
Bronze medallist Van Dijk, 31, said: “Unfortunately this was not the team time trial, it was the individual one.”
All three will now line up for Saturday’s women’s road race over the same pristine Tyrol roads with their dramatic Alpine backdrop.
The final time trial event at world championships, the elite men’s race, takes place Wednesday.