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Defending champion Holden finishes sixth
By John Wilcockson
Even Jeannie Longo herself said it! “This title was more emotional than the others … the crowning of my career,” said the veteran French phenom after taking the 13th world championship in her illustrious career. Why so emotional? “Well, you know my age,” added Longo, who will be 43 on October 31.
It was also emotional for the manner in which she snatched the elite women’s time-trial by four-tenths of a second over the startling Swiss racer Nicole Brändli — who was just six years old when Longo won her first rainbow jersey 16 years ago!
Brändli set out like a rocket on the 19.2km course that climbed, dipped, turned and twisted its way around the hilly woodland of Lisbon’s Monsanto Park. At the first time split, 4.5km into the race — with two climbs, one steep descent and 10 turns already behind her — Brändli led by nine seconds over Longo, with third fastest being Lithuanian veteran Rasa Polikeviciute.
Already, so early into the race, several favorites had lost any hope of winning. Germany’s Hanka Kupfernagel was 1:09 back, after snapping her chain at the start, then throwing her bike away in anger, kicking the barricades and running back to get a new bike. World No. 1 Anna Millward of Australia was struggling on the hills, a half-minute back; defending champion Mari Holden had lost 24 seconds; and Grande Boucle Féminine winner Joane Somarriba had crashed on one of those dangerous turns, and abandoned.
By the second time split, at the high point of the course, 770 feet above the distant, shining waters of the Tagus River estuary, Brändli was still leading, but only four seconds up on Longo. Polikeviciute still held third — now 46 seconds back, and just six seconds ahead of the surprising Teodora Ruano of Spain, whose last event (the track world’s in Antwerp!) saw her take fourth in the points race.
So everything depended upon the last 6.2km — a steep, straight 60-kph descent that ended in a tight left turn onto an out-of-the-saddle climb; followed by a sweeping downhill through the forest before a last little kick into a mainly downhill, into the wind final 2km. Longo used all her experience and her still-awesome power (honed by a month of altitude training in Arizona) to tug back each of the four seconds to stop the clock in 29:08.55. Just below on the electronic scoreboard shone Brändli’s time of 29:08.96.
“To be beaten by such a small margin is a big disappointment,” said the Swiss, “but finishing second to such a rider is fantastic.”
Behind the two protagonists, Ruano came through to take third place by two seconds over Polikeviciute; Holden held strong to take sixth (“On seeing the course, I’d hoped to get top five” said the American); and Millward finished fastest of all (16 seconds faster than Longo in the final 6km!) to take seventh.
Asked whether she would be back defending at next year world’s in Belgium, Longo said, “No. it’s too cold for me (there).” But she will be shooting for title No. 14 in this Saturday’s road race — “If the weather is as nice as it is today, I will make a big effort,” she said.
As if she has anything left to prove….
1. Jeannie Longo (F), 19.2km in 29:08.55 (39.530 kph); 2. Nicole Brändli (Swi), 29:08.96; 3. Teodora Ruano (Sp), 29:53; 4. Rasa Polikeviciute (Lit), 29:55; 5. Judith Arndt (G), 30:03; 6. Mari Holden (USA), 30:34; 7. Anna Millward (Aus), 30:35; 8. Mirjam Melchers (Nl), 30:41.o7; 9. Diana Ziliute (Lit), 30.41.34; 10. Priska Doppmann (Swi), 30:49.
Also: 14. Kimberly Bruckner (USA), 31:08; 15. Leah Goldstein (Can), 31:13; 16. Anne Samplonius (Can), 31:15; 28. Katrina Berger (USA), 32:25.