By Kimberly Bruckner, In Zolder, Belgium
When I first heard that the world’s were being held in Belgium in October, I envisioned us racing in cold, pelting rain perhaps mixed with some sleet and snow. I didn’t invite any of my family or friends to come watch, because I figured Belgium at that time of the year was really no pleasant place to visit. But wow, did I mess up.
I should have invited mom and dad along for the ride. It’s beautiful here right now. Mornings are a little cold. Actually, the afternoons are too, but the crisp smell of fall is in the air and the sun is shining. So you’d think that would make way for me having a great time trial ride.
Yes, you’d think so.
Even though this is only my second world championships, I think it’s so exciting here. The entire road and time trial courses have been barricaded off the entire week so athletes can train on them. Cycling fans have had their campers parked all along the course for days, hoping to get the prime viewing spot. Just outside our hotel window is an entire mobile home parking lot for enthusiastic fans. They’ve been up partying every night despite the cold weather. Both the TT and road courses end on the Circuit Zolder, a famous car racing track, making for fast finishes. It’s a great place to be right now.
I admit I had to dig deep to find the motivation to train for this race. After completing La Grande Boucle in August followed by the French and Swiss World Cups and the Tour of Holland, I was cooked.
I had finally arrived home after all those races the second week in September and had to take some time to unwind and rest. I think I could have happily just called it a season after that. But thanks to the determination and enthusiasm of my boyfriend and my coach, they both got me back on track for worlds’ training. Then, just a week before the time trial, I received a call from Scott Warren, owner of Javelin Bikes, Inc. Scott is the designer and creator of my time trial frame, which he made for me last January.
It’s such a beautiful frame and I love the ride. To add to that enjoyment, Scott had called to tell me his friend, John Cobb, had just finished designing a new aero fork and he wanted to know if I cared to try it out at world’s. Supposedly, it’s only the ONCE professional men’s team that has used these forks so far. So would I be willing to use one in Zolder? Hell yes!
So with all this great equipment and friends to motivate me on my way, how could I not have renewed enthusiasm for the world’s time trial?
Each country can enter two people in each time trial category; junior men, junior women, under-23 men, elite men, and elite women. However, the country with the previous year’s winner can enter three. Last year’s elite women’s winner was the renowned rider from France, Jeannie Longo-Ciprelli, so France had three riders this year.
Amber Neben from Irvine, California and I were the two Americans vying for a podium spot. Although the start list only included 42 women, I tell you it was an incredibly stacked field. In perusing the list last night, I wondered if there was anyone I could beat! The start list included several past Olympic and World Champions both on the road and on the track, and winners of major Tours around the world.
The world’s course in Lisbon, Portugal last year was extremely hilly and a bit technical. Zolder’s course was extremely flat and as it turned out this afternoon, very windy. Amber and I rode the course this morning at a very casual pace and found ourselves being blown along by a nice tailwind. But that all changed by race time. We battled strong headwinds and crosswinds almost the entire 23.3 kilometers.
Amber and I arrived at the start with plenty of time for warming up. The U.S. National team staff was great…they had everything ready for us; trainers, bottles, energy food, towels. I sat on the trainer warming up, checking out the competition. About 20 minutes before my start, Dave Pitts, our mechanic, Jean Paul Van Poppel, our director, and I headed over to the start pen.
Before taking off, each athlete had to have their bike checked by the UCI to make sure it fit within the measurement requirements. My Javelin had no problems. I rode the trainer a little more in the start pen and found myself surrounded by time trialing greats, women such as Jeannie Longo, Genvieve Jeanson, the young star wonder, Zinaida Starhuskai, winner of the 2002 La Grande Boucle…they were all there. I tried to stay calm.
When I brought my bike up to the start ramp, I heard over the loud speaker that my teammate, Amber Neben, was currently holding the second best time. She had started approximately 30 minutes before me. Even though Amber had started near the beginning of the list, I felt that was a promising outlook for her. But I knew there were still many fast women to come!
I was number 14, so there were 13 speedy demons behind me. As soon as I started, I realized how strong the winds were and fought hard to keep a strong and steady rhythm. I figured since it was such a flat course, a headwind would actually work in my favor as it would be a greater test of strength. The course was tough as there was never a point where I could relax or recover. I had to dig the whole time, as I’m sure everyone else did too. I felt I rode a strong ride when I crossed the finish line, but when no media or press started running after me immediately, I figured I had broken no records. Damn.
Bryan Jew, the reporter for VeloNews, came over to talk to me and asked if I had ever heard of Karin Thurig from Switzerland. I told him I hadn’t, but apparently she was currently holding the fastest time. And no one knew who she was!
It turns out she’s a Swiss duathlete that wanted to give cycling a try. Well, she certainly made a splash her first time out. I would have placed my bets for the gold medal on either Leontien Van Moorsel or Jeannie Longo, but I would have lost big time. Zoulfia Zabirova took top honors today, averaging 46kph. Very impressive! Zoula was the 1996 Olympic gold medalist in the time trial as well. She continues to prove herself. Then surprisingly it was Nicole Brandli from Switzerland, followed by her teammate, the duathlete! Switzerland must be proud tonight.
Joanne Sommariba from Spain finished 4th, just 100ths of a second behind Thurig. Longo was 7th and Van Moorsel was 10th. The Americans? Amber was 15th and I finished 16th..only one-half second apart. Not a stellar performance by either of us. I was hoping for a top 10 finish, but it gives me something to work towards next year.
The Worlds’ women’s elite road race is this Saturday and by tomorrow, U.S. National will have our whole team here. Mari Holden and Tina Mayolo arrived this morning. Dede Demet and Laura Van Gilder arrive tomorrow. We’re planning on taking a spin around the road circuit tomorrow morning before the start of the men’s elite time trial. Then I plan on spending my afternoon watching the super fast men go speeding by. Watch and learn. I need to pick up some time trialing pointers.
Until Saturday, ciao from Zolder!
1. Zoulfia Zabirova (Rus), 30:02.62 (46.327kph)
2. Nicole Brandli (Swi), at 0:14.70
3. Karin Thurig (Swi), at 0:15.65
4. Joane Somarriba Arrola (Sp), at 0:15.68
5. Sara Carrigan (Aus), at 0.20.39
6. Olga Slyuussareva (Rus), at 0:32.66
7. Jeannie Longo-Ciprelli (F), at 0:42.18
8. Rasa Polikeviciute (Lit), at 0:44.85
9. Judith Arndt (G), at 0:48.35
10. Leontien Zijlaard – Van Moorsel (Nl) 0:51.26
11. Teodora Ruano Sanchon (Sp), at 1:06.58
12. Catherine Marsal (F), at 1:07.11
13. Alison Wright (Aus), at 1:09.84
14. Genevieve Jeanson (Can), at 1:16.13
15. Amber Neben (USA), at 1:20.62
16. Kimberly Bruckner (USA), at 1:21.13
17. Melissa Holt (NZl), at 1:25.12
18. Edita Pucinskaite (Lit), at 1:25.65
19. Susanne Ljungskog (S), at 1:29.43
20. Olga Zabelinskaia (Rus), at 1:34.59
21. Giovanna Troldi (I), at 1:35.35
22. Lyne Bessette (Can), at 1:35.99
23. Jenny Algelid-Bengtsson (S), at 1:37.41
24. Mirjam Melchers (Nl), at 1:40.48
25. Bogumila Matusiak (Pol), at 1:41.69
26. Zinaida Stahurskaya (Blr), at 1:44.39
27. Anita Valen (Nor), at 1:45.23
28. Lada Kozlikova (Cze), at 1:54.76
29. Evy Van Damme (B), at 2:00.02
30. Tanya Andryuschenko (Ukr), at 2:01.52
31. Edwige Pitel (F), at 2:01.75
32. Frances Newstead (GB), at 2:12.68
33. Kirsty Nicole Robb (NZl), at 2:14.80
34. Iryna Chuzhynova (Ukr), at 2:21.86
35. Maria Luisa Calle (Col), at 2:22.12
36. Tina Liebig (G), at 2:25.29
37. Solrun Flataas (Nor), at 2:26.99
38. Cindy Pieters (B), at 3:02.41
39. Doris Posch (A), at 3:05.75
40. Geraldine Gill (Irl), at 3:49.31
41. Evelyn Garcia (Sp), at 4:21.45
42. Chalime Giourbouz (Gre), at 4:44.89