By John Wilcockson
Since the individual time trial first became a world championship event in 1994, there has rarely been a course quite as technical and challenging as the one laid out around the vast forested Monsanto Park in central Lisbon, Portugal.
On Tuesday, opening day of the 2001 road world’s, abbreviated versions of the course produced resounding victories for American Danny Pate in the under-23 category and Britain’s Nicole Cooke in the junior women’s division.
On Wednesday, junior men and elite women will both compete over one lap of the full 19.2km time-trial course — which is based on the main 12km road race circuit, and includes a 2.4km out-and-back extension at the southern end and a later 5km loop within the main circuit. One short, and one long climb in the opening 5km add to the difficulties of a rolling course that has 20 sharp turns and 20 curves.
After looking over the course, three-time elite women’s champion Jeannie Longo of France told Agence France Presse, “The course seems to be hard and short. I’d do better over two laps. As it is, it’ll be necessary to find your rhythm right away.”
Longo, who will be 43 later this month, is in search of her 13th world title. She should be ready for the task as she has just returned to Europe from a month’s training near Tucson, Arizona, staying at an altitude of 7800 feet and training in the valley, at 5000 feet. Live-high, train-low is the modern mantra, so maybe it will pay off for the veteran French legend.
If Longo is to achieve her goal, she will have to overcome a women’s field that lacks only Olympic champion Leontien Van Moorsel. Top of the list is Olympic silver medalist and 2000 world champion Mari Holden, who should be at ease on a course that resembles the one in Sydney last year. Holden will be inspired by both the victory of her fellow Colorado Springs citizen Pate on Tuesday, and that two weeks ago of her friend and training partner Alison Dunlap at the mountain-bike world’s in Vail.
Hoping to dispose of Holden will be world No. 1 Anna Millward of Australia, who recently dominated the 37km Grand Prix des Nations time trial; up-and-coming Swiss rider Nicole Brändli, who took the time-trial stage of last month’s Tour of Tuscany; Spain’s Joana Somarriba, who tussled with Longo in the time-trial stages of her victorious Grande Boucle Féminine; and Germany’s Judith Arndt, recent winner of the Tour de Finistère in France.
As for the junior men, the hot money is on Belgian Jurgen Van den Broeck, who won the GP des Nations time trial in September, and last year took 13th at the world’s.
Look for full reports of the Day 2 time trials at the road world’s on velonews.com on Wednesday.