Ellen van Dijk (Netherlands) has defended her time trial jersey in style, beating home favourite Grace Brown (Australia) in a thrilling opening to the world championships in Australia.
The Dutchwoman was the final rider on the time trial course, powering home to win by just over 12 seconds from the Commonwealth Games champion Brown, with Marlen Reusser (Switzerland) taking third.
“I didn’t expect to win it,” van Dijk confessed afterwards, with a beaming smile as she looked slightly surprised to find herself in the victor’s chair.
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The course consisted of two laps around Wollongong in perfect conditions, with the sun high overhead and temperatures hovering around the 19 Degree mark for a total of 34.2km of racing. It was the exact same course and distance that faced the men later on in the same day, with the women getting to test their mettle against the clock first on the tree-lined streets.
Brown was easily the early name to watch, with decent time trialling pedigree this season having already won gold at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. But Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio had cautioned that this course wouldn’t necessarily suit the pure time trial specialists, stating:
“Cornering is crucial, I don’t think your typical time trial [rider] can get the momentum they usually get.”
It is the second time Australia have hosted the World Championships, and home rider Brown did indeed set the early pace as she finished in a competitive 44:41.33. She cut a relaxed figure as she waited in the hot seat, opting to park herself at the front of the stage, legs dangling over the edge as she chatted with the fans below.

Australian Grace Brown of FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope pictured in action during the women elite individual time trial at the UCI Road World Championships Cycling 2022, in Wollongong, Australia, Sunday 18 September 2022.

Image credit: Getty Images

Brown had a long wait, with Annemiek van Vleuten (Netherlands) the next rider big name to watch crossing the line well over an hour after the Australian. The great Dutch rider has been in incredible racing form this season but had been somewhat untested over time trials – and didn’t look entirely comfortable on the technical course. She slotted into bronze, crossing the line 1:30 down on Brown’s marker knowing that with so many big names to come, her chances of a medal were slight.
Indeed, she was later knocked out of the top three by Vittoria Guazzini (Italy), who crossed the line with her teeth bared in a grimace to slot into provisional second. The Italian though at just 21 years old did place herself top in the Under 23 category that was taking place within the time trial, and as a result not just earned herself a coveted rainbow jersey but became a rider to watch in the future as the strength and depth of Italian cycling continues to grow.

Vittoria Guazzini of Italy sprints during the 95th UCI Road World Championships 2022 - Women Individual Time Trial a 34,2km individual time trial race from Wollongong to Wollongong

Image credit: Getty Images

As for Van Vleuten, she ended up seventh overall, and after turning the airwaves blue with her assessment of her own performance, elaborating by saying she “couldn't push the power. Today was not for me.”
The last two riders on the course were the two favourites – van Dijk and Reusser. Both were up at the first intermediate time check but not by much, with Brown having found a chunk of time in the last few kilometres after pacing herself superbly.
Reusser caught and passed Emma Norsgaard (Denmark) on an uphill section after the second intermediate, soon disappearing into the distance. But it was all about the time on the clock – and she was down on both Brown and van Dijk. She passed Lina Hernandez Gomez (Colombia) on the run in to the line, a tricky final uphill that forced the riders to dig deep all the way to the finish.
Not to be for the Swiss rider, she crossed the line to go second. But van Dijk was hot on her heels, having suddenly closed the gap in the final few kilometres and almost catching the crowd by surprise with the speed at which she appeared around the final corner moments later. She half rose out of the saddle to power across the line and take the rainbow jersey by the slimmest of margins.

Race winner Ellen Van Dijk of The Netherlands reacts after the 95th UCI Road World Championships 2022 - Women Individual Time Trial a 34,2km individual time trial race from Wollongong to Wollongong

Image credit: Getty Images

Just 12.73s in the end separated van Dijk from Brown, the Dutch rider winning in 44:28.60 for her third time trial world title.
“It was such a difficult course and I didn't expect to win it,” van Dijk said afterwards, sounding oddly surprised with her performance. “I didn’t think it was the course for me. I just thought I’ve had a great year in the rainbow jersey and I'll give it my all and if it’s a podium, it’s a podium.”
Far more than a podium, she took the top step of the rostrum to huge applause. Van Dijk was presented with her rainbow jersey immediately and will have another well-deserved 12 months of racing in those iconic colours.
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