Great Britain's Emma Pooley finished a deflating fourth place in the elite women's time trial as defending champion Judith Arndt (Germany) waved goodbye to the sport with a commanding win in Valkenburg.
Pooley was just nine seconds away from reaching the podium but saw her position slip down as Evelyn Stevens (USA) and Linda Villumsen (NZl) finished strongly to claim second and third respectively. Arndt meanwhile, who will retire at the end of the year, produced a performance right from the top draw as she bested Stevens by 33 seconds.
It was a bitter defeat for Pooley who finished sixth at the Olympic Games time trial back in August and had hoped to make amends in the Netherlands this week.
"I gave it everything and I couldn't have gone any faster," and exhausted Pooley almost whispered after the finish. "It's a little bit disappointing. I couldn't have gone faster than the winner. I really don't think I could have gone much faster."
Pooley had been earmarked as one of the favourites for the hilly course in Limburg and seemed to be on for a podium as she danced her way up the Cauberg in the final approach to the line in stark contrast to the grinding power of Villumsen and Arndt in particular.
Yet after her British team-mate Wendy Houvenaghel had finished 14th it just wasn't to be for the Zurich-based Pooley.
"I knew I was kind of around the faster times, I think I heard on the radio that I was five or six seconds off the pace at the first time check," she added. "There wasn't a point where I could say, 'yeah, I didn't go fast enough there.' I think I must have just been slower the whole way round. The winner was faster, that's the way it is."
The 30 year-old explained to CW last week that she was considering taking a break from the sport next year when her current AA Drink team will cease to exist. When asked whether her time trial result might influence her eventual decision, the deflation on her face was clear to see.
"I feel like I've made as many sacrifices, if not more, than the year before," Pooley explained. "I've put as much, if not more, into it this year.
"I don't feel that it's been satisfactory, and that's partly linked to results. I don't feel like I've had the results that I wanted. So it's a little bit disappointing and I do feel like I've not improved this year, I've 'de-proved.' So that's not very motivating."
Pooley will hope to be able to set aside her disappointment when she lines up as part of a six strong GB team for the women's road race this Saturday.
Road World Championships 2012: Women's Individual Time Trial, 24.3km
1. Judith Arndt (Ger) in 32-26
2. Evelyn Stevens (USA) at 33 secs
3. Linda Villumsen (NZl) at 40 secs
4. Emma Pooley (GBr) at 49 secs
5. Ellen Van Dijk (Ned) at 54 secs
6. Ina Teutenberg (Ger) at 1-33
7. Amber Neben (USA) at 1-43
8. Trixi Worrack (Ger) at 1-44
9. Martina Sablikova (Cze) at 1-59
10. Shara Gillow (Aus) at 1-59
14. Wendy Houvenaghel (GBr) at 2-17
Pooley contemplates break from professional cycling
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