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Ellen van Dijk continues her phenomenal comeback
Ellen van Dijk is not finished yet.
The 34-year-old Dutchwoman already has victories in some of the biggest races on the calendar, with some of his most striking successes dating back eight years.
But the tail end of the 2021 season proved Van Dijk has plenty more motivation in the latter part of her career, as 2021 has been one of her best ever seasons.
The Trek-Segafredo rider not only proved her class against the clock, winning her second World Championship TT after her victory in 2013, but she is also the newly-crowned European road race champion, after her masterclass earlier this month.
While her last two seasons have been full of near misses, the last few months of the year have proved that Van Dijk still has the longevity to win against the best in the world.
Marlen Reusser not quite strong enough
The women’s peloton is routinely dominated by the all-rounders, with the likes of Annemiek van Vleuten, Anna van der Breggen and Marianne Vos able to thrive across the disciplines.
But the emergence of Swiss talent Marlen Reusser looked like it could be the dawn of the time trial specialist on the women’s side of the sport.
After her convincing win in the European Championships time trial just over a week ago, Reusser came into the Worlds TT as one of the favourites, only to be overpowered by an absolutely phenomenal ride by Van Dijk.
Riding on her birthday, Reusser was still very impressive as she took the silver medal spot, able to put time into the Olympic champion Van Vleuten on the pan-flat course.
It may not have been the dominant performance we expected from Reusser, but with two consecutive silver medal finishes in the World Championships, it’s only a matter of time before the 30-year-old adds the rainbow bands to the European flag on her palmarès.
Annemiek van Vleuten adds to her medal collection
Superstar rider Annemiek van Vleuten is among the favourites for just about any race she enters, and the Olympic time trial champion was the final starter in the elite women’s TT at the Worlds.
Despite favourite status, Van Vleuten was a slightly unknown quantity against the clock, as she hasn’t raced a time trial since that Olympic glory in July.
Building her late-season schedule around the road race, Van Vleuten has raced San Sebastian, the Tour of Norway, the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta, and the European Championships on the way to the Worlds, even opting to skip the Euro TT, suggesting she is purely focused on the road race jersey in Flanders.
Despite the Worlds TT clearly not being a huge target, Van Vleuten was still strong enough to medal yet again, taking third behind Van Dijk and Reusser.
Based on this performance, she will surely be extra motivated for the road race this weekend.
Absences may have defined this result
While we did see some outstanding performances in Belgium, there were also some notable absences from the time trial which could have impacted the final result.
First and foremost, reigning champion Anna van der Breggen pulled out of both Euro TT and the Worlds as she just hasn’t been at her best at the tail end of the season.
After a disappointing performance in the women’s Vuelta, she said: “I just didn't have the power in Spain to follow when it was a hard race.
“I did my best in Spain to make the best out of it, but physically I was not at my normal level at all. With my current level, I have nothing to do at the European Championships.”
While Van der Breggen may have been off her best, she could surely still have had the strength to place well in the TT, based on her previous performances.
Another significant absentee was the US phenomenon Chloe Dygert, who has one of the biggest engines in the peloton.
Dygert, who races for Canyon-SRAM on the road, spent the last year recovering from the horrific injuries she suffered during the 2020 Worlds time trial in Imola, when she crashed on a turn and sustained a deep laceration to her left leg.
After a slightly disappointing showing at the Olympics, finishing seventh in the TT, Dygert opted to bring her season to a close to focus on recovering for the 2022 season.
Following the 24-year-old’s dominance in the 2019 Worlds TT in Yorkshire, even below her best she has the talent to have impacted this year’s results.
Joss Lowden on great form ahead of Hour Record attempt
While Great Britain are yet to medal in the 2021 Worlds, there are plenty of British riders to get excited about.
After Dan Bigham broke the top 20 in the elite men’s TT, with Ethan Hayter in the top-10, Ethan Vernon then secured another top-10 in the under-23 TT.
In the women’s race, Joss Lowden was the best of the Brits, taking a strong eighth-place, 1-59 down on Van Dijk.
While Lowden’s performance may not have been enough for the medal placings, it bodes very well for her upcoming Hour Record challenge.
Lowden will head to Switzerland to take on the historic challenge on the Velodrome Suisse in Grenchen, sometime between September 30 and October 1.
The current record stands at 48.008km in 60 minutes, set by Victoria Bussi back in 2018, but Lowden is believed to have unofficially broken the record in training recently.
Now becoming the eighth best time triallist in the World will be a huge confidence boost on the way to her goal.
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