Cycling: Villumsen wins in Olympic shakedown

Linda Villumsen. Photo / APN
Linda Villumsen. Photo / APN

New Zealand cycling's Olympic hope Linda Villumsen won the third stage time trial of the Giro del Trentino in northern Italy overnight (NZT).

The stage win secured her overall victory at the two-day, three-stage race near the Dolomites in the Alps.

It was the second time trial win for Villumsen this season after the New Zealander won the Emakumeen Euskal Bira time trial earlier this month.

Defending Giro del Trentino champion and world time trial champion Judith Ardnt finished second on the stage.

"We had a double day today with a short morning road stage followed by an afternoon time trial," sports director Dave McPartland said.

"Linda started the double day in second overall but on the same time as race leader Noemi Cantele (Be Pink). We were confident in her time trial abilities in the afternoon, so we were most focused on the morning stage."

The team had identified Emma Pooley (AA Drink-leontien.nl), tied on time with Cantele and Villumsen, as the main threat in the morning road stage.

"We were concerned about Emma on this particular course," McPartland said.

"We opted to be less aggressive ourselves and instead stay around Linda to support her. Our plan worked out really well. Other teams raced aggressively, but their attacks never eventuated into anything until a group without any overall contenders got away."

Fabiana Luperini (Faren Honda) went on to take the stage win.

"It was perfect for us because we could then concentrate on the overall," said McPartland. "Luperini was not a general classification threat. We came to the line, and Linda finished on the same time as the other overall contenders. We didn't lose time or gain time. We had the luxury of knowing that Linda was one of the strongest time trials in contention for the overall."

"I was nervous about the race this morning," Villumsen said. "There were eight riders tied on time, and three of the others are good time triallists. We couldn't let them gain any time. The team was amazing this morning. They did everything for me. They all worked hard and helped me whenever they could. This allowed me to save some energy for the time trial this afternoon."

The 5km individual time trial took riders uphill on a country road before directing them to a bike path for the second half of the race. Cantele remained the race leader heading into the final stage with four riders, including Villumsen, tied on time.

"On paper, the time trial looked mostly uphill and not technical at all," Villumsen said. "When I actually saw it, I realised that the first 800m was hard, and then the course turned very technical. That suited me perfectly."

Villumsen covered the course in a blistering pace of 7:53:14. Arndt finished four seconds back.

The GreenEdge Orica-AIS duo were the only two to break the eight-minute mark.

"I had a bit of bad luck with some illness at the beginning of the season," Villumsen said. "I struggled for two or three months. Things have definitely turned around for me now, and I'm especially happy with how it's been going this last month. My trainer, Marco Pinotti, understands what is needed for optimal time trial training. He's also good at making my form peak at the right moment. I hope things continue this way, and we keep it up heading towards the Olympics."

- APNZ

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