Olympics: Villumsen just seconds from bronze

By Dylan Cleaver

New Zealand's Linda Villumsen is applauded by the crowds after finishing fourth in the women's time trial event. Source / Mark Mitchell NZ Herald
New Zealand's Linda Villumsen is applauded by the crowds after finishing fourth in the women's time trial event. Source / Mark Mitchell NZ Herald

There's nothing quite as hollow as finishing fourth at the Olympics, a feeling Linda Villumsen is getting acquainted with as she finished agonisingly close to bronze in the time trial.

Following on from her fifth-place in Beijing, where she rode for Denmark, Villumsen improved by one in London, but that will be of little consolation. After 29kms of pushing the pedals as hard and as fast as possible, Villumsen finished a mere 1.83s off the podium.

Defending champion Kristin Armstrong repeated her win from Beijing, completing the course in 37m 34.82. World champion Judith Arndt was a considerable 15.47s back, while surprise package Olga Zabelinskaya posted 37m 57.35s.

A downcast Villumsen struggled to find the words to describe how she was feeling.

"Not much at the moment," she said. "I gave it everything but it wasn't enough, by two seconds in the end," she said.

Villumsen must have had a sinking feeling when she crossed the finish line and saw she had posted the second fastest time. With Armstrong and Arndt still out on the course, there was every chance she was going to slip out of the medal positions - and so it proved.

The 27-year-old said everything had gone to plan and there was nothing that would make her ask '"what if?"

"It's pretty simple in a time trial. You just go as hard as you can for as long as you can."

Set among the scenic idyll of Hampton Court Palace, famous for being the home of Henry VIII, Villumsen never lost her head, but she did confess she might have struggled to focus in the final 2km as fatigue seeped into every fibre of muscle she had in her legs.

"But apart from that everything went well. The bike was awesome and everything was rolling," she said.

Villumsen had radio contact with her support crew, but she did not want running time checks, preferring them to stick to telling her the fast lines on the road.

If they had told her the splits she would have been informed that she was second at both the first and second time checks, with only Armstrong in front.

However Arndt and Zabelinskaya, who also took bronze in the road race, put in a blistering final 10km.

With Jack Bauer never expected to finish at the pointy end of the men's time trial, that ends a fruitless road section of BikeNZ's Olympic campaign. They now require a strong performance on the track to achieve their target of four medals in London. After medalling in the past three world championships, Villumsen would have been part of their thinking.

"It would have been special to see her medal and kick the campaign off, but it's onwards to tomorrow now," said BikeNZ high-performance director Mark Elliott.

"She looked good the whole way, she had great cadence and was ticking over really nicely. All you can say is she gave it everything, put herself in position, but two seconds is two seconds and fourth sucks."

If the pattern continues, Villumsen will be a lock for third in Rio de Janeiro in four years' time and Elliott said there could be more after that.

"She's asked me if we can put up with her for another four years," Elliott said.

"A lot of women endurance athletes get stronger as they get older. Linda is still young. If she wants to carry on, she's got at least another couple of Olympics in her."

- NZ Herald

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