England’s Emma Pooley had to settle for a silver medal in her final time trial as a professional cyclist after New Zealander Linda Villumsen’s wait for a major title ended with Commonwealth Games gold in Glasgow.
Pooley, who will retire from cycling after Sunday’s Commonwealth Games road race, led through each of the intermediate time checks on the rolling 30km course, but Villumsen made up time on the largely-downhill closing section to beat Pooley by six seconds.
Australia’s Katrin Garfoot secured bronze, while Scotland’s Katie Archibald, who looked set for a medal through much of the race, finished fifth. Welsh rider, Elinor Barker, Villumsen’s team-mate at Wiggle Honda, was seventh.
Villumsen and Pooley started the first of the road events of the 2014 Commonwealth Games as red-hot favourites, with Villumsen the runner-up in Delhi four years ago and a five-time World Championship medallist, without ever standing on the top step of the podium, and Pooley the 2010 world champion.
That effectively set-up two intriguing battles, with Villumsen and Pooley going for gold, and a host of riders fighting it out for the final medal position in a race played out in typically British conditions, with rain and sun seemingly around every corner.
Antri Christoforou was first to finish and set an initial benchmark of 46:53.93 minutes, though the Cypriot’s time was arbitrary with several riders going faster before Garfoot, the 17th of 32 starters, crossed the line in a time of 43:13.91 minutes, which remained the fastest until the arrival of the final two women on the road, Pooley and Villumsen.
Archibald signaled her intent to win a second medal of these Games, having claimed bronze in the points race on the track, by going through the first two time checks fastest.
Archibald, who became a team pursuit world champion on the track with Great Britain earlier this year, looked set to better Garfoot’s final time, having gone faster over the first half of the course, but the 20-year-old paid for that effort and eventually crossed the line with what was then only the third fastest time.
Having won silver in Delhi four years ago, and with defending champion Tara Whitten of Canada absent, Villumsen was the final rider to start, and the five-time World Championship medallist went through the first time check just 1.3 seconds behind Pooley, who had started a minute earlier, and that gap remained at the second intermediate split to setup a fierce tussle for gold over the second half of the course.
Pooley, who arrived in Glasgow in fine form having won three stages of the Giro d’Italia Femminile earlier in July, had extended her advantage to eight seconds by the third time check, but the pendulum then began to swing back in favour of Villumsen, who was born in Denmark and who won her first World Championship in Danish colours before riding for New Zealand from 2010.
Pooley also won the mountains classification at the Giro d’Italia Femminile and it was the 31-year-old’s prowess when the road rises that contributed to her lead over the undulating first two-thirds of the Glasgow course.
But the fast downhill run-in to Glasgow favoured Villumsen and the 29-year-old overturned her deficit to overhaul Pooley and claim New Zealand’s sixth cycling medal of the Games and, after going so close on so many occassions, finally standing on the top step of the podium.
Commonwealth Games 2014: women’s individual time trial – result
1) Linda Villumsen (New Zealand)
2) Emma Pooley (England) +6″
3) Katrin Garfoot (Australia) +48″
4) Jaime Nielsen (New Zealand) +1’04”
5) Katie Archibald (Scotland) +1’05”
6) Shara Gillow (Australia) +1’08”
7) Elinor Barker (Wales) +1’30”
8) Lucy Coldwell (Scotland) +1’37”
9) Anna Turvey (Scotland) +1’43”
10) Jasmin Glaesser (Canada) +1’47”