Villumsen finally captures time trial world championship

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) Linda Villumsen finally knows what it feels like to stand on the top step of the podium.

After winning two silver medals and three bronze at the world championships, the rider from New Zealand finally captured gold on Tuesday, besting Anna van der Breggen of the Netherlands by just 2.54 seconds in a time trial that came down to the final rider.

It wasn't until reigning champion Lisa Brennauer of Germany, last to roll off the start line, crossed the finish line 5 seconds adrift that Villumsen threw her arms up in victory.

''I hit the right notes all the way through the race. Everything was working my way today,'' Villumsen said. ''I can't really believe it.''

Brennauer wound up with the bronze medal. Katrin Garfoot of Australia was fourth and two-time Olympic gold medalist Kristin Armstrong of the U.S. finished in fifth.

''I gave it everything I had today,'' Armstrong said.

Earlier in the day, Leo Appelt of Germany won the junior men's time trial, with Adrien Costa and Brandon McNulty giving the American team two more medals. Costa won his second straight silver and McNulty took bronze in his first championships.

''It's definitely bittersweet,'' Costa said. ''You want to go one better, but to be able to podium two years in a row, it shows consistency. I can't be too upset about that.''

The competition continues Wednesday with the elite men's time trial.

Armstrong, in the midst of her second comeback from retirement, was the second rider onto the course and posted a time of 40 minutes, 50.45 seconds. But without the benefit of time splits from other top contenders, she had to rely only on her own benchmarks to determine her position.

She later conceded those going out later in the day had an advantage.

''It was a tough, tough course. I definitely left some time behind on the technical pieces of it,'' she said. ''If I wasn't laying down the foundation time I could have taken some more risks.''

Still, her time left her on the hot seat for nearly 2 hours as other riders took their shot at the 30-kilometer course beginning and ending in downtown Richmond. Among those who came up short were German star Trixi Worrack and Armstrong's own teammate, Carmen Small.

It wasn't until Villumsen hit the course that Armstrong's time was put in jeopardy.

The Danish-born time trial specialist was fastest through the second and third time splits, finishing in 40:29.87 to take over the lead. But with van der Breggen and Brennauer still on the course, she had to weather a few tense minutes in the hot seat.

''It's pretty much always my tactic to go as hard as I can as long as I can,'' Villumsen said. ''I always worry that I start too fast, but this time I was so determined to do the same time the second lap as the first lap because the fastest riders were still out there.''

When van der Breggen and Brennauer crossed the finish line, Villumsen was nearly overcome by emotion, holding her head in her hands for a moment before throwing her arms up to celebrate.

''She's always so good at the world championships,'' said American rider Evelyn Stevens, another strong medal contender who finished sixth and had a hard time hiding her disappointment.

Stevens won silver three years ago and bronze last year, and the former investment banker had hoped that the strong support of the home crowd cheering her around the twisting, technical course in downtown Richmond would carry her to the top step of the podium.

''I'm bummed, but that's time trialing, right? I wanted to do well in this country and I'm a little disappointed not to bring home a medal,'' she said. ''I tried to go as deep as I could today. In the time trial, there's no excuse. It's just your body and yourself going as hard as you can.''

On this day, it was Villumsen who went harder than anyone.

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