Australian Grace Brown fell just short of a dream home win in the opening event at the world road cycling championships.
Dutch time-trial ace Ellen van Dijk, 35, successfully defended her world title on Sunday in Wollongong, beating Brown by 12.79 seconds over the technical 34.2-kilometre city course.
Brown, 30, set the early best time and well over an hour in the hot seat at the finish before van Dijk, the last starter, claimed her third world championship in the discipline after first winning in 2013.
“My goal was to get on the podium and my dream was to win … I can still aim towards that dream,” Brown said.
🇦🇺 Grace Brown is in the gold medal spot after a sensational ride in Wollongong! Now we wait 😬
— Stan Sport (@StanSportAU) September 18, 2022
“It would have been amazing to win it on home soil, but it was still a really special day, I’m satisfied.
“It was a rollercoaster of emotions up there (on the hot seat).”
The Dutch rider clocked 44 minutes 28.60 seconds over the two-lap circuit, while Swiss Marlen Reusser faded late to finish third at 41.68 seconds.
Italian Vittoria Guazzini was fourth and claimed the first women’s under-23 time trial world championship.
We have our first rainbow jersey of 2022 as Ellen van Dijk takes her third World Time Trial title by 13 seconds over Aussie Grace Brown to kick off @wollongong2022! 🔥🇳🇱
— SBS Sport (@SBSSportau) September 18, 2022
Van Dijk felt the city circuit, with its many corners, did not suit her and she also had a back problem a few days before the event.
So Sunday’s third world crown was unexpected.
“I kind of said goodbye to my (world championship) jersey yesterday and put it at the bottom of my bag,” she said.
“This one, I’m still processing it, it’s a bit more of a surprise.
“It’s really a confirmation that I was best again – it feels great.”
Brown is one of Australia’s top medal hopes at the worlds and she now aims for the road race next Saturday, where the hosts will have a powerful team.
“It’s made me hungry, to be so close to the rainbow jersey,” she said.
Despite her fourth place at last year’s Olympics and Birmingham Commonwealth Games gold medal, Brown surprisingly was among the first starters in the field of 45 and that meant a long wait for her in the hot seat.
Early confirmation of how well she rode came when another Dutch star, Olympic time trial champion Annemiek van Vleuten, was well off her pace and eventually finished seventh – one ahead of Australian Georgia Baker..
“It started this feeling of hope that I was maybe on an absolute flyer,” Brown, 30, said.
“I’m really happy with my ride, I felt I did my best.”
No one could touch her until van Dijk and Reusser, the last two starters.
It is Australia’s second silver medal in the women’s time-trial at the world championships, following Anna Wilson in 1999.
Compatriot Luke Plapp set the early pace on Sunday afternoon in the men’s 34.2-kilometre event, but he quickly dropped out of medal contention.
Vuelta a Espana winner Remco Evenepoel from Belgium, Italian two-time defending world champion Filippo Ganna and two-time Tour de France winner Tadej Pogacar from Slovenia headline the men’s event.
Australian Rohan Dennis, a two-time world champion, is not racing at Wollongong because it clashes with his brother’s wedding.
Australia previously hosted the road worlds at Geelong in 2010.
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