This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.
Silver medallist in Copenhagen twelve months ago, Elinor Barker (Great Britain) returned to the junior women’s time trial at the world championships and came away with the rainbow jersey thanks to an assured performance on a damp, grey morning in Valkenburg.
Barker bore the burden of pre-race favourite lightly and she hurtled around the rolling, 15.6km course all of 35 seconds quicker than second-placed Cecile Uttrup Ludwig (Denmark), while home rider Demi De Jong (Netherlands) surpassed her own expectations by claiming bronze, 1:03 down on Barker.
“I’m absolutely ecstatic about winning today,” Barker said afterwards. “Winning silver last year put a lot of pressure on me today and I put a lot of pressure on myself to win this race.”
The course’s primary difficulty came right at the beginning, and the Cardiff native set an impressive tempo up the climb to Bukel to reach the first intermediate time check after 4.5km with a lead of 12 seconds over the early pace-setter Ludwig.
“The first hill was pretty much straightaway which I think suited me as I’m a bit of a climber and then it was sort of downhill to the finish and not too technical the rest of the way,” said Barker. She would maintain her lead over Ludwig into the second time check (10.2km) before opening the throttle on the run-in towards the finish.
After surprising herself by taking silver on the flat circuit in Copenhagen a year ago, Barker knew that the Limburg course would provide a real opportunity to go one better, and she prepared carefully under the supervision of the British Cycling’s coaching staff.
“Last year was pretty flat and technical so I was actually pretty shocked to get silver, but this year suited my strengths,” she said. “I’ve pretty much dedicated the last year to this. I’ve been on my time trial bike at least twice a week, doing hill efforts, watching my diet, going to bed early. Absolutely everything for the last year has been focused on this race.”
Barker’s winning ride knocked Cecile Uttrup Ludwig off the top spot after the Dane had spent most of the morning in the hot seat. By far the quickest of the early starters, Ludwig watched with growing expectation as rider after rider failed to better her time.
“I found a good rhythm early on and even when it began to rain halfway through, I took it calm and steady,” Ludwig said. “It was very nice to sit in the hot seat for so long. I was very nervous, but it went well in the end.
“It’s a huge dream come true for me, I’m so happy with the result. I didn’t know my level before this because I hadn’t done a lot of international races.”
Third-placed De Jong admitted that she was surprised by her own medal-winning ride, but said that she had expected Barker to prove to be the woman to beat. “I know her very well, so I’m not surprised that she was the winner,” De Jong said. “My goal was to finish in the top ten. Although I didn’t feel good at the beginning and I couldn’t find the right rhythm, I felt better and better after that.”