Well, that was as unpredictable as ever. Amber Neben, who at the age of four survived a bout of spinal meningitis which left her in a coma for three days and doctors fearing brain damage if she survived, has become a double world champion. It was a stunning performance and completes an incredible year for US women’s time trialling, after Kristin Armstrong’s gold in Rio. Ellen van Dijk came up just short yet again, but her epic battle with Neben was the highlight of the race. Katrin Garfoot found something in the final couple of kilometres to win bronze, and deny Annemiek van Vleuten a fairytale medal. Thanks for your time.
Related: Amber Neben wins gold for USA in Doha road world championships time trial
A delighted but emotionally spent Amber Neben says: “It’s unbelievable. Was a long wait. I think I used more energy sitting there [waiting for the other riders to finish than i did on the bike. I was so nervous. It was so hard to watch. I feel for Ellen but am so excited for myself. The difference today was the mental perserverence. This one was more special because of everything that has happened between 2008 and now.”
That’s it. Van der Breggen finishes a catastrophic ride two min 11sec behind the new world champion. What a ride from the American, who won this title eight years ago and was not thought to be among the contenders at the age of 41.
Neben is almost there. She can afford to smile now. Another of her potential rivals cannot match her time, and does not even make the medals. Brennauer will be disappointed with that
Garfoot finishes strongly and takes third position, for now at least. She dug deep there in the late stages to go one better than her fourth in this race last year. Zabelinskaya fades into fourth, and Amialiusik has dropped out of the picture.
The four-rider threat to the gold medal seems to be down to two. Brennauer, like Van der Breggen, is struggling badly. Garfoot and Zabelinskaya are holding their form well, but nobody knows how much it is taking out of them to stay up with pace. Or how fast Neben went over the second half of the race.
Anna van der Breggen, supposedly the favourite for this race, is a huge 24 seconds off the lead at the first time check. Is she suffering in the heat? We haven’t mentioned that for a while. It’s the action that’s reaching boiling point. Garfoot and Zabelinskaya are 10sec behind Neben, Brennauer a further 3sec back. Neben looks comfortable at the finish right now, but further ahead the Belarusian Alena Amialiusik is on the move. Could she be a surprise medal threat?
There are probably only four women who can deny Neben now, and they are taking to the track. The German-born Australia’s Katrin Garfoot won the Chrono Champenois, the dress rehearsal for this event, last month. The Russian Olga Zabelinskaya won silver in the Rio Olympic time trial, after returning from a doping ban. Germany’s Lisa Brennauer won the world title in 2014. And Anna van der Breggen of the Netherlands has probably been the most impressive female time triallist this season. They are all on the track now, their task; to disrupt the current top three:
1) Neben: 36:37.04
Van Dijk is hurting. She is rocking on the bike, shoulders weaving from side to side. She does not look comfortable and she nearly falls off. Has it cost her? Yes! She finishes 5.99sec off Neben. She’s in silver position, but that won’t please her. She wanted gold, and gave everything out there. But it wasn’t enough. Can Neben hold on for the title?
This really is a see-saw tussle, potentially for gold. At the 2km to go mark Van Dijk and Neben are dead level. This is a very flat course but there is a bit of a drag up to the finish. Can she find that last drop of energy to pull her through at the top?
Britain’s Hayley Simmonds was seen as an outside contender for a medal before the race, but has struggled so far. She was 18th quickest at the first check and 13th at the second, but surely is too far off the pace to have a say in this. The current standings are:
1) Neben: 36:37.04
Van Dijk’s attempt to better Neben’s time is turing into an epic battle. The American went off very quickly and seemed to pay a little in the closing stages, and the latest unofficial split suggests the Dutch rider is 4sec inside the leader’s time. Van Dijk ended up in the gutter at the Rio 2016 time trial after the wind took her front wheel when she was going well. But she redeemed herself at the European road championships, where she won the individual time trial ahead of Van der Breggen and Rio bronze medallist Olga Zabelinskaya.
A few moments to take stock after three of the heavweights made their mark on the race. There are some suggestions that the wind was favourable for the trio and if that was the case then maybe those times will take some beating. That said there are some serious medal contenders and one of those, Ellen van Dijk, sped off from the start and looked to be threatening the lead. By the first official split she was six seconds off the pace though. Neben’s mark is getting better by the second.
Worrack posts the fastest time but that is surpassed moments later by Van Vleuten, and then almost immediately surpassed again by Neben. Van Vleuten fiinshed strongly to lie second as things stand and can be pleased with her efforsts after Rio. but the story of the day so far is Amber Neben. The 41-year-old American’s time is 25 sec better than her Dutch rival, and 1min 11sec quicker than Worrack. Hannah Barnes is out of the medals now, another minute further back.
Trixi Worrack is another whose form is difficult to measure because of a serious injury earlier this year. The German underwent emergency kidney surgery on her left kidney in Varese, Italy, after crashing during a Women’s WorldTour event in March but she is a fantastic time triallist. Unfortunately she is being blown away by the relentless Neben at the time check six kilometres from home: Neben leads by 30 sec from Van Vleuten and 53 from Worrack.
The race is beginning to hot up now, metaphorically as well as literally, with some of the real medal contenders on the course. Trixi Worrack, the veteran German, posts a time five seconds quicker than Van Vleuten at the the first time check, but both are currently being put in the shade by Amber Neben, who is going even quicker and is leading at the first and second splits. Could the Neben at 41 do a Kristin Armstrong, who claimed the time trial gold in Rio at the age of 43? These Americans seem to be getting better with age.
The rider who was so unlucky in the Rio Olympic road race has made the world championships and has set off like a house on fire. Immediately her average speed is above 50kph, almost five seconds faster than the current leader Barnes. Van Vleuten is an unknown quantity after the horror injuries she suffered only two months ago, but she has talent. If she can get on the podium this would be nothing short of miraculous, considering what happened to her on 7 August …
The lack of support for the riders here in Doha is depressing really. As their bodies get hotter and hotter and the fatigue sets in the support of the fans can provide a vital adrenaline boost. But not today? Has there ever been a worse-attended world championships in a major sport?
The British rider looked to be struggling in the closing stages but found something in the last couple of kilometres to post the quickest time so far. Barnes’s mark of 39min 00.37sec is eight seconds better than that of the Dane Julie Leth, who didn’t look to be going particularly quickly but held her form well. Obviously the race is seeded so the big guns will all go later, but that’s an impressive run and a decent early barometer.
Somewhere they don’t often need to worry about the heat is Yorkshire, where it seems the 2019 road world championships might be heading. The good folk of Yorkshire, or those responsible for the bid at least, are confident they will be named hosts after the success of the 2014 Tour de France Grand Départ and two three-day stage races in the region. Read the full story here…
Related: Yorkshire confident of success in 2019 Road World Championships bid
The early riders are out on the course and Britain’s national road race champion Hannah Barnes is the most impressive of them. She led by eight seconds at the first split and has extended it to 15 by the second, without looking like she’s broken sweat. Could the 23-year-old be a contender?
So the temperature in Doha currently stands at …. a balmy 39C. This is not going to be pretty, and one by product of the searing heat, apart from the physical toll on the riders, is the lack of fans around the course. Supporters were conspicuous by their absence at the team time trial on Sunday, and the Pear Qatar resembles a ghost town once again. It’s simply too hot to leave the confines of the air conditioned five star hotels. Even the wind could burn the riders today. This doesn’t bode well for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Those fancy Russian bears and their leaky data have cast cycling into a rather murky light recently. The revelations of Bradley Wiggins’s TUEs have quite rightly given rise to ethical discussions about the use of legal substances to maximise performance, but once again the sport is under the spotlight for the wrong reasons. Step forward Annemiek van Vleuten, who could lift everyone’s spirits with a fairytale win in today’s women’s individual time trial.
The dutch rider was on course for Olympic gold in the road race in Rio eight weeks ago when a horrific crash on the final descent shattered her hopes of victory and almost cost her her life. Van Vleuten was rushed to hospital and spent time in intensive care, having suffered severe concussion and three cracks in her spine. A long period of recovery may have been expected, but Van Vleuten won the Lotto Belgium Tour a month after Rio, and now has her sights firmly set on Doha. The flat course in the road race means her best shot of gold may come in today’s time trial, the event in which she reclaimed her national title this year, but the competition is fierce.