Determined Villumsen's technical nous pays off

17:27, Aug 01 2014
Linda Villumsen
GOLDEN GIRL: After silver in Delhi four years ago and a fourth placing at the London Olympics, Linda Villumsen finally got her gold medal in the women's time trial.

Linda Villumsen was poised to quit cycling after her London agony, when she missed an Olympic medal by 1.8 seconds.

Instead she gritted her teeth and, two years on, left nothing to chance in pursuit of an elusive gold in Glasgow.

It was in the final 6km on the rain-dampened road that her technical ability and hours of homework came to fruition, and ended atop the Commonwealth Games dais.

The 29-year-old knew the tight, turning city circuit would suit her but she had to be certain.

''I went around the course yesterday; I probably needed to, and I liked it,'' she said.

She paid close attention to the finishing section, with twists and turns, ending at Glasgow Green where the punters lined the barriers and the sun finally peeked through.


Villumsen reckoned she went over it 10 times. This was where the gold was won, the sixth for BikeNZ's dominant team and 14th cycling medal at these Games.

England's Emma Pooley looked Villumsen's toughest challenger and she led at each split, notably by 8.43sec at the 23.2km mark of the 29.6km course. Then Villumsen, who was last off, put the foot down.

Remarkably, Villumsen shuns team assistance during her ride and does it on instinct.

''I don't have time [checks], I don't have speed [checks], I don't have heart rate [monitors], I just go as fast as I can for as long as I can,'' she said.

''I tend to follow the rider in front of me and when I saw one I realised I was going too slow. I thought 'what am I doing' then I ripped it up for the last 10km.''

As she grimaced to the finish, Villumsen had 6.03sec to spare on Pooley who will retire from the road after these Games.

Retirement was high on Villumsen's mind as London gnawed away.

Two years previous she snared Commonwealth Games silver in Delhi.

She doubted herself, despite being one of the world's best time triallists. Her recent world championship minor medals, silver in 2011 and 2013, bronze in 2010 and 2012, only increased the angst.

''It was hard, I can't hide I had a few difficult months after that [London] and I took a few months off the bike, thinking is it really what I want to do, another two years to these Games and risk just missing out again. But it was worth it.

''Perhaps there was a bit of motivation that I shouldn't quit like that. I was thinking I should really give it everything and try one last time.''

BikeNZ high performance director Mark Elliott, who consoled a shattered Villumsen by the finish line in London, was as proud as anyone.

''She looked like she was on it right from the gun. She was committed to every corner, it was a bit dodgy out there at a couple of corners and she rode it like a pro.

''It will mean a lot. She was gutted in Delhi, the course didn't suit her clearly. But here was a technical course, it will give her a lot of confidence that she can keep on delivering at major events.''

From Denmark, Villumsen was inspired to take up cycling by former Tour de France winner Bjarne Riis. She visited New Zealand as a 16-year-old exchange student and fell in love with the country.

She was taken in by an Auckland family who consider her their adopted daughter.

Villumsen rode for Denmark in Beijing in 2008 and gained New Zealand citizenship a year later.

Now it's two more years to Rio and potential Olympic redemption. Next up is the world championships in Spain in September, where she'll try to continue her climb from minor placings to the highest podium level.

''It's a bit of a smack in the confidence when you start and you think you can win and you see your name and it's second or third or fourth. When you see your name with a one on it, I couldn't quite believe it. I'm like, did I really? It's amazing.''