Linda Villumsen seconds from bronze medal

MARK GEENTY IN LONDON
Last updated 08:30 02/08/2012
Fairfax NZ

Fairfax reporter Marc Hinton wraps up day five at the London Olympics.

Linda Villumsen
Lawrence Smith/Fairfax Media
CLOSE CALL: Linda Villumsen finished fourth in the women's time trial.
Jack Bauer
Lawrence Smith/Fairfax Media
BRIEF REIGN: New Zealand's Jack Bauer held third in the men's time trial for a short time before finishing 19th.

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A gutted Linda Villumsen struggled for words after missing out on an Olympic medal by 1.83 seconds in the women's cycling time trial.

The New Zealander flew out of the blocks and was in silver medal position for much of the 29km ride in the Surrey countryside, but lost some crucial seconds on the return to Hampton Court Palace to finish fourth, as Russian Olga Zabelinskaya snatched the bronze.

Kristin Armstrong, of the United States, defended her Olympic title with a dominant time of 37min 34.82sec to beat another leading contender Judith Arndt, of Germany, by 15sec.

Zabelinskaya, bronze medallist in Sunday's road race, was the surprise package as she finished strongly in a time of 37:57.35, with a gobsmacked Villumsen clocking in at 37:59.18.

Asked what she made of the performance, Villumsen said: "Not much at the moment. I gave it everything but it just wasn't enough. A few seconds in the end, that's a shame but that's part of it.

"It's pretty simple in a time trial, you go as hard as can for as long as you can. I might have just lost focus in the last couple of kilometres. Apart from that everything went really well. The bike was awesome, everything was rolling."

In the 44km men's race, New Zealand's Jack Bauer finished 19th as Great Britain finally got their prized gold medal via Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins.

Before a huge, adoring crowd, he beat Germany's Tony Martin by 42sec, while Bauer, following his excellent 10th in the road race, nearly came off his bike when misjudging a corner and lost crucial momentum.

Villumsen's effort was her second top-five finish at an Olympics, but she remains medal-less.

She rode for Denmark in Beijing in 2008, finishing fifth in the road race, before gaining New Zealand citizenship a year later.

On the strength of her second placing at last year's world championships, and strong form in Europe this year, Villumsen was one of the pre-race favourites and was fourth-last of the 24 riders to set off from the historic palace, former residence of King Henry VIII.

Wearing her all white New Zealand outfit, Villumsen quickly emerged as Armstrong's biggest challenger for the gold medal as the riders set off at 90sec intervals.

Villumsen made the first 9.1km time check in a slick 13:57.89, over 7sec clear of third-placed Clara Hughes of Canada. Armstrong was the fastest at the first split, 13:56.38.

At the second split, 20.4km, Armstrong was in control, nearly 5sec ahead of Villumsen who still held second spot by a tick over 2sec from Arndt and Zabelinskaya.

While 38-year-old Armstrong and 36-year-old Arndt were expected to fight out the gold, Zabelinskaya isn't a noted time triallist.

Her fellow road race medallists, Marianne Vos and Lizzie Armitstead, faded badly today.

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But Zabelinskaya maintained a strong pace and when Villumsen passed the palace gates it was clear the podium had narrowly eluded her.

Villumsen was rated the leading medal contender of the 22-strong BikeNZ team in London, which had targeted four medals. BikeNZ high performance director Mark Elliott shared Villumsen's immense disappointment.

"She started off like she meant to finish. The two other girls and the Russian up the front came through a little bit stronger. She went from the gun and she was right in the mix for the whole way and she looked good the whole way too. All you can say is she gave it everything, put herself in a position but 2sec is 2sec, and fourth sucks," Elliott said.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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