London Olympic cyclists Linda Villumsen and Sam Bewley have stepped on the podium with their professional teams as the New Zealanders made an excellent start to the world road cycling championships in the Netherlands.
Villumsen was a key part of the Orica-AIS women's team that earned the silver medal in the team-time trial, while Bewley's Orica GreenEdge men's combination claimed the bronze around the Valkenberg circuit.
It is the first time in nearly 20 years that the team time-trial has returned to the world championships, decided by trade teams.
Fellow Kiwi Jesse Sergent was a key member of the Radioshack Nissan Trek team that finished eighth. The Olympic bronze medallist said it was a brutally tough circuit but the professional teams took its return to the world championships seriously.
"For a trade team to say they are world champions in a team time-trial is a pretty big thing for teams and sponsors. For sure it was taken seriously," Sergent said.
"All the big names were here. In the winning team they had Chavanel, Boonen and Terpstra. BMC had Phinney, Van Garderen, Gilbert. We had Kloden, Zubeldia, Voigt, Popovych. Green Edge did two training camps so it was definitely taken very seriously.
"It is awesome that UCI have brought it back into the world championships. It is good for cycling and a good event for the people to watch."
Bewley had the bragging rights among the Kiwi men after his bronze medal today, his team finishing behind Omega Pharma-Quickstep and BMC Racing.
"The boys were happy to earn a medal, but we came here to win," said Orica-GreenEdge sports director Matt White. "We weren't good enough to take the win on the day. We gave it everything and executed our plan well, but two teams went faster."
Bewley, with limited preparation following the London Olympic track campaign, was used to set much of the pace over the first 35km before he dropped off with the team on pace with the leaders. They also dropped Jens Mouris with the four time-trial specialists bringing the team home.
Fellow BikeNZ rider Jack Bauer was part of the Garmin Sharp team that finished 10th.
Meanwhile, Villumsen worked overtime for the Orica-AIS women's team for their silver medal.
"The girls turned themselves inside out riding at the speed required to win, and we were still beaten," said the team's sports director Martin Barras. "We were initially and remain a bit deflated but are also very proud of the effort we left on the road. Silver is a mixed bag. We knew what we wanted and what we had to do to get it."
The team had wanted the win for their leader and 2011 time trial world champion Judith Arndt who competed in her final event as a professional today.
The action turns to the individual time trial tomorrow with Hayden McCormick (Te Awamutu) and Nick Bain (Auckland) in the junior men and Jason Christie (Ashburton) and James Oram (North Harbour) in the under-23.
Villumsen, chasing her fourth straight world championship time trial medal, races on Wednesday (NZT) with Sergent and Bewley competing in the elite men on Thursday.
- © Fairfax NZ News