American Gold: Amber Neben Takes Worlds Time-Trial
America’s Amber Neben won the women’s time-trial title in Qatar on Tuesday, the second time she has been crowned world champion at the event. In an exciting and close race she posted a time of 36 mins 37:04, beating Ellen van Dijk of the Netherlands into second by six seconds, and Australia’s Katrin Garfoot who was a further two seconds behind.
Neben previously won the title in 2008, in Varese, Italy. At 41, she becomes the second oldest women ever to win the event after France’s Jeannie Longo won aged 42 in 2001. Her victory completes a stellar year for American cycling over time-trials, after Kristin Armstrong won gold at the Rio Olympics.
Neben went out in the middle of the race in a 41-strong field and had agonizing wait to see if her time would be beaten. “I was so nervous,” said Neben afterwards. “It was so hard watching but at the time so exciting to have won. I feel for Ellen but am so excited for myself. She added: “This one was more special because of everything that has happened between 2008 and now.”
She averaged more than 47 kilometers per hour along the 28.9 kilometer course in the Qatari capital, Doha. Although van Dijk and Garfoot came close, the expected challenges from pre-race favorites Anna van der Breggen of the Netherlands and Germany’s Lisa Brennauer never materialized.
Van der Breggen finished 13th, more than two minutes behind, while Brennauer was sixth, almost a minute off the pace set by Neben. At one stage it looked as if Annemiek Van Vleuten might complete a fairytale win after her horrific crash in Rio which left her with concussion and three cracked vertebrae. But despite being an early leader she tailed off to finish fifth and later
took to Twitter to say that she had been too “conservative” on her first lap.
Riders completed two laps of the Pearl Qatar course, an artificial island in Doha, estimated to have cost $15 billion (13.5 billion euros) to build, and home to some 12,000 people. They set off in 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit), but despite previous complaints about the heat from riders, the relatively short distance meant that the race length was not altered.
Disappointingly for organizers, crowds for the event were sparse with large parts of the course without any spectators, despite it being the first time the event has been held in the Middle East.