The elite women faced 25km of the same tough circuit that the U/23 Men raced this morning and conditions facing the ladies was still a cool 12 degrees Celsius, but thankfully dry.
USA’s, Kristin Armstrong was the returning champion from last year and was the deserving favourite for the race but her title defence was always going to be difficult with an extremely strong field racing. Other big names included Switzerland’s ironwoman, Karin Thьrig (2nd last year and 2005 Champion), American Christine Thorburn (3rd last year) and France’s 48 year old Jeannie Longo-Ciprelli (countless medals at this level) who can never be ruled out in races against the clock.
Ninth rider to start and not considered amongst the favourites was Germany’s Hanke Kupfernagel. Racing in front of her homecrowds and obviously well prepared for the race, Kupfernagel surprised everyone with the fastest splits at each intermediate time check well clear of the other early starters. The tall, lanky Kupfernagel finished with a time of 34m43s at an impressive 43kph – which held up easily against the first 39 starters, but would it be quick enough against the last pool of ladies to start?
First of those pool to finish was Austria’s Christiane Soeder who finished in 35m25s which was the closest that anyone had got to the German’s time and Kupfernagel began looking very worried. Her worry was slowly abating though as each rider came in and no one was able to come near her time except for last year’s champ, Armstrong. The tough American battled well, with an excellent, smooth pedalling style reminiscent of her namesake, but it just wasn’t enough today and Kristin eventually finished 24s down to take home a well earned silver medal, ahead of Soeder who scored Austria’s first ever women’s medal.
Amazingly Hanke Kupfernagel is the current German cyclocross, mountain bike and time trial champion and she can now add World Time Trial Champion to that impressive palmares. Her tears on the podium showed how much the win meant to her and I’m sure the fact that the victory was in front of a home crowd made the event even more special.
Womens Elite Time Trial
1 Hanka Kupfernagel (Germany) 34.43 (43.380 km/h)
2 Kristin Armstrong (United States Of America) 35.07
3 Christiane Soeder (Austria) 35.25
4 Amber Neben (United States Of America) 35.46
5 Christine Thorburn (United States Of America) 35.57
6 Priska Doppmann (Switzerland) 36.00
7 Jeannie Longo-Ciprelli (France) 36.05
8 Emma Pooley (Great Britain) 36.15
9 Karin Thьrig (Switzerland) 36.18
10 Meifang Li (People’s Republic of China) 36.21