Dutch sweep podium as Annemiek van Vleuten retains time trial world title

Defending champion van Vleuten has thrived after a crash at Rio 2016 left her in intensive care.

Annemiek van Vleuten has retained her individual time trial world title in Innsbruck.

The 35-year-old beat compatriot Anna van der Breggen for the second year running, with Ellen van Dijk taking third to complete an historic podium sweep for the Netherlands.

Van Vleuten completed the 27.8km course in 34 minutes and 25 seconds, 29 seconds ahead of van der Breggen.

Van Dijk was a further 56 seconds behind, just two seconds quicker than Canada's Leah Kirchmann.

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It's been a steady comeback for van Vleuten since she crashed heavily out of the lead of the road race at Rio 2016, with van der Breggen going on to take gold.

That accident put her in intensive care with multiple spinal fractures and concussion.

This triumph is the latest in an outstanding year for van Vleuten, who also won the Giro Rosa stage race and beat van der Breggen on the line to retain her La Course by Le Tour de France title.

First medal sweep

No country had previously won all three medals at a world championship in a time trial, men's or women's, since the discipline was introduced in 1994.

The Dutch trio's achievement was also the first time in 56 years that a team produced three medallists in an elite event, when Belgian riders finished one-two-three in the 1962 women's road race.

"The Dutch women humiliated everyone", "Netherlands women can time trial a bit!", and "The Dutch girls were impressive" were just some of the reactions from fans on Twitter.

Speaking at the finish line, van Vleuten explained that she didn't feel any added pressure being the defending champion, but the course did not allow her to relax.

"This time trial was uphill, but in the descents you also have to push. Your legs are screaming to stop pushing in the descents, but you have to keep going otherwise you lose time."

—Annemiek van Vleuten

Extra rest

The scheduling of races at this year's world championships means there was only a day's rest between the women's team time trial and individual time trial.

Both van der Breggen and van Dijk raced in the team time trial, winning silver and bronze respectively for Boels-Dolman and Team Sunweb.

But van Vleuten, who was named in Mitchelton-Scott's squad, chose not to ride and had an extra day's preparation.

The riders now have three days to get ready for the road race, in which van Vleuten will attempt to complete a rare road race–ITT double.

France's Jeannie Longo is the only cyclist, male or female, to win the elite road race and individual time trial in the same year back in 1995.

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