Just 24 hours out from the Elite Women’s World Individual Time Trial Championships race, we caught up with Great Britain’s Wendy Houvenaghel, who after four years concentrating on track pursuiting, returns to top level TT action in great form.
Newer fans might not be aware but Houvenaghel’s cycling career began with road time trials, the 37 year old winning the first of four national TT titles back in 2003 before concentrating on individual and team pursuiting on the track, to great success. “Time trialling is something that I’ve always had a strength with,” said Houvenaghel, speaking to British Cycling from Limburg. “I think this particular course is one that I identified that would work to my strengths as a rider, so having had a few good results in the lead-up to this competition, even though I’ve had limited preparation for time trialling, it’s given me the confidence to go out there tomorrow and give it everything I’ve got and just see how things unfold.”
Houvenaghel approaches the 24.3km event oozing confidence and in great form, having just won the UCI 1.1 Chrono Champenois in France on September 9 (an event she won before back in 2009). Houvenaghel took gold by over a minute ahead of her nearest rival, with GB teammate Sharon Laws just missing out on a podium spot. “It does give me confidence and also it’s something that’s made me keen to go down the avenue of contacting Chris Newton as regards putting me on the long list for this world championship.”
The 2012 worlds course, which runs from Eijsden to Valkenberg features two significant climbs; the first around 5kms from the start and the second, more famous Cauberg climb featuring near the end. However the famous Amstel Gold finish holds no fear for Houvenaghel, who sees the course as one upon which she could benefit. “I think those two climbs will have a big impact on how the race unfolds. Of course those riders who excel at climbing – that will be an advantage point for them.
“Climbing is something that I’m good at and I feel that the rolling aspects between those two climbs will also work to my strengths in that it will allow someone like myself – I suppose a ‘power rider’ – to get into a good rhythm and get some good speed going. That’s something which I’m really keen to get involved with tomorrow.”
The multiple track world champion went on to give British Cycling an insight into her final preparations for the event: “Today was really about just going over the course one last time,” said Houvenaghel, “Having a look at the more technical parts of the course and just visualising what’s coming tomorrow. I managed to get that done this morning before lunch and then this afternoon I’m just resting up and preparing for tomorrow.”
With her own pre race preparation on track, we asked Houvenaghel who she considered her primary rivals, but the Londonderry-born rider refused to be drawn on pinpointing specific riders. “I think that there’s a well established field with big names there – any one of them can win this race.
“There are no specific riders that I could pinpoint but everyone will be out to give their best performance and I will be aiming to do whatever I can to make sure that my performance is as good as it can possibly be.”
Looking ahead, after the worlds, Houvenaghel’s priorities are set to focus on ‘normal life’ after a hectic four years of Olympic, world cup and world championships driven schedules. “I think that my priority after the race tomorrow will be just to catch up with friends and family,” admitted Wendy. “I have one more race in France; that will be with the Royal Navy; they’ve invited me along to take part in a two-up time trial with one of their main champion riders and so that’s something I’ve planned for the end of September.
“Then after that I’ve got a big opportunity to see my family and friends so I’m making plans at the moment to ensure that I can take a step back from competition and lead a relatively normal life for a while a reassess my options.”
The Elite Women's Time Trial takes place on Tuesday 18 September from 2.30pm - 4.50pm. Live text commentary and full reports will be available here on the British Cycling Website.