London Olympic cyclists Linda Villumsen and Sam Bewley got on the podium on the first day of the UCI Road World Championships in the Netherlands today.
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 won the bronze around the Valkenberg circuit.
It is the first time in nearly two decades that the team time trial has returned to the world championships, decided by trade teams, with New Zealand's Jesse Sergent, a key member of the Radioshack Nissan Trek team that finished eighth.
Sergent, 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."
Sergent said the individual time trials will use much of today's course.
"The course had everything. Some short steep climbs, some long downhills, corners, wind and some real hard sections and finished pretty much on the top of the famous climb of the Cauberg. It is a well rounded course.
"It is one of the most painful, hardest events you can do. If you are going good it is so painful, and if you are going back it still hurts. It does not matter if you are the strongest or the weakest, it is so hard.
"I want to give it everything and have a good ride. I don't have any thoughts of a time or a placing but just to give it everything and get everything out of myself."
Bewley had the bragging rights among the kiwi men after their bronze medal today, clocking 1:04.07 to finish 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 35kms before 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, crossing the finish line in Valkenberg in 46:55:82 for their 34km test.
"The girls turned themselves inside out riding at the speed required to win, and we were still beaten," said 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.
While they were on pace at the first checkpoint, the Australian outfit finished 24 seconds down on winners Specialized-lululemon and ahead of the home Dutch team of AA
Drink, the team that Villumsen raced for last year.
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 (NZ time) with Sergent and Bewley competing in the elite men on Thursday.