The Trek-Segafredo time trial specialist wins the ITT World Championship title in Flanders

The rainbow stripes. One of the most sought-after jerseys in cycling.

Third in 2020. Third again in 2018. And a bittersweet second in 2016.  Since winning the coveted World Championship individual time trial title in 2013, Ellen van Dijk has come close but never climbed back onto the top step.

Finally, eight years later, she has done just that.

In the past years, Ellen van Dijk has overcome debilitating injury, sickness and a nemesis time trial specialist – Swiss Marlen Reusser – who has gotten the better of Ellen in the few time trials leading into the Flanders World Championships.

Understandably, Ellen had no certainty of victory coming into the race. Even when she set a blistering time of 36:05, stopping the clock nearly two minutes ahead of the quickest time so far (and a whopping average speed of 50km/h!), there was still no assurance. Reusser and compatriot Annemiek van Vleuten, the Tokyo Olympic ITT gold medalist, still had to finish.

While van Vleuten’s times checked slower at the intermediate timing points, Reusser was on a good pace.

It was going to be close!

So when the clock clicked past 36:05 and the Swiss Olympic silver medalist still hadn’t reached the finish, Ellen could begin to believe. And when van Vleuten crossed the line 24 seconds slower, Ellen could not hold back her tears.  It has been a long, bumpy road back to the top, but she did it!  The rainbow jersey was hers again.

“I didn’t know I would become so emotional, but this has been a dream for so long to get the world title again,” said Ellen. “This year everything felt so good, but there was always Marlen Reusser who was so strong this year. I knew I had a really good level, but I also knew that she is super, super strong, and the last couple of weeks she beat me at every time trial, so I knew it would be very difficult and I would have to ride my best ever time trial.

“I think it was good, but I had no idea if it was good enough because I started one hour earlier than the favorites. I was also in doubt about the wind, whether it would be in my disadvantage or not. Marlen had a faster intermediate time, and I thought she would be faster [at the finish], and then I saw she lost seconds in the end… I can’t quite believe it. It’s been a dream for so long.”

[Time trialing] is something I love with all my heart, and it just feels like it’s my discipline.

Ellen van Dijk began the 2021 season with a big goal always in her mind: winning the individual time trial at the 2021 World Championships in Flanders, a course that suited the pure time trial specialists, and there perhaps is none purer than Ellen.

Ellen has consistently been at the top of the time trial game. It’s a discipline within cycling that takes precise preparation – a lot of sweat and hours and hours of specific training on Trek’s new time trial bike went into today’s race.  And Ellen, an early starter, had a lot of time in the hotseat to ponder: Was it enough?

“It was quite horrible,” answered Ellen when asked about the time spent waiting in the hotseat. “It’s nerve-wracking; you sit there with nothing to do. When I arrived in the hotseat Annemiek (van Vleuten) still had to start. I really didn’t know what my time trial was worth. People said to me it was a really good time trial; I knew it was good, but I didn’t know if it was good enough.

“Time trialing is my favorite discipline, it’s something I love with all my heart, and it just feels like it’s my discipline. I knew this would be a really good course for me. I put everything into this, and that it worked out for me – this is a dream come true!”

Congrats, Ellen – you deserve this.