WOLLONGONG, Australia (AP)Ellen van Dijk defended her title and claimed a third women’s time trial gold medal at the opening event of the world road cycling championships on Sunday.

Taking advantage of a technical course at the coastal town of Wollongong, south of Sydney, van Dijk maintained a perfectly paced cadence to beat Australia’s Grace Brown by 12.79 seconds to defend the time trial gold she won last year. Swiss rival Marlen Reusser took bronze.

In the men’s event, unheralded Norwegian Tobias Foss had a shock win for his maiden world championships title.

In the women’s event, Brown was one of the early staters and set a blistering time of 44 minutes 41.33 seconds around the 34.2 kilometer (21.3 miles) course which none of the other 45-stong field could get close to until the final pair of van Dijk and Reusser both clocked faster at the first time check.

Reusser then faded to finish more than 41 seconds off Brown’s time, but van Dijk powered on to claim her third gold medal in a time of 44:28.60 over the two lap circuit.

”It was the perfect course for me. (But) I never thought I would win today, actually,” said the 35-year-old who won her first gold in 2013. ”I had no idea how I was riding… I paced my effort really well.

”It was nice to see Reusser a little bit ahead of me near the end, so I knew it wasn’t a bad day for sure. But I was so surprised at the finish.”

Olympic time trial champion and two-time world champion Annemiek van Vleuten finished seventh, more than 90 seconds behind compatriot van Dijk.

Foss clocked 40:02.95 over the same course for the biggest win of his professional career and capped a remarkable upset at the end of the opening day of the world road championships.

Most expected a gold medal showdwon betwen Italy’s two-time defending world champion Filippo Ganna and rising star Remo Evenepoel, who last week became the first Belgian in 44 years to win a Grand Tour when he took out the Vuelta a Espana.

But Evenepoel could only manage bronze, 9.16 seconds off the pace, while Swiss Stefan Kung took second at 2.95 behind Foss, who could be seen shaking his head in apparent disbelief as the more fancied rivals failed to better his time.

Ganna finished seventh, 55.32 seconds behind Foss, with Slovenian Tadej Pogacar, the two-time Tour de France champion, in sixth.

British rider Ethan Hayter held the lead at the first checkpoint, but he had to swap bikes when he dropped his chain and finished fourth at 39.95 seconds.

Foss’ only previous professional victories were two Norwegian time trial championships and the national road race title, but he showed his emerging potential by winning the 2019 Tour de l’Avenir.

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