Ellen van Dijk time trialled to victory on stage four of Thüringen Rundfahrt. Her win in Zeulenrodaer Meer catapulted her to the top of general classification with three stages still to race.
The Dutchwoman stopped the clock at 24:34 following the 19-kilometre effort. Her time was 25-seconds quicker than compatriot Annemiek Van Vleuten (ORICA-AIS) in second place and 35-seconds faster than Ashleigh Moolman Paiso (Cervélo Bigla) in third. Expecting to start stage five with a 28-second advantage over Van Vlueten on the general classification, Van Dijk learned after the race that she had received a 20-second penalty.
“They said I was not on my side of the road,” explained a notably frustrated Van Dijk. “I seriously never, ever crossed the white line. I take the shortest way, of course, but on my side of the road. I’m really upset that they gave me a penalty for something I never did.”
Before learning of the penalty, Van Dijk had been elated with both her effort and her result in the final individual time trial she will race before the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
“This was an important test and for me, it was the most important thing of the week,” said Van Dijk. “I came here to do a good time trial. To win it with a big advantage – I’m really happy with it.”
Van Dijk noted that pacing proved the most challenging aspect of the undulating course. The out and back course was uphill into a headwind to start and mostly downhill on the return.
“It was tough to pace, but I think it went well for me,” she said. “I was suffering a lot of course. That never feels good. The last three kilometers were uphill. I had to dig really, but I think everyone did. In a time trial, you always think you’re not good enough, but when I saw the result, it was super satisfying.”
Coy about her overall ambitions up until this point, Van Dijk now readily admits keeping the yellow jersey is a goal.
“There are three really hard stages coming up with lots of climbs,” she said. “I don’t know if I can hold it but for sure we will fight for it. We’re not going to give it away. Now it’s going to be a goal.”
Van Dijk maintains hope that the 20-seconds she has lost will be returned to her. She’s called the race jury and filed an official protest.
“I think there was a camera with me, and I’d like to see the video footage,” Van Dijk said. “I never crossed the white, so I really don’t understand the problem. I don’t know what I did wrong.
“You have a two-lane road,” she added. “You go out on one lane and you come back on the other, and I never crossed the line in the middle. I rode close to the white line, of course, because I was trying to take the shortest way but I never crossed it. I hope that this is revised for tomorrow."