New World Champion nearly sacked by team - because she didn't ride sponsor's bike

Linda Villumsen makes it into rainbow jersey after five silvers and bronzes - but team supplier Wilier not happy

So, you win a rainbow jersey at the UCI Road World Championships and your team and sponsors will be delighted, yes?

Well, not so in the case of New Zealand’s Linda Villumsen, who was almost sacked by United Healthcare this week after she won the individual time trial in Richmond, Virginia.

Her crime? To do her gold medal winning ride on a bike that wasn’t from her trade team’s bike supplier, Wilier.

While the Italian brand, isn’t happy, Cycling New Zealand has defended the rider and says that she didn’t break any of the competition’s rules.

Perhaps not, but the team’s manager, Mike Tamayo, said that the 30-year-old – who had previously won two silver and three bronze medals in the time trial at the worlds before finally getting onto the top step of the podium on Wednesday – had come very close to being sacked.

He told Cycling News: "It was discussed in order to protect our sponsors but it wasn't something that was acted upon. We considered all of our options with all of our sponsors.”

Explaining that the late decision by Villumsen to use a black, unbranded bike said to suit her riding position better than the equivalent Wilier model had “caught us off guard,” he added “it was more a matter of fit than one of technology."

The rider, originally from Denmark but who began racing under a New Zealand licence in 2010, the year after she became a citizen of that country, may still be fined by her team.

But according to, Cycling New Zealand say the rider did nothing wrong and it was decided ahead of the race that she would use the bike that would give her the best chance of finally winning the rainbow jersey.

"There is nowhere in the UCI rules that stipulates that a rider must use their trade team equipment at a world championship," the governing body said in a statement.

"They have used national federation equipment before at similar events including the Commonwealth Games [where Villumsen is reigning time trial champion] and Olympic Games.

"Aerodynamics is one the biggest factors in time trial performance," added Cycling New Zealand, which said it was in talks with Villumsen’s team about the situation.

The rider is under contract to United Healthare until the end of the 2016 season, which at least will be able to boast the current holder of the time trial rainbow jersey – on a Wilier, next year, presumably.

Simon has been news editor at since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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