• Winning would have enhanced chances of her continuing
The Beijing Olympic silver medallist Emma Pooley had hinted before the world time-trial championships in South Limburg that her chances of remaining in the sport next year would be enhanced by regaining the title she won in 2010, or improving on last year's silver medal, but on the day she finished a disappointed fourth behind the defending champion, Judith Arndt.
On a course that was far better suited to her climbing skills than the flatter circuit at the London Olympic Games, Pooley started strongly and was one of three riders who went through the first time check, 10 kilometres into the 24.3km course, between six and seven seconds behind Arndt, who was riding the event for the last time; the German will retire after Saturday's road race at the age of 36.
After the strength-sapping but not particularly steep ascent of the Gronsvelderberg early in the course, the key point was the final climb, the short and brutal Cauberg, which begins in the village of Valkenberg and tops out with a 1.7km drag to the finish line. The ascent is a key feature in the Dutch spring classic, the Amstel Gold Race, and it will form the finale to all of the road races when they start on Friday.
Pooley had slipped to fourth behind Arndt, New Zealand's Linda Villumsen and Evelyn Stevens of the United States at the second checkpoint at 16km and, although she looked to have springs in her legs as she danced on the pedals up the Cauberg towards the finish, she did not regain enough time on the climb to earn a medal, crossing the line 9sec slower than Villumsen, the bronze medallist.
The 30-year-old Pooley has already stated her intention of taking some or all of next year out of the sport and she has said the decision will be made after the world championship.
"I've got a PhD to finish off, so I won't be going to Australia to train this winter as I usually do," she said. "I can't see cycling as a long-term job, it's not going to keep me for the rest of my life. It's not that I want to get paid lots of money, it's that it's not easy if you get into your late 30s and then have to find a new career path. The later I start the rest of my life, the worse it will be for me."
Pooley does have options for next year, she said. "I have had some interest which is nice but I want to be in a situation which suits me. I would have to have a reduced race programme in 2013 in the spring, because of not having the winter's training in Australia." She will, however, have a second chance of a medal when she lines up on Saturday for the women's road race alongside Nicole Cooke and the London silver-medallist, Lizzie Armitstead; again the finish up the Cauberg will play to her strengths.
Earlier in the day, however, Great Britain did take their first rainbow jersey of the week when Elinor Barker went one better than her silver medal of last year in the junior event. It is 11 years since her fellow Welshwoman Cooke took Britain's last gold in the event and it was a dominant victory, 35sec ahead of Denmark's Cecile Uttrup Ludwig.
A product of the same British Cycling youth talent conveyor belt that produced the London track star Laura Trott, the 18-year-old recently took two silver medals and a bronze in the world junior track championships. A regular on the Newport velodrome in the winter, she should be a likely candidate to join Trott and company in the team-pursuit squad in the future.
The chances are that Arndt's fellow-countryman Tony Martin will make it a German double on Wednesday in the men's time trial. Martin will be favourite to defend his title in the absence of the Olympic champion, Bradley Wiggins, and the multiple world champion Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland, while the recent Tour of Spain winner, Alberto Contador, is another likely medallist.