Great Britain’s Lizzie Armitstead won the women’s world road championship Saturday in Richmond, Virginia, crossing the finish line first from an eight-rider group that included American national champion Megan Guarnier, who finished third.

Though it was a tight sprint finish, Armitstead, who races for Boels Dolmans, crossed the finish line in tears, knowing she’d won the rainbow jersey. Dutch rider Anna Van der Breggen took the silver medal.

The world title capped off an amazing season for Armitstead, the 2014 Commonwealth Games champion and Olympic silver medalist, who this year won Trofeo Alfredo Binda, the Philadelphia Cycling Classic, and GP de Plouay, as well as the World Cup overall series title.

“This is the big one, you get to wear the jersey. The rainbow is most special thing in cycling. It’s a dream come true,” Armitstead said. “I just couldn’t believe it, I didn’t get to celebrate, I really was going all the way for that line. It was such a strange sprint, I was on the front, I was leading it out, and I was just waiting for the rush to come, but it never came. Everyone was just sprinting alongside me. It was just perfect.”

Last year’s world champion, Pauline Ferrand Prevot of France, crashed early in the race and required a bike change but still finished sixth, in the same time as Armitstead.

Top-10 results

  • 1. Lizzie Armitstead, Great Britain, 129.8km (80.6 miles) in 3:23:56
  • 2. Anna Van der Breggen, The Netherlands, same time
  • 3. Megan Guarnier, United States Of America, same time
  • 4. Elisa Longo Borghini, Italy, same time
  • 5. Emma Johansson, Sweden, same time
  • 6. Pauline Ferrand-Prevot, France, same time
  • 7. Katarzyna Niewiadoma, Poland, same time
  • 8. Alena Amialusik, Belarus, same time
  • 9. Jolanda Neff, Switzerland, same time
  • 10. Ellen Van Dijk, The Netherlands, at 0:09

 
The U.S. team rode strongly, with both Evelyn Stevens and Coryn Rivera racing aggressively in the late part of the race, keeping the pressure on at the front of the race. Rivera was in a dangerous move that was caught on the last of eight 16km laps.

“You don’t want any team to have the numbers,” Stevens said. “If a Dutch rider was there, we would have to go. You had to be confident and calm at the same time. I was able to do some attacks, be aggressive, and keep Megan in a good spot.”

American sprinter Shelly Olds crashed early, and though she was not injured, she was unable to rejoin the main peloton due to a mechanical.

Numerous solo riders made charges as the race wore on but none had an impact until Australia’s Rachel Neylan broke ahead with 28km remaining and sparked the first multi-rider breakaway. Nine riders charged ahead by 30 seconds with 24km remaining as several favorites lingered behind, stretching the margin to 60 seconds after the penultimate Libby Hill climb. Rivera was one of the nine women in that group.

“We were assessing the situation, and realized it was just me, Evie, and Megan left in the front group,” Rivera said.  “We agreed to take turns, covering moves. As we were saying that, there was a move that slipped away. I just found a hole, and bridged up. We were well represented, and it was a well-represented break. We had a big gap, really quickly. From there, it was seeing if everyone was working together, and hopefully it would stick. And if it didn’t, I knew I had teammates behind me who could finish the job.”

With 16km remaining, Poland’s Malgorzata Jasinska broke from the lead group and surged to the front, leaving her nearest rivals eight seconds behind with 12km remaining and the peloton a minute further adrift.

Italy’s Valentina Scandolara and Aussie Lauren Kitchen reeled in Jasinska with 9km remaining and raced 30 seconds ahead with 4.2km remaining as the peloton closed.

As the peloton caught Rivera’s group, just before the final climb of 23rd Street with 3km remaining, Armitstead went to the front and pushed the pace, forming the final, winning move.

Armitstead moved to the right up the final climb and surged ahead on the final straight, getting into a sprint fight with Van der Breggen over the closing stretch as the crowd roared. She took the rainbow jersey by barely the width of a wheel and wept as she realized she had claimed the world title.

Van der Bergen could only wonder what might have been, leaving Richmond with a pair of silver medals, the other from the individual time trial.

“At the moment, it feels like losing gold [instead of winning silver],” she said. “I could smell the jersey. We stuck to the plan and it was a good race. But we know Lizzie is fast. She did amazingly. But when you are so close, of course you are disappointed.”

Armitstead said that she’d planned to attack on the final climb, but had also begun to worry as Rivera’s nine-rider group opened a one-minute lead.

“It was a complicated race,” Armitstead said. “I had to be patient. With two laps to go, I attacked a bit on the steep, cobbled climb [23rd Street], and I thought maybe someone would come across with me, to the group. And then, thankfully, other teams took it on, I think it was Germany. I was thankful other teams put people on the front.

“I stuck to my plan, to go on the last climb, and I had the legs. The sprint was a strange one. I kept them on the left-hand side. I felt like I should lead them out. I put my head down, and went straight to the finish line.”

For Guarnier, the reality of a medal at a world championships, yet being so close to the rainbow jersey, was bittersweet.

“All day it was incredible, hearing the chants of USA all over the course. I heard my name out there. I don’t get that racing in Europe,” Guarnier said. “Anytime Lizzie attacks, it’s going to put anyone in the hurt locker, so I knew I just had to stay on that wheel. It was a team effort. The whole team should be up on the podium. They slayed themselves all day.”

Full results

  • 1. Elizabeth Armitstead, Great Britain, in 3:23:56
  • 2. Anna Van Der Breggen, Netherlands, at :00
  • 3. Megan Guarnier, United States Of America, at :00
  • 4. Elisa LongoBorghini, Italy, at :00
  • 5. Emma Johansson, Sweden, at :00
  • 6. Pauline Ferrand-Prevot, France, at :00
  • 7. Katarzyna Niewiadoma, Poland, at :00
  • 8. Alena Amialiusik, Belarus, at :00
  • 9. Jolanda Neff, Switzerland, at :00
  • 10. Ellen VanDijk, Netherlands, at :09
  • 11. Joelle Numainville, Canada, at :09
  • 12. Trixi Worrack, Germany, at :09
  • 13. Karol-ann Canuel, Canada, at :09
  • 14. Ashleigh Moolman-pasio, South Africa, at :09
  • 15. Christine Majerus, Luxembourg, at :09
  • 16. Lucinda Brand, Netherlands, at :09
  • 17. Tiffany Cromwell, Australia, at :09
  • 18. Elena Cecchini, Italy, at :17
  • 19. Rachel Neylan, Australia, at :17
  • 20. Lizzie Williams, Australia, at :17
  • 21. Malgorzata Jasinska, Poland, at :17
  • 22. Linda Melanie Villumsen, New Zealand, at :17
  • 23. Valentina Scandolara, Italy, at :19
  • 24. Evelyn Stevens, United States Of America, at :19
  • 25. Amalie Dideriksen, Denmark, at :31
  • 26. Emilia Fahlin, Sweden, at :31
  • 27. Giorgia Bronzini, Italy, at :36
  • 28. Lauren Kitchen, Australia, at :46
  • 29. Katrin Garfoot, Australia, at :46
  • 30. Lisa Brennauer, Germany, at :49
  • 31. Romy Kasper, Germany, at :51
  • 32. Leah Kirchmann, Canada, at :52
  • 33. Ganna Solovei, Ukraine, at :52
  • 34. Daiva Tuslaite, Lithuania, at :52
  • 35. Rasa Leleivyte, Lithuania, at :52
  • 36. Alison Jackson, Canada, at :52
  • 37. Emilie Moberg, Norway, at :52
  • 38. Diana Penuela, Colombia, at :52
  • 39. Coryn Rivera, United States Of America, at :52
  • 40. Lotta Lepisto, Finland, at :52
  • 41. Elena Kuchinskaya, Russian Federation, at :52
  • 42. Eugenia Bujak, Poland, at :52
  • 43. Ingrid Drexel, Mexico, at :52
  • 44. Tatiana Antoshina, Russian Federation, at :52
  • 45. Aude Biannic, France, at :52
  • 46. Amy Pieters, Netherlands, at :52
  • 47. An-li Kachelhoffer, South Africa, at :52
  • 48. Amanda Spratt, Australia, at :52
  • 49. Jolien D’hoore, Belgium, at :52
  • 50. Loren Rowney, Australia, at :52
  • 51. Ane Santesteban Gonzalez, Spain, at :52
  • 52. Anna Plichta, Poland, at :52
  • 53. Audrey Cordon, France, at :52
  • 54. Rossella Ratto, Italy, at :52
  • 55. Lenore Pipes, Guam, at :52
  • 56. Olga Shekel, Ukraine, at 1:11
  • 57. Polona Batagelj, Slovenia, at 1:16
  • 58. Anna Potokina, Russian Federation, at 1:25
  • 59. Oksana Kozonchuk, Russian Federation, at 1:25
  • 60. Gracie Elvin, Australia, at 1:25
  • 61. Chantal Blaak, Netherlands, at 1:37
  • 62. Tatiana Guderzo, Italy, at 2:33
  • 63. Eri Yonamine, Japan, at 3:33
  • 64. Jelena Eric, Serbia, at 4:52
  • 65. Monika Zur, Poland, at 5:41
  • 66. Ursa Pintar, Slovenia, at 5:41
  • 67. Iris Slappendel, Netherlands, at 5:41
  • 68. Laura Camila Lozano Ramirez, Colombia, at 5:41
  • 69. Anisha Vekemans, Belgium, at 5:41
  • 70. Monika Brzezna, Poland, at 5:41
  • 71. Olivia Dillon, Ireland, at 5:41
  • 72. Joanne Kiesanowski, New Zealand, at 5:41
  • 73. Serika Guluma Ortiz, Colombia, at 5:41
  • 74. Hanna Nilsson, Sweden, at 5:41
  • 75. Camilla Mollebro, Denmark, at 5:41
  • 76. Marta Bastianelli, Italy, at 5:41
  • 77. Tayler Wiles, United States Of America, at 5:41
  • 78. Rushlee Buchanan, New Zealand, at 5:41
  • 79. Hayley Simmonds, Great Britain, at 5:41
  • 80. Doris Schweizer, Switzerland, at 5:41
  • 81. Roxane Knetemann, Netherlands, at 7:34
  • 82. Svetlana Vasilieva, Russian Federation, at 10:11
  • 83. Daniela Reis, Portugal, at 10:11
  • 84. Varela Erika, Mexico, at 10:11
  • 85. Paola Munoz, Chile, at 10:11
  • 86. Lauren Komanski, United States Of America, at 10:11
  • 87. Jeanne D’arc Girubuntu, Rwanda, at 11:37
  • 88. Sheyla GutierrezRuiz, Spain, at 14:00
  • DNF Claudia Lichtenberg, Germany
  • DNF Sara Mustonen-lichan, Sweden
  • DNF Alice Barnes, Great Britain
  • DNF Ingrid Lorvik, Norway
  • DNF Martina Ritter, Austria
  • DNF Anna Sanchis Chafer, Spain
  • DNF Amélie Rivat, France
  • DNF Stephanie Pohl, Germany
  • DNF Lucy Garner, Great Britain
  • DNF Enkhjargal Tuvshinjargal, Mongolia
  • DNF Lija Laizane, Latvia
  • DNF Paz Bash, Israel
  • DNF Miryan Nunez, Ecuador
  • DNF Cecilie Gotaas Johnsen, Norway
  • DNF Charlotte Becker, Germany
  • DNF Tetiana Riabchenko, Ukraine
  • DNF Kathrin Hammes, Germany
  • DNF Shelley Olds, United States Of America
  • DNF Annelies Dom, Belgium
  • DNF Pascale Jeuland, France
  • DNF Roxane Fournier, France
  • DNF Natalya Saifutdinova, Kazakhstan
  • DNF Zuzana Neckarova, Czech Republic
  • DNF Cherise Stander, South Africa
  • DNF Elise Delzenne, France
  • DNF Jessie Daams, Belgium
  • DNF Kaat Hannes, Belgium
  • DNF Jessie Walker, Great Britain
  • DNF Lauren Stephens, United States Of America
  • DNF Nicole Hanselmann, Switzerland
  • DNF Kathryn Bertine, Saint Kitts And Nevis
  • DNF Nontasin Chanpeng, Thailand
  • DNF Sofie DeVuyst, Belgium
  • DNF Denise Ramsden, Canada
  • DNF Molly Weaver, Great Britain
  • DNF Tereza Medvedova, Slovakia
  • DNF Daria Egorova, Russian Federation
  • DNF Yennifer Cesar, Bolivarian Rep. Of Venezuela
  • DNF Milagro Mena, Costa Rica
  • DNF Katarzyna Wilkos, Poland
  • DNF Fiona Meade, Ireland
  • DNF Olena Demydova, Ukraine
  • DNF Miriam Bjornsrud, Norway
  • DNF Sarah Rijkes, Austria
  • DNF Jutatip Maneephan, Thailand
  • DNF Solymar Rivera, Puerto Rico
  • DNS Laura Vainionpaa, Finland