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For the second time in three weekends, a major women’s race was held in the heart of major European city.
Once again, world champion Marianne Vos (Rabo Liv) came barreling into the finish line in lead position.
This time, however, Vos would not take the victory, as she had at La Course by Le Tour, in Paris, on July 27.
Instead, Italian sprinter Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle Honda) timed her sprint to perfection, coming around Vos with 100 meters to go to take the victory.
The result was, in part, due to the rare mistake made by Vos, who jumped a touch early, realized her error, and then looked to her right as Bronzini came around on her left.
Though it was close at the line, the margin was definitive — Vos may have had the power, but Bronzini had the speed, and had taken the win for her British team on home soil.
“I asked my team to show what women’s cycling is like,” Bronzini told BBC TV. “We are full of power. We have nothing less than then men. I think it was a beautiful show.”
Eighty women battled it out during the aggressive 45-minute race along the 1.3-mile route in and around St James’s Park, finishing on The Mall where Vos beat Britain’s Lizzie Armitstead for gold in the 2012 Olympic Games Road Race.
Both Vos and Armitstead (Boels Dolmans) entered the race in top form. Armitstead won gold in the Commonwealth Games road race last weekend, while Vos claimed victories in La Course, as well as the latest round of the UCI World Cup in Germany, over the past two weekends.
And the two riders set the tone from the gun: Vos attacked on the first lap, with Armitstead chasing her down.
Tiffany Cromwell (Specialized-lululemon) was next to attack, however the Wiggle-Honda team of Bronzini and 2013 RideLondon winner Laura Trott chased that move down.
Vos attacked again, 10 minutes into the race, with Bronzini bridging across. A handful of women chased that move down, including Armitstead, and British rider Hannah Barnes (UnitedHealthcare).
And this was how the race would continue for its duration — attacks from the strongest riders in the race, women expected to be sprinting for the win, that would immediately be chased down.
In the final lap, young British rider Amy Roberts (Wiggle Honda) went solo, forcing Vos to help drive the chase. Soon after Roberts had been brought back, the sprinters began to launch.
Vos led off the final corner from Horse Guards Parade at the end of 15 laps of the 1.3-mile circuit around St James’s Park, but Bronzini was dragged into contention by her teammates Laura Trott and Peta Mullins, and launched herself to the line alongside the world champion.
Vos, wearing the white jersey with rainbow stripes that is so often seen in finishing-line photos, again looked to be in control. However this time she’d kicked a second too early, and Bronzini, the former world champion, came around for the victory.
Bronzini threw her arms in the air and Vos stretched out her hand in congratulations, but it was so close that at first the announcers weren’t sure who would get the verdict.
Vos had come to London in great form after winning the Women’s Tour of Britain in May and La Course last month. But Vos admitted that she couldn’t respond to Wiggle Honda’s determined teamwork.
“It was a hard race with a lot of breaks,” Vos said. “On the last lap I was in the right position but you never know in a bunch sprint and I just couldn’t hold it at the end. I launched my attack early, maybe too early, but I am happy with second. Today Giorgia was faster on the line. I knew I couldn’t make any mistakes so it was always going to be close. At the end she was just very fast.”
Armitstead finished third, with Scotland’s Eileen Roe (Starley Primal) in fourth. Trott took fifth, with Barnes in sixth place and Cromwell in seventh.
“That was amazing racing,” Bronzini told BBC TV. “I’m really excited about this. The last time I was here was in 2012, for the Olympics, and I was unlucky then. I really wanted to win in this beautiful city. I really wanted this.”