Annemiek van Vleuten (Netherlands) took her first world road race title on Saturday in Harrogate, burying her disappointment at losing her time trial title earlier in the week.
The 36-year-old became the oldest female world champion in history with a spectacular solo attack after just 50 kilometers of racing. Behind her, teammate and defending champion Anna van der Breggen took second, and Amanda Spratt (Australia) took third.
Chloé Dygert Owen, who launched a brave chase of van Vleuten in the final 40km before being caught by Spratt and van der Breggen with 10km to go finished in fourth.
“It was a 100km time trial, it was crazy but it was not the plan,” said van Vleuten after the race. “I wanted to go hard on the climb for the team, and when I had a gap, my coach just said to continue. I can’t believe it. I train a lot and that helped me today to be ready for such a big effort. I train big hours, and that helped me.”
“I had so many emotions as I crossed the line,” she continued. “I had the time trial jersey before but you can wear the road race jersey so much more. I had goosebumps when I finished, especially after I was disappointed in the time trial on Tuesday.”
The two-time world time former trial champion struck out 50 km into the 150km race on the Cray Hill climb to splinter the peloton and draw out a strong group of eight chasers, including Owen, Spratt, van der Breggen, Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy) and Lizzie Deignan (Great Britain), who was racing on home roads.
Hot favorite Marianne Vos (Netherlands) was dropped by her teammate’s acceleration over the climb and sat in the peloton, waiting for the race to come back together. However, it was not to be, and both race-leader van Veuten and the chase group of eight pulled out ever-increasing gaps on the bunch.
The group of eight were unable to maintain van Vleuten’s pace as they argued over chase duties, and the lone Dutch rider soon built a lead of over two minutes.
With the three circuits of Harrogate that would conclude the race in sight, Deignan attacked repeatedly, with Dygert Owen typically the first to respond as the rest of the group sat and waited for others to counter.
Going into the first of the three technical, hilly circuits, van Vlueten had a 2:30 gap. Dygert Owen attacked repeatedly through the first 14km lap, with her first acceleration distancing Deignan and leaving just Spratt, Longo Borghini and van der Breggen in the chase group. It was the American’s third successive attack that stuck, and she powered away from her companions, with van der Breggen looking to respond but lacking the legs.
With two laps to go, van Vleuten still held over two minutes of a lead over the race, with Dygert Owen chasing furiously, with the trio behind her 20 seconds down. Spratt and van der Breggen’s relentless pace as they chased Dygert Owen distanced Longo Borghini and they continued to chase down the American.
Dygert Owen continued alone, but with van Vleuten failing to falter, she was unable to eat into the gap to the race leader. However, with Spratt and van der Breggen’s combined chase, the American was caught by the powerful pair. Unable to hold the Australian and Dutch rider as they raced for the silver medal, Dygert Owen was distanced and continued in fourth.
Van der Breggen eventually pulled away from Spratt with 5km to go, chasing after silver as her teammate van Vleuten continued to hold her two-minute lead. Such was the extent of her margin, van Vleuten rode the final kilometer in celebration, blowing kisses at the cameras and smiling with the crowds.
After crashing and breaking her knee in the 2018 world championships in Innsbruck, today’s victory was all the sweeter for the Dutchwoman.
“I felt last year was my big opportunity to go for it because it was so hilly. That was more my course than today,” she said. “Last year was really hard to come back from injury, and I couldn’t enjoy my time trial title. But now I have time to enjoy it. ”
- Annemiek van Vleuten (Netherlands): 4:06:05
- Anna van der Breggen (Netherlands): +2:15
- Amanda Spratt (Australia): +2:28
- Chloé Dygert Owen (USA): +3:24
- Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy): +4:45
- Marianne Vos (Netherlands): +5:20