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Dutch rider Annemiek Van Vleuten launched a solo attack with 104km remaining of the 149.4km race, with defending champion, Dutch teammate, Anna van der Breggen claiming the silver medal, whilst Australian Amanda Spratt came in third.
The Dutch team were active from the start, with Demi Vollering launching an attack to split the field before Van Vleuten attacked on the Lofthouses climb with just over 104km to go. She quickly gained 27 seconds which then increased to 44 seconds as a selection of eight riders looked to try to bring Van Vleuten back. Van der Breggen, Spratt, Longo Borghini from Italy, GB’s Lizzie Deignan and recently crowned World Time Trial Champion Chloe Dygert were all in the group.
After five kilometres on her own, Van Vleuten had increased her lead to over a minute and it would hover around the 50 seconds mark until the race reached Ripon with around 70km still to go, where it dipped to 43 seconds as Deignan and then Dygert launched attacks to try to bring her back. But with van der Breggen closing every attempt down, it became increasingly obvious that whilst van der Breggen was still in the group, any attempts to bring van Vleuten back would be in vain.
By 50km to go, the impetus had gone out of the chase group and van Vleuten’s lead had extended to over one and a half minutes. Deignan and Longo Borghini attempted to split the group but to no avail with Dygert also trying to split it. It was at this point that Koppenburg from Germany was dropped. Deignan looked totally frustrated as move after move was shut down.
By the time van Vleuten reached Harrogate with 40km to go, the win seemed to be hers for the taking as the gap reached 2 minutes 37 seconds back to the chasers.
Dygert saw her chance as they reached Harrogate, and with 38.8km still to go, she launched an attack that would put paid to Deignan’s medal hopes as she was unable to get back up to the chasers. The group now became four as Dygert continued to press on and distance Deignan.
With the gap around 2 minutes 12 seconds to van Vleuten, Dygert attacked the chasers again and this time van der Breggen was unable to bring it back, with Dygert going clear. Her gap would extend to a maximum of 29 seconds with 18km to go, at which point Spratt attacked and Longo Borghini was distanced.
By 16km to go, it seemed like the distance was starting to affect Dygert (whose longest race before today was 119km) and as she entered Parliament Street and the finish for the penultimate time, Spratt and van der Breggen were closing the gap, and they would then catch Dygert with 12.7km to go.
Dygert’s gutsy ride was not to end with a podium as van der Breggen attacked as the duo caught Dygert and Dygert was left behind by van der Breggen and Spratt. With 4.7km still to go, van der Breggen attacked Spratt and got a gap, which would be sufficient for her to claim second spot.
By now, Van Vleuten’s victory was secured and she powered up the finishing straight to become the World Champion, with van der Breggen 2 minutes 15 seconds behind, and Spratt a further 13 seconds in arrears. Dygert finished a fantastic fourth, 3 minutes 24 seconds behind van Vleuten, Longo Borghini finished in fifth a further 1 minute 21 seconds down, with Marianne Vos leading in the peloton at 5 minutes 20 seconds, which included Deignan and Anna Henderson who finished 22nd.
But the day belonged to Annemiek Van Vleuten, whose incredibly courageous ride has deservedly secured her place in the history books.
That was crazy. I knew the climb was really far from the finish but once I’d attacked my coach told me to keep riding hard and I was lucky I had really good legs. It was definitely not planned but I’d trained so hard for this – put in so many hours on the bike – and I thought ‘if anyone can do this, it’s you’. As I was riding I was thinking ‘maybe I could make history today’, and if it didn’t work out I knew Anna [van der Breggen] was in a great position behind.
It was only towards the end that I dared to believe, and I was being cheered on by so many fans. The crowds in Bradford were huge at the start and I had so much encouragement out on the course as well. British fans are amazing and I want to thank them all for helping make this win so amazing.
Today was absolutely phenomenal and a massive privilege to be able to experience. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to ride a home World Championships and I just want to say thank you to all those people who supported me. It’s a day I’ll never forget and I’m so proud of Yorkshire. Congratulations to Annemiek too, she was in a class of her own today.
As Annemiek went on the attack people were telling me ‘you can’t win from that far out’, but she proved them all wrong with an outstanding performance. It was an amazing effort to stay out in front for as long as she did with no help whatsoever, and it’s just a shame Lizzie wasn’t able to go with her when she made her race-winning move.
We’ve got another Yorkshire star in the form of Ben Swift riding tomorrow, and he’ll definitely be in with a shout of the rainbow jersey. Of course, he’ll be going up against the very best in the business, and I’m very excited to see who’ll come out on top.
We were treated to another amazing start in Bradford and the land art on the route today was truly world class. Yorkshire’s known for its creativity, as well as its passion and pride, and all those things were in evidence today. It was so nice to see Lizzie on the front of the peloton as she rode through her home town of Otley as well, with her family on the roadside to see her. Congratulations to Annemiek as well for that amazing performance, and all eye turn to the Elite Men’s Road Race now which is sure to be a cracker.
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