Elite women road race photo gallery by Graham Watson>>
Italy's Giorgia Bronzini won the elite women's world championship road race in Copenhagen on Saturday afternoon, defending the title she won in Melbourne last year.
Bronzini beat Holland's Marianne Vos in a bunch sprint, with Germany's Ina Teutenberg third, and Great Britain's Nicole Cooke taking fourth.
But it took until three laps to go of the 10-lap, 140km race before it came alive at all, animated by Canada's Clara Hughes, who put in a very gutsy solo ride, only to be caught by the bunch with three kilometres to go.
Halfway through the race, Russia's Olga Zabinskaya put in the day's first meaningful attack in an effort to animate the what had been a negatively ridden event, but she was quickly neutralised by the combined efforts of Sweden, Great Britain, Germany and Sweden who were massed at the head of the field, keeping the pace high enough to constantly and consistently shed riders off the back all day.
With three laps to go, the race finally came alive, first with an attack from Spain's generously named Eneritz Iturriagaechevarria, and then with Canada's Tara Whitten trying her luck.
She was quickly followed by the USA's Amber Neben, who opened up what was the race's first meaningful gap.
Slowly, the American was pulled back, and Canada played their second card in Hughes, who quickly forced open a 20-second gap, which she had increased to 40 seconds heading through the start/finish line with two laps to go.
While Hughes's gap grew to 45 seconds, counter attacks from New Zealand's Linda Villumsen and Italy's Elisa Longo Borghini caused chaos behind, but once the Dutch and Swedish teams moved to eliminate them, the peloton then appeared to sit up again, allowing Hughes to maintain her 30-second advantage with a lap to go.
However, it was all over for the 39-year-old former speedskater with three kilometres left to race as the Dutch squad again came to the front to drive along the bunch in the hopes of setting up their sprinter Marianne Vos.
As the sprinters massed at the front, a crash with 1.5km to go held up a number of riders, including Armitstead, leaving Cooke up front to do her own thing, although Armitstead valiantly battled back to take seventh at the finish.
Vos's Dutch squad controlled the bunch until the final climb up to the line, but suddenly the Italian team emerged from the mêlée, shepherding Bronzini into position, and the 28 year old made it look easy, holding off Vos to celebrate her second title in as many years.
"I'd hoped to get on the podium, but really didn't think I could win again, as I haven't had a great season," a delighted Bronzini said. "To win for a second time is a dream."
Road World Championships 2011: Elite women's road race, 140km
1. Giorgia Bronzini (Ita)
2. Marianne Vos (Ned)
3. Ina Teutenberg (Ger)
4. Nicole Cooke (GBr)
5. Julia Martisova (Rus)
6. Chloe Hosking (Aus)
7. Elizabeth Armitstead (GBr)
8. Ludivine Henrion (Fra)
9. Rasa Leleivyte (Ltu)
10. Aude Biannic (Fra)
7. Elizabeth Armitstead (GBr)
47. Lucy Martin (GBr) at 11 secs
65. Katie Colclough (GBr) at 29 secs
69. Emma Pooley (GBr) at 40 secs
81. Sharon Laws (GBr)
82. Catherine Williamson (GBr) both at 41 secs
Great Britain heads the bunch
Giorgia Bronzini successfully defends her world title in the women's road race
Road World Championships 2011: Cycling Weekly's coverage index
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