Mid-race crash did not stop Chantal Blaak winning the elite women's world title at the 2017 UCI Road World Championships
Chantal Blaak (Netherlands) was crowned world champion in the elite women’s road race after successfully breaking away from an elite group of riders eight kilometres from the line in Bergen, Norway, on Saturday.
Katrin Garfoot (Australia) won the sprint for silver, just ahead of last year’s champion Amalie Dideriksen (Denmark), who took bronze.
Blaak was the benefactor of an impressively cohesive ride by the Dutch team, who made the most of their incredibly strong line-up to work over all the other teams and win the gold medal.
Great Britain was lively throughout the race, with the likes of Hannah Barnes, Danni King and Elinor Barker all making eye-catching attacks, but couldn’t quite translate their attacking racing into a medal with Barnes the highest finisher in 14th.
The win was especially impressive considering Blaak was part of a crash on the fifth lap, which took both Megan Guarnier (USA) and Elisa Cecchini (Italy) out of contention.
Blaak made her first move on the penultimate lap with 23km to go, escaping from the peloton along with Hannah Barnes (Great Britain) and Audrey Cordon (France).
The trio worked well together, and built a gap of 32 seconds when the riders crossed the line for the last lap, which grew up to over 45 seconds as the bunch struggled to organise a chase.
They were, however joined by an elite quartet when Annemiek van Vleuten, Anna van der Breggen (both Netherlands), Garfoot and Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Poland) attacked out of the peloton on the final ascent of Salmon Hill.
With three riders in this newly-formed lead group of seven, the Dutch had managed to engineer the kind of advantageous scenario that they had been expected to, given their strength in depth.
They got their tactics spot on, too, with van Vleuten first attacking to soften the others up, before Blaak escaped without any of the others managing to follow her.
A hesitation from Barnes, Garfoot, Cordon and Niewiadoma while Van der Breggen and Van Vleuten sat back, allowed Blaak to quickly open up a gap that reached 20 seconds with 6.5km to go. An acceleration from Niewiadoma with 4km briefly brought the gap back down to 11 seconds, but when she was reeled in it again ballooned out to an unassailable lead.
The chasing sextet were in fact caught by the peloton before the line, leading to a large sprint for the other medals. The caught riders nevertheless managed to be the main protagonists in the sprint, with Van der Breggen leading it out for Van Vleuten, who finished fourth after being passed by Garfoot and Dideriksen.
There were several attacks earlier in the day, in what was an eventful race. Sara Penton (Sweden) was the first to attack in the opening lap, with other short-lived efforts also being made by Britain’s Melissa Lowther and home rider Susanne Andersen (Norway).
The race really ignited on the fifth lap as the Dutch made their first move, with Amy Pieters countering an acceleration from her teammate Ellen Van Dijk to form a dangerous trio along with Rachel Neylan (Australia) and – in her first move of the day – Barnes.
They gained a lead of around 30 seconds and prompted an upping of the pace, which saw big names Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy) and Jolien D’hoore dropped on Salmon Hill.
A regrouping one lap later on the next ascent of Salmon Hill saw a new leading group form at the front of the race, consisting of Barnes, Pieters, Gracie Elvin (Australia) and Lucinda Brand (Netherlands), and – briefly – Elinor Barker (Great Britain).
They were caught with 39km to go, and, after another flurry of attacks, the next significant group to get away was instigated by a very impressive acceleration from on the third-to-last Salmon Hill, who was joined by Amanda Spratt (Australia), Janneke Ensing (Netherlands) and Elise Delzenne (France).
This quartet also managed to build a considerable lead, but were neutralised when a select group of eight (which briefly included Lizzie Deignan, before she was dropped) bridged up to them on the penultimate climb of Salmon Hill. The newly formed hybrid group failed to work together, and were caught by the bunch with around 23km to go.
Blaak then made her counter-move with Cordon and Barnes, beginning the process that would eventually see her crowned champion.
The 2017 Road World Championships concludes on Sunday with the elite men’s road race.
Watch: Highlights from the junior men’s and elite women’s road races
UCI Road World Championships 2017, elite women’s road race, 152.8km
1. Chantal Blaak (Netherlands), in 4-06-30
2. Katrin Garfoot (Australia), at 28 secs
3. Amalie Dideriksen (Denmark)
4. Annemiek van Vleuten (Netherlands)
5. Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Poland)
6. Christine Majerus (Luxembourg)
7. Susanne Andersen (Norway)
8. Anna van der Breggen (Netherlands)
9. Emilia Fahlin (Sweden)
10. Elena Cecchini (Italy), all same time