Pauline Ferrand Prevot (France) won the elite women’s road race at the 2014 UCI Road World Championships in a tight sprint finish.
She inched out both time-trial champion Lisa Brennauer (Germany) and Emma Johansson (Sweden) into second and third, with Giorgia Bronzini (Italy) a narrow fourth.
Great Britain’s Lizzie Armitstead finished seventh while defending champion Marianne Vos (Netherlands) could only manage tenth.
Just minutes before, however, it looked as though both were guaranteed top four finishes, as they approached the line with just Johansson and Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy) for company. The quartet broke clear on the final climb and opened up what looked like a decisive lead, but slowed considerably as they began cat and mouse, allowing a sizable chasing group to catch them in the finale.
Neither of the four wanted to lead-out the sprint, and as a result all missed out on gold, although Johansson managed to recompose herself for the sprint to gain bronze.
Vos also appeared to be in a good position come that sprint, and took to the front with a few hundred metres to go. However she did not show the kind of strength we have grown used to seeing her display, perhaps due to fatigue from the attack, and faded to her lowest finish since 2005.
Ferrand Prevot made the wise move of following her wheel in the sprint, and managed to hold her speed for just about long enough to hold off Johansson and Brennauer, who were finishing very quickly to the right of her.
In a post-race interview, Armitstead proclaimed her disappointment at how easy the race had been, and indeed proceedings were subdued for long periods. Before the tense endgame, only an attack from Eveyln Stevens (USA) at 12 kilometres from the finish drew out favourites Armitstead and Vos, while early attacks were limited to a few doomed solo efforts from outsiders like Shani Bloch (Israel), Spela Kern (Slovenia) and Alison Powers (USA).
Armitstead also struggled with a lack of teammates, as demonstrated when the strong Dutch, Italian and German teams put her under pressure in the final lap. A dangerous looking move featuring Rossella Ratto (Italy), Rachel Neylan (Australia) and Chantel Blaak (Netherlands) got away at the bell and forced the weaker teams to chase, wearing them down for the finale.
Armitstead had used up Anna Christian and Hannah Barnes earlier in an attempt to liven the race with some attacks, while Annie Last and Lucy Garner were caught out in crashes earlier on. Another huge crash disrupted the peloton on the second lap, in which Vos and Bronzini were delayed by, but both were allowed to catch back on as the peloton dropped its pace.
Some rainfall on the penultimate lap caused worries that more crashes may disrupt the finale of the race, but it thankfully eased off by the final lap.
UCI Road World Championships 2014: Elite women’s road race, 127.4km
1. Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (Fra) in 3-29-21
2. Lisa Brennauer (Ger)
3. Emma Johansson (Swe)
4. Giorgia Bronzini (Ita)
5. Tiffany Cromwell (Aus)
6. Shelley Olds (USA)
7. Lizzie Armitstead (GBr)
8. Linda Villumsen (NZl)
9. Hanna Solovey (Ukr)
10. Marianne Vos (Ned) all same time
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