Annemiek van Vleuten has added the European title to her amazing list of wins after taking victory by beating Elisa Longo-Borghini in a two-up sprint after an exceptionally tough day in Plouay, France.
The day was filled with attacks from 70km to go; the Dutch team peppering the peloton with moves, causing the race to splinter into small groups.
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The race was changing shape all the time with Van Vleuten (Netherlands) only getting away when Longo-Borghini (Italy) and Kasia Niewiadoma (Poland) attacked after a crash that saw Lizzie Deignan (Great Britain) abandon.
Chantal van den Brouck-Blaak (Netherlands) then bridged across after several failed attempts by Cecile Uttrup Ludwig (Denmark).
But it all came down to the final climb when Longo-Borghini and Van Vleuten both attacked, dropping the other two in the group.
As Italian Longo-Borghini led into the final kilometre, she could do nothing to stop the world champion from sprinting away from her in the final few hundred metres.
How it happened
The race started and finished in the Bretagne town of Plouay in France and covered the same laps as the men’s race the day before, but with awful weather conditions.
The women’s race distance of 109.2km took in the Côte du Lézot and the Côte du Pont-Neuf on every lap.
The day’s main break didn’t go until about 70km where Marta Lach (Poland), Hannah Barnes (GBr), Demi Vollering (Ned) and Christine Majerus (Luxembourg) went up the road.
Moments later, Audrey Cordon-Ragot (France), Chantal Van den Brouck-Blaak (Netherlands), Elena Cecchini (Italy), Elise Chabbey (Switzerland), Susanne Andersen (Norway), Soraya Paladin (Italy) with Lotte Kopecky (Belgium) made a move, and eventually bridged to the leaders on the following lap.
Behind, the chase was on as the big names put in attack after attack starting with Annemeik van Vleuten (Netherlands), then Kasia Niewiadoma (Poland) put in a huge effort that ripped to peloton to bits.
All those attacks brought the lead group back with 52km to go on the Lézot, but that didn’t mean the attacks stopped.
A group of about 25 riders came together but small groups constantly tried to get away but no move was sticking.
Then, with 40km to go, there was a touch of wheels and Lizzie Deignan (Great Britain), Cecile Uttrup Ludwig (Denmark), Lisa Brennauer (Germany) and Chabbey all went down.
Deignan stayed down as she landed into a roadside ditch and later abandoned; the riders up front sat up for a moment before the attacks came again.
The other riders who went down got back to the lead group.
Elisa Longo-Borghini, Niewiadoma and Van Vleuten went clear with 35km to go and very quickly pulled out a gap.
Behind, the Dutch and Italians were following every counter attack with Barnes being left to chase alone.
Uttrup Ludwig attacked on multiple occasions, but the winner of the Giro dell’Emilia wasn’t able to get away without a Dutch rider on the wheel.
Then, with 23km to go, Van den Brouck-Blaak went clear to try and bridge the 38 second gap which she managed in a space of 5km.
Heading into the final lap of 13km, the leading four riders had 50 seconds.
Longo-Borghini attacked hard on the final climb of the Lézot with Van Vleuten pulling her back with Niewiadoma, dropping Van den Brouck-Blaak.
Van Vleuten then went clear, first dropping Niewiadoma and then Logo-Borghini. The world champion hadn’t looked anywhere near her best, but used the undulating course to her advantage.
Longo-Borghini made it back to Van Vleuten in the final 7km however and with 4km to go, Niewiadoma and Van den Brouck-Blaak joined them just before the Côte du Pont-Neuf.
On the final climb, Longo-Borghini went again, dropping Van den Brouck-Blaak. Van Vleuten chased and then went over the top of the Italian and Polish riders.
Niewiadoma lost touch close to the top of the climb but Longo-Borghini was able to hold on to Van Vleuten’s wheel.
As they went over the top of the Pont-Neuf and started to drop back down in Plouay it looked to be a two horse race.
Longo-Borghini was left on the front in the closing stages and Van Vleuten hit out for the sprint early and caught the Italian by surprise, holding her effort to the line to take the European title.
European Championships 2020, elite women’s road race: Plouay to Plouay (109.2km)
1. Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned), in 2-50-46
2. Elisa Longo-Borghini (Ita), at same time
3. Kasia Niewiadoma (Pol), at 5s
4. Chantal van den Brouck-Blaak, at same time
5. Audrey Cordon-Ragot (Fra), at 2-29
6. Lisa Brennauer (Ger), at 3-27
7. Lotte Kopecky (Bel)
8. Marianne Vos (Ned)
9. Elena Cecchini (Ita)
10. Amy Pieters (Ned), all at same time