Annemiek van Vleuten is the new women’s road race champion after an outstanding 100km solo ride to claim a magnificent victory at the Yorkshire 2019 World Championships.
It was a Dutch top two as Anna van der Breggen outlasted the rest of the riders in the chase group, finishing two minutes down to take silver. She dropped Australia’s Amanda Spratt in the closing kilometres, who then took bronze, chasing Van der Breggen right up to the line.
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American Chloe Dygert hung on for fourth after a spirited ride while Italy’s Elisa Longo Borghini finished fifth.
Lizzie Deignan had been instrumental in setting up the chase group, and worked hard to limit Van Vleuten’s advantage, but was dropped with less than 50km to go, being swept up by the peloton before the last lap of Harrogate.
Van Vleuten had attacked up the Lofthouse climb after the Dutch set an infernal pace to whittle the field down quickly. Deignan had initially taking Van Vleuten’s wheel before allowing her to ride away, assuming she wouldn’t be able to make the stick move for over 100km.
The Dutchwoman takes her first road race world title in Yorkshire, having taken the rainbow bands of the time trial event in 2017 and 2018.
How it happened
The 149km route from Bradford to Harrogate first presented climbs over Norwood Edge and Lofthouse followed by three laps of the Harrogate finishing circuit.
The sun was shining, for a change, as the women rolled out of Bradford, with Lizzie Deignan being led out by Lizzy Banks as she entered her hometown of Otley, her grandparents two of a number of fans lining the streets to see their rider through.
After the niceties afforded to the British at their home Worlds, the racing started in earnest. The Dutch, heavy favourites for the win before the start, set an infernal pace on the front of the peloton through Demi Vollering, with the race splitting apart up Norwood Edge.
The next climb was the ascent of Lofthouse, where the Dutch took the race to the field. Annemiek van Vleuten was their selected star rider to hit out early, with Lizzie Deignan initially taking her wheel before deciding to let her go, thinking she wouldn’t stay away for more than 100km on her own.
The Dutchwoman opened up a minute on the chasing group behind started by Deignan, which included only one compatriot of Van Vleuten’s, although a formidable one in Anna van der Breggen, as well as Chloe Dygert, Elisa Longo Borghini and Amanda Spratt.
With 76km to go, the gap was still at 53 seconds while the peloton lagged more than two minutes behind. The new women’s time trial world champion Chloe Dygert then had a hairy moment as she overshot a corner on a descent, nearly ended up in a hedge. She recovered, though, as Van Vleuten increased her lead to over a minute.
Deignan had done a lot of work at the front of the chasers to try and hold Van Vleuten’s advantage, before she launched an attack, tiring of pulling other riders along. Longo Borghini then followed before Dygert had a dig, but Van der Breggen was keeping things under control and the group together as Van Vleuten’s advantage up ahead increased to two minutes with 50km remaining.
With 40km to go, Dygert attacked again, with Van Vleuten countering as Deignan was dropped from the group. Dygert kept attacking with the elastic finally snapping with 34km remaining on the Oak Beck climb as the American went up the road.
Dygert began closing the gap to Van Vleuten as she crossed the line in Harrogate with two laps remaining, the Dutchwoman’s advantage down to 1-50. With 19km to go, Elisa Longo Borghini was dropped from the chase group as Amanda Spratt and Van der Breggen forged ahead.
Three kilometres later, Dygert began to fade, her inexperience in long road races beginning to show perhaps, as Van der Breggen hunted down a silver medal 20 seconds behind.
Van Vleuten was looking good for gold as she started the final Harrogate lap, 2-15 ahead of the next nearest rider. The chances of a Dutch one-two were beginning to look more likely as Dygert was brought back in by Van der Breggen with 12.5km to go.
Lizzie Deignan gritted her teeth behind as she was also reeled back in by the peloton at the start of the last lap of Harrogate, with Dygert then dropped by Van Vleuten and Spratt up ahead 2km later.
With her eyes firmly on the silver medal, Van der Breggen attacked Spratt up the Oak Beck climb with 6km remaining. The Australian initially held firm but then cracked as the Dutchwoman stepped her effort up a gear, riding away to second place.
Van Vleuten had time to celebrate as she rolled into Harrogate, claiming her first road rainbow jersey to add to her two time trial world titles.
Van der Breggen came in more than two minutes later, with Spratt following soon after. Dygert held on behind to claim fourth place, with Elisa Longo Borghini behind her in fifth, while Marianne Vos (Netherlands) won the sprint in the peloton.
UCI Road World Championships 2019, women’s elite road race: Bradford to Harrogate (149.4km)
1. Annemiek van Vleuten (Netherlands), in 4-06-05
2. Anna van der Breggen (Netherlands), at 2-15
3. Amanda Spratt (Australia), at 2-28
4. Chloe Dygert (United States), at 3-24
5. Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy), at 4-45
6. Marianne Vos (Netherlands), at 5-20
7. Marta Bastianelli (Italy)
8. Ashleigh Moolman (South Africa)
9. Lisa Brennauer (Germany)
10. Coryn Rivera (United States), all at same time