Dutch duo Annemiek van Vleuten and Anna van der Breggen occupied the top two podium spots in the elite women's individual time trial at the 2017 UCI Road World Championships in Bergen, Norway, on Tuesday.
Van der Breggen was just the second rider to leave the start house of the 54 taking part in the world title race, and set a very strong time early on, clocking 29-02.51 on the relatively flat 21.1-kilometre course. The 27-year-old benefitted from starting on dry roads.
An extended stay in the hot seat then followed for van der Breggen, as a succession of riders failed to beat her time on the first and second intermediate time checks – and the rain started to fall.
Only when compatriot van Vleuten finished with 28-50.35 did someone better van der Breggen's time – but even she did not beat van der Breggen's intermediate times, instead going faster in the final 5km to seal the rainbow jersey despite the wet road conditions.
Katrin Garfoot of Australia came in for third, while Ellen van Dijk gave the Netherlands its third rider in the top five, finishing fifth. Defending champion Amber Neben (USA) finished in 11th spot, 1-41.99 behind van Vleuten.
British rider Hannah Barnes put in a strong ride to finish in ninth place and 1-23 down on the winning time.
Van Vleuten's win seals a successful season, adding a world title to her 2017 victories, which have included La Course by Le Tour de France, the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and two stages of the Giro Rosa. Her season is all the more remarkable given the horrific crash that she suffered in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games road race.
"This season I've been surprising myself what I can do," van Vleuten said at the finish. "To be world champion in the time trial, I never thought I'd be able to do this."
Speaking about bouncing back after he Rio crash, she said: "To be an athlete is to have ups and downs, and sometimes they are really downs, but the downs make the ups even more beautiful I think. It would have been beautiful without the crash in Rio, but this one makes the story really, really special."
The 2017 UCI Road World Championships continue on Wednesday with the elite men's individual time trial, with the road races taking place from Friday, September 22, to Sunday, September 24.
UCI Road World Championships 2017, Elite women's individual time trial, 21.1km
1. Annemiek van Vleuten (Netherlands), in 28-50.35
2. Anna van der Breggen (Netherlands), at 12.16 secs
3. Katrin Garfoot (Australia), at 18.93 secs
4. Chloe Dygert (USA), at 37.95 secs
5. Ellen van Dijk (Netherlands), at 52.06 secs
6. Linda Villumsen (New Zealand), at 55.73 secs
7. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (RSA), at 1-18.53
8. Lauren Stephens (USA), at 1-19.86
9. Hannah Barnes (Great Britain), at 1-23.42
10. Cecile Uttrup Ludwig (Denmark), at 1-34.09
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