A fine team performance that saw the British women put a rider in every serious move in the elite women's road race at the 2017 UCI Road World Championships was ultimately thwarted by their Dutch rivals, as Chantal Blaak rode solo to victory ahead of Katrin Garfoot (Australia) and defending champion Amalie Dideriksen of Denmark.
With their regular team leader Lizzie Deignan having to adopt a less prominent role because of her recent appendectomy, the rest of the team stepped up, with first Melissa Lowther and then Hannah Barnes inserting themselves in the breaks.
In fact, Great Britain looked good for a medal right up to the last 500m of the race, which was run off in glorious sunshine over 153 lumpy kilometres in Bergen. Barnes, Blaak and Audrey Cordon of France forged a dangerous looking trio during the penultimate lap, but the final time up Salmon Hill — a 1.5-kilometre haul at 6.4 per cent average — saw Dutch big-hitters Anna van der Breggen and Annamiek van Vleuten bridge across.
Suddenly the odds of a gold medal grew a lot longer for Barnes, and so it was, as the Dutch quickly took advantage of their numerical superiority with Blaak’s attack quickly gaining traction.
Gold had vanished up the road for Team GB, and having spent so much time driving the breaks Barnes, no mean sprinter, was unable to salvage gold or silver as the peloton swamped the bunch in the final kilometre, and she ultimately finished 14th.
After the race, Deignan was full of praise for Barnes’s ride, saying that she would one day win the race: “She’ll be disappointed but I think given time she’ll be incredibly proud of her performance.
"It’ll give her the belief going forward that she’s been there now, in the final. She’s a future world champion I think so it was great that she was there.
Watch: highlights from the junior men's and elite women's road races
“It was an incredible team performance,” she added. “I was probably the least active but I was happy that I could be there as that kind of back up.
Barnes, in a pragmatic mood, said she was, “tired! But pretty satisfied. We raced really really well as a team.
"We’ve had a really good few days coming into this — we’ve all bonded really well and got together and I think our racing showed that we’re a really close team, a strong team and we were able to show some nations that we were there.”
A delighted Blaak said: “This is my biggest victory. I’ve dreamed of it. You know it’s hard but you also know it’s possible. I’ve won big races before, it’s just everything needs to be right at the right moment, and today it was.”
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