Olympic champion Anna van der Breggen won a spectacular women’s World Championship road race on Saturday, winning her first rainbow jersey in Austria.
The Dutch woman rode clear of a small group near the top of the race’s signature climb with 39km to ride, riding solo to the line in Innsbruck.
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Australian Amanda Spratt, the last rider to be dropped, also rode 39km alone and held on to take the silver medal.
Third place was taken by the 2009 world champion Italian, Tatiana Guderzo, who had been in the leading group van der Breggen attacked.
The race winning move came after the peloton stalled in the chase of a six-woman group at the bottom of the second of three ascents to Igls.
Van der Breggen’s Dutch team mate, Ellen van Dijk had been secure in that group, but when she was dropped and the Netherlands were not represented, the team was forced to react.
First, world time trial champion Annemiek van Vleuten made a move, thinning the group, then as it stalled van der Breggen set off in pursuit.
She soon caught the leaders, riding straight to the front and dropping all but Spratt.
A second move by the Dutch rider dropped Spratt and, by the time she began the descent she led the Australian by 40 seconds and the peloton by over two minutes.
Crossing the line with one lap to ride van der Breggen’s lead on Spratt was 1-20 and all she needed to do was manage her effort to take her first rainbow jersey.
How it happened
The 156.2km race between Kufstein and Innsbruck was fantastically aggressive throughout, the Ethiopian representative opening the action as the flag dropped.
The race settled soon after and Team GB moved to the front, with both Dani Rowe and Alice Cobb showing the national colours.
After a number of unproductive attacks, with 140km to go, Serbia’s Jelena Erić led a brief break of six riders and while that did not stick, Polish rider, Aurela Nerlo escaped and was joined by Colombian, Ana Sanabria.
With neither a threat, the duo were allowed to build a lead approaching 2-30 with 120km to go.
Further attacks followed and at one stage there were three groups between the leaders and the peloton.
There was drama on the approach to the ferocious climb to Gnadelwald, where a large crash on some road furniture not only took down Britain’s Dani Rowe, but also race favourite and new world time trial champion van Vleuten.
The Dutch woman was paced back to the bunch by another crash victim, compatriot Ellen van Dijk, arriving on the back as the road ramped up on the opening 10% gradients, riding straight to the front of the bunch.
The climb saw all but Colombian escapee Sanabria caught before the top, and the bunch was considerably reduced.
On the descent, while Finnish rider Lotta Leptstö escaped for the third time, the Dutch led a series of probes, with four riders establishing a small gap as they crossed line for the first time.
There Ellen van Dijk (Netherlands), Tatiana Guderzo (Italy), Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Denmark) and Lepistö led a regrouped peloton by 23 seconds.
As in this week’s other road races, the circuit took in the seven kilometre climb to Igls and it was this that proved to be decisive.
On this first ascent Lepistö was conclusively dropped as the remaining three leaders stretched they advantage to 50 seconds, while Australian Lucy Kennedy, put the pressure on.
Riding for Amanda Spratt, Kennedy caught the leaders before the top of the climb, simultaneously shredding the bunch, leaving just 22 riders at the front.
It was at the top that American Coryn Rivera took her opportunity, instantly opening up a gap of 25 seconds.
However, the 26 year-old Californian was never able to establish a meaningful advantage, finishing the first lap with a lead of only 12 seconds.
She was caught by Małgorzata Jasinska (Poland), Emilia Fahlin (Sweden), Elena Pirrone (Italy), Spratt and once again Van Dijk chasing and eventually catching the American with 47km left to race.
With many of the top teams represented, what was left of the peloton stalled, a gap of over one minute opening up on the second ascent to Igls, where Van Dijk began to struggle.
The victory is the fourth consecutive rainbow jersey for van der Breggen’s Boels-Dolmans team after Lizzie Deignan, Amalie Dideriksen and Chantal Blaak.
Though she did not perform as she might have liked through the summer, the victory comes on the back of another great year for the 28 year-old.
In the spring she won Strade Bianche, Tour of Flanders, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
Along with her Olympic title, in previous years she has won the Giro Rosa twice and La Course and has little left to achieve in the sport.
World Championship Elite Women Road Race
1. Anna van der Breggen (NED), in 4-11-04
2. Amanda Spratt (AUS) at 3.42
3. Tatiana Guderzo (ITA) 5.26
4. Emilia Fahliin (SWE) 6.13
5. Małgorzata Jasinska (POL) at same time
6. Karol-Ann Canuel (CAN) 6.17
7. Annemiek van Vleuten (NED) 7.05
8. Amy Pieters (NED) at same time
9. Lucinda Brand (NED) at 7.17
10. Ruth Winder (USA) at same time
26. Dani Rowe (GBr), at 8-18
41. Sophie Wright (GBr), at 8-36
45. Hannah Barnes (GBr), at 10-58