Disappointed with her third-place finish in the Elite Women Time Trial earlier in the week, the Netherlands’ Annemiek van Vleuten made up for it in a huge way today, racing for over 100km in a solo breakaway to take the Elite Women Road Race world title.
Day seven of the 2019 UCI Road World Championships got underway in a resplendent Bradford and as racing began there was nothing but sunshine, blue skies and masses of excited fans awaiting the riders as they embarked on their 149km journey. 152 riders from 50 different nations took to the roads of Yorkshire today and no one was looking forward to it more than Yorkshire’s own Lizzie Deignan. As the race rolled into her home town of Otley, right past the 2015 World Road Race Champion’s front door, the peloton slowed and allowed Deignan to ride through the town with her teammate and Yorkshire compatriot Lizzy Banks – and what a welcome they received.
Earlier on in the morning the Dutch team had stood on the stage in West Yorkshire to sign on ahead of the race, and one thing became apparent quite quickly, their team was stacked with talent. Made of multiple world champions, the team was filled with household names such as reigning champion and current Olympic champion Anna van der Breggen, three-time world and one-time Olympic champion Marianne Vos, 2017 world champion Chantal Blaak and of course, the time trial specialist and new road race world champion Annemiek van Vleuten.
As soon as the peloton approached the first climb, the Dutch’s game plan kicked into action. Demi Vollering hit the front as they road up Norwood Edge and blew the bunch apart, the chase managed to reel her back in and then Floortje Mackaij counter attacked. The Netherlands had come to play, and they had so many cards in their hand just waiting to be played. As they approached Lofthouse for the 3.5km climb at 7.6%, they played their ace – Annemiek van Vleuten attacked and left the rest of the riders in her wake.
A chase group featuring some very strong riders formed and they went to work on cutting down van Vleuten’s 1.25 advantage. The group included Deignan (GB), van der Breggen (Ned), Longo Borghini (Ita), Dygert (USA), Amanda Spratt (Aus), Paladin (Italy), Ludwig (Den) and Kloppenburg (Ger). It seemed that this group of riders would be able to work together to rein the leader back in but the gap started to grow and not even attacks from Deignan, Longo Borginhi or Dygert could kickstart anything.
As van Vleuten rode into Harrogate for the first of the three circuits, her time trial nemesis Dygert came after her, followed by Anna van der Breggen. Dygert did manage to get away for a while but by the final lap, last year’s winner van der Breggen and second-place finisher Spratt caught the American and she was dropped. Van der Breggen then dropped Spratt and went after the silver medal knowing full well that her teammate van Vleuten would be crowned world champion. Those would be the confirmed medal places as van der Breggen took second place and Spratt managed to hold on to bronze.
The day though, belongs to van Vleuten and her stunning 105km solo ride. The story behind the ride is evenmore moving still, celebrating with her mother after the win was a wonderful sight, but van Vleuten’s late father was also with her as she crossed the line, as she was wearing the earrings he had given her before he passed away. What a moment and what a win for a rider that will go down in history as one of the best to ever do it. Annemiek van Vleuten, would not be seen again by the other rider until she was being presented with the rainbow jersey as the new world champion.