Lizzie Deignan fades as Chantal Blaak wins world road race title

Sean Ingle
Dutchwoman Chantal Blaak weeps with joy after winning the world road race title in Bergen. Photograph: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images

Lizzie Deignan’s audacious attempt to regain her world road race title three weeks after appendix surgery came to a predictable end in Norway as the Briton faded on the final lap to finish 41st as the Dutch cyclist Chantal Blaak claimed a surprise victory.

At the finish in Bergen, the 27-year-old Blaak burst into tears, although whether they were from shock or joy no one could be sure. Her day job is being a domestique for Deignan in the Boels-Dolmans squad and she was expected to again do the donkey work for her more illustrious team-mates.

Instead she got into the breakaway of seven riders on the final lap – before making a decisive attack with 7.6 kilometres of the 182.5km course remaining to win in 4hr 06min 30sec – 28 seconds clear of the Australian Katrin Garfoot, with the Dane Amalie Dideriksen claiming bronze.

Deignan was reflective after a tough day. “I was grovelling away,” she said. “It is not a nice position to be in at a world championships. My team-mates kept me going. If I wasn’t in a team as strong as that I would have been tempted to pull out. But I thought: ‘I can’t let these girls down, I have to be there as long as I can’.”

She also paid tribute to Blaak, whose victory came despite a heavy crash earlier in the race that left her with a bloodied right shoulder. “I am so pleased for Chantal,” she said.

“She had such a hard crash we heard that she was out. And yet there she was! I am really chuffed for her. She’s a great girl and she deserves her stripes.”

Blaak, too, thought she might have to retire. But having recovered her bearings she also found her legs. “I can’t believe it,” she said. “When I crashed I was in a lot of pain and I thought my race is over.

“It was not really in the plan that I should win the race – I just wanted to do the best possible for the team. But I got into a good break and after that I just followed my heart and I stayed away.”

With 10 kilometres remaining it appeared that her Dutch team-mate Anna Van der Breggen, the pre-race favourite, was in the box seat. But while the other riders in the group tracked Van der Breggen, Blaak pounced.

“We didn’t really talk to each other but we knew what to do,” she explained.

“There were three Dutch cyclists in the group of seven so we knew we should attack and not wait for the sprint. I thought it was a good moment so I went for it.”

Hannah Barnes, a 24-year-old from Northampton, was the highest-placed British cyclist in 14th overall.

But that scarcely did justice to her excellent efforts, as she pushed hard throughout, was in two breakaways and had medal chances until her body gave out on her during the final kilometre of the race.

“I was told to pick one Dutch rider and follow her moves in the breakaway but I picked the wrong one,” she said. “But to be up there with the best means I can’t be too disappointed. At the end I stood up to sprint but my legs had nothing left.”

Barnes also said that the rest of the British team would leave Bergen with their heads held high given that Mel Lowther, Elinor Barker and Dani King all launched solo attacks in various stages of the race in an attempt to disrupt the powerful Dutch team.

“Leading up to the race the group really bonded,” said Barnes. “We were spending two hours at the dinner table, and we knew coming into this we were going to do everything we could to get a good result. We really raced it and we can be proud of what we did.”

Meanwhile, Deignan believes the team’s performance bodes well for the future.

“I couldn’t praise them enough,” she said. “Everyone was phenomenal. They really stepped up their game and I think that’s so valuable moving forwards. The Dutch had the numbers, and they won the bike race. But we are catching them.”

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