Dutchwoman Annemiek van Vleuten produces stunning solo ride to clinch first world road race title

John MacLeary
The Telegraph
Van Vleuten attacked 45 kilometres into the 149.4km race from Bradford to Harrogate and never looked back. - AP
Van Vleuten attacked 45 kilometres into the 149.4km race from Bradford to Harrogate and never looked back. - AP

It will surprise nobody to have seen a Dutchwoman take the top step of the podium here in Harrogate on Saturday, but few will have predicted the nature in which Annemiek van Vleuten was crowned world champion.

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Though perhaps lacking the entertainment value that many had hoped for, it was a quite brilliantly brave ride from Van Vleuten, a performance that handed the 36-year-old her third world title, but a first on the road having already won two time trial championships.  

It was a ride from the ages, reminiscent of those the great Italian Fausto Coppi produced to such devastating effect during his 1940s pomp. Van Vleuten attacked 45 kilometres into the 149.4km race from Bradford to Harrogate and never looked back.

After rolling out of Bradford shortly before midday, the Dutch, who arrived as favourites to win the women's race at the Road World Championships, immediately showed their intent as they swamped the head of the field.

With a world champions' jersey up for grabs few would have imagined it would be a day where there was time for sentimentality. However, as the race passed through Otley, the hometown of local lass Lizzie Deignan, the leader of the Great Britain team rolled off the front, much to the delight of her grandparents who looked proud as punch, but that was the only gifted out on what was a tough day of racing.

<span>Annemiek van Vleuten secured her third world title with a brilliant solo ride</span> <span>Credit: AP </span>
Annemiek van Vleuten secured her third world title with a brilliant solo ride Credit: AP

It was Dutchwoman Demi Vollering who hit out first, setting a fierce pace on the short put punchy Norwood Edge. Just 15km into the race and the peloton had been smashed into pieces, it was a devastating early blow to those hoping to ride in the wheels with hopes of hanging on towards the finishing circuits around Harrogate.

Following a brief regrouping and with the second key climb of the day nearing, the British team edged towards the front of the pack, mindful of the danger of narrow roads. However, as the road ramped up, Van Vleuten, produced a vicious acceleration off he front. Deignan, Anna van der Breggen (Holland), Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy), Soraya Paladin (Italy), Clara Koppenburg (Germany), Amanda Spratt (Australia), Chloe Dygert-Owen (USA) and Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Den) were left for dead. By the summit of the 3km climb that reached gradients of 13 per cent in places, Van Vleuten had gained almost a minute.

<span>Lizzie Deignan was cheered on by the locals during the race</span> <span>Credit: PA </span>
Lizzie Deignan was cheered on by the locals during the race Credit: PA

Four days after losing her time trial title to Chloe Dygert-Owen, Van Vleuten just kept riding, extending her lead over a chasing seven-rider group featuring Deignan, Longo Borghini, Dygert-Owen and compatriot Van der Breggen who was afforded a free ride, not wanting to help chase a team-mate.

Appearing frustrated by a lack of co-operation in the chasing group, and sensing her opportunity of sealing a fairy-tale world title on home roads was drifting away up the road, Deignan put in a couple of digs in an attempt to stir up the group. In the end, though, Deignan was dropped after Dygert-Owen had animated an attack that split the chasing pack to pieces.

Van der Breggen made it a Dutch one-two after the 29-year-old took silver while Spratt rounded off the podium in third.

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