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World Championships: Van Vleuten takes elite women's title with incredible 105km solo attack

The Dutch make it three World titles in a row as Van Vleuten produces perfect performance

Joe Robinson
28 Sep 2019

Annemiek Van Vleuten executed one of the greatest performances in modern World Championships history with a 105km solo attack to win the women's elite road race in Harrogate.

The Dutchwoman made her move on the slopes of Lofthouse after just 45km of racing, crossing the line for her first-ever road race rainbow jersey on the 148km course.

Van Vleuten eventually finished an emphatic 2 minutes 15 seconds ahead of compatriot and defending champion Anna van der Breggen to complete a 1-2 for the Netherlands. Australia's Amanda Spratt took third. 

Chloe Dygert-Owen of the USA made the best attempt at chasing Van Vleuten down in the final 35km but eventually ran out of steam, finally finishing just off the podium in fourth.

Victory saw Van Vleuten add a World road race title to her two existing time trial titles and the Dutch secure a third consecutive women's rainbow jersey. 

Van Vleuten's V day

The torrential rain of earlier in the week had subsided for the elite women as they departed Bradford in the sunshine. 

The flag drop prompted fast racing from the start. A stacked Dutch team - containing the likes of defending champion Van der Breggen and former champions Chantal Blaak and Marianne Vos - immediately turned the screw stringing the peloton out across the bumpy terrain.

The bunch, however, was all together when it hit the base of Lofthouse after 45km with the home team, Great Britain, leading the way.

That was until Van Vleuten, still smarting from losing her time trial title earlier in the week, launched a huge attack on the climb's steepest slopes. Lizzie Deignan followed initially but eventually let the wheel go.

Deignan tried to attack again, followed by Italy's Elisa Longo-Borgihni. Neither could attach themselves to Van Vleuten and ended up settling in an incredibly strong chase group that included Van der Breggen, Spratt, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig of Denmark and Dygert-Owen. 

That was with 105km to go that Van Vleuten launched her move, a perfect scenario for the Dutch having riders in every group on the road.

Van Vleuten's strength told as she forged a gap of 90 seconds on the initial chase group and over three minutes on the main peloton which looked as if its day was over for the rainbow jersey.

Feeling that Van Vleuten's gap was becoming dangerous, Deignan accelerated on uphill drag in the final 55km. It caused trouble for some but eventually, the entire group returned to the wheel.

It also had little effect on bringing down the gap to Van Vleuten which, if anything, was slowly eeking out further. Closing in on the Harrogate finishing circuit, the gap had risen to two minutes as the chase group's cooperation began.

Entering the circuit, Dygert-Owen committed to some big attacks. First, she whittled away Deignan and then she shrugged off Van der Breggen, Spratt and Longo-Borghini.

It was a mean attack but ultimately a move that emptied the tank and saw her caught and dropped by Van der Breggen and Spratt, managing to just hold onto fourth by the end.

Van Vleuten, in the meantime, rode to perfection eventually crossing the line all alone for arguably the greatest win of her illustrious career.