World championships: Anna van der Breggen goes solo to take road race title
30-year-old attacked on penultimate lap of race to tempo her way to victory and double up her time trial title from earlier this week.
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Anna van der Breggen (Netherlands) attacked on the steep slopes of the Gallisterna climb with 40 kilometers to go to take the world championships road race Saturday.
The Dutchwoman launched an attack after work from teammates Annemiek van Vleuten and Marianne Vos before soloing away to take her second road title after also winning the championships in Innsbruck in 2018. The victory comes hot off the back of her winning the Giro Rosa earlier this month, and her worlds time trial victory earlier this week.
“It’s incredible, it was a really hard race, the climbs were really tough,” Van der Breggen said of the Imola loop, which packed two short, super-steep climbs.
“We tried to make the race hard, and we did,” she continued. “I just went for it, I thought in the last lap everyone’s tired, it’s hard to make the difference. On the climb, I felt good, and so I went.”
Defending champion Van Vleuten took second place to give the Netherlands a one-two on the podium.
Van Vleuten clipped away from the chasing peloton with Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy) on the final climb before outsprinting the Italian on the Imola race circuit, 1:20 behind the race-winner.
Lauren Stephens was the best-placed rider from the United States, finishing 11th.
Along with Van der Breggen’s Giro Rosa and world time trial title, the 30-year-old has also taken fourth place at Strade Bianche and won both the Dutch national road race championships and European time trial title since racing restarted in August.
“It’s been incredible so far,” she said of her season. “It’s everything behind each other, but if you’re in shape it’s also a good thing. I’m pretty tired now but hopefully I’ll recover… this season is pretty good for me so far.”
Van der Breggen will wear her rainbow bands at planned appearances in the Ardennes and cobbled classics in the next month.
The 143km race in the heart of Italy’s Emilia Romagna region took a while to kick into life Saturday.
A strong breakaway group eventually formed after 60km when Alison Jackson (Canada) attacked, with Amy Pieters (Netherlands), Katia Ragusa (Italy), Lisa Brennauer (Germany), Tayler Wiles (United States), Hannah Barnes (GB), Mavi Garcia (Spain), Juliette Labous (France), Susanne Andersen (Norway) and Christine Majerus (Luxembourg) joining her shortly afterward.
With so many nations in the escape, no single team committed to the chase in the bunch behind, letting the group gain around two minutes.
Germany, Great Britain and Italy all kept toward the front of the bunch as the Dutch squad remained relatively quiet a few wheels back, with reigning champ Van Vleuten riding with a heavy bandage on the wrist she fractured just eight days ago at the Giro Rosa.
It wasn’t until 50km to go on the race’s penultimate lap that the top favorites began to jostle when Niamh Fischer-Black (New Zealand) made a move to inject vigor into the race. As the peloton began to roar into life after the Kiwi’s skirmish, the gap to the breakaway tumbled and the group was caught on 40km to go.
With the escapees caught, the Dutch team turned on the afterburners. Vos set a searing pace heading into the climb of the Gallisterna before van Vleuten started hammering on the front, drawing out Van der Breggen, Longo Borghini, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Denmark), and Lizzie Deignan (Great Britain).
Van der Breggen made her move toward the top of the climb, pulling away from the front of the race as Longo Borghini, Deignan, Van Vleuten and Ludwig formed into a chase group. With Van Vleuten taking a free ride in the chasers thanks to her having a teammate up the road, the quartet failed to work well and the peloton behind began to close them down.
Van der Breggen brought her finest TT skills to play as she continued to extend her gap at the front of the race. Heading into the final 28km loop, she had pulled out over one minute of a gap over the remainder of the peloton, which had by now swallowed up the malfunctioning chase quartet.
Italy piled on the pressure in the peloton through the final lap as Van der Breggen continued to steadily tempo away up front. With only one climb remaining and Van der Breggen now uncatchable at nearly two minutes up the road, Great Britain began to take up the chase as they looked to set up a sprint for Deignan.
The attacks began flying in the chase group on the final climb of the Gallisterna just 12km from the line as riders looked to force a selection in the race for the podium. Lucy Kennedy (Australia) was first to accelerate, with Uttrup Ludwig, Deignan and Longo Borghini next to go before Van Vleuten bridged across. The Dutchwoman didn’t wait once she made contact, and rode straight off the front with Longo Borghini on her wheel.
Longo Borghini and Van Vleuten soon had a clear gap over the group behind and rode together into the final stretch of the Imola racetrack. The Italian led out a long sprint, however, Van Vleuten was able to squeeze between her and the barriers to nip the sprint for second-place with a bike throw.
Results will be available once stage has completed.