Women's road race podium (L-R): Rachel Neylan (Australia), Marianne Vos (Netherlands) and Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy)
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Vos is the best in the world and the strongest today, said bronze medalist
Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy) was brutally honest in her assessment of her chances in the women's road race world championship, taken by Marianne Vos with such dominance it left almost no opportunity for anybody to do much more than fight for the honour of standing beside the Dutchwoman.
"Marianne was the strongest today and she's the best in the world," Longo, who netted the bronze, said afterwards. "She showed that she deserved this win, but I'm not afraid of her, and I tried my best. Getting a result like this in any case, is wonderful for me, a big success."
Luckily unaffected by the early mass crash that saw a large number of riders go down - although most were uninjured - Longo said, "Once the break formed, we knew that Marianne would try to get across at some point. Then when she attacked, I tried to follow her on the Cauberg, but she was too strong. Her pace was too much for me and I was really running out of energy."
"It wasn't a big surprise that she bridged across," added silver medalist Rachel Neylan, "but with two Dutch and two Italians in the break it wasn't my job to do the work. I was there for [Australian team leader] Tiffany Cromwell, but with two laps to go I got the all clear to finish it off."
2011 saw Neylan have two major accidents, breaking her pelvis twice in crashes. Then after what has been a tough 2012 season, too, ended with a slightly unexpected call-up to the Australian team for Neyland and a debut ride in a World's squad, she said she felt "surprised, proud and delighted to be here. Australia has a big talent pool so to be able to represent my country at this level is really something.
"I did my job to the best of my abilities, I covered the breaks until the time came for me to focus on a result for myself."
One of the squads that lost out badly in the race was Great Britain, with pre-race favourite Emma Pooley missing the crucial break. Pooley was strongly self-critical after the race, saying bluntly, "I messed up."
"It was disappointing, a disappointment," Pooley said. "I had great support from my teammates but when Vos went I was a bit boxed in and didn't have the legs to go with her.
"I was even in the right place but when she's gone she's gone, so I messed up there. The gap went up pretty quickly so it was entirely my mistake.
"We didn't have the kind of team to chase that back, and I never planned to. The idea was to go with Vos, and I couldn't. The other [GB] riders had done their work keeping me at the front and keeping me safe, so I'm really sorry I let them down."
Pooley - who has not yet decided whether she will take a year out from the sport, as she has suggested earlier this month - said she was involved in the big crash early on and had hurt her back. "It's not a very good excuse but I was not feeling at my best. That kind of thing happens in races."
She said that Vos's win was "not unexpected, congratulations to her. I'm not saying I'd have beaten her, but not being in that break was a big mistake on my part."
As for the circuit itself, she said, "It's got some climbing in but it's not as tough as it seems on paper. It's got the Cauberg in it, but the climb round the back is really pretty easy. So that made it faster."
Vos's Dutch teammates, on the other hand, were understandably ecstatic. "It's been a great day," Adrie Visser told Cyclingnews. "I really enjoyed it all, it went how we planned, it was perfect.
"Nobody could stop Marianne, and the whole team did really good, Anna [Van Der Breggen] was amazing. A great day, a historical day, to win on home soil is something very special.
"The Olympics was a lot of pressure, but winning here in Holland was also a lot of pressure too for Marianne, and she did it again."
As for Vos bridging across, "I asked her if she needed us to do anything, because when she goes she's hard to follow, so I went a bit harder on the Bemelerberg [climb] and then Lucinda [Brand, teammate] went after that and then Marianne went. This is how we planned, it's easy when you can plan it and it all works. A great day for women's cycling - again!"
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