Emma Johansson (Sweden), world champion Marianne Vos (Netherlands) and Rossella Ratto (Italy)
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Dutch star leaves peloton in her wake
Since graduating to the elite ranks, Dutchwoman Marianne Vos has finished no lower than second place in the UCI road race world championships. Now with three elite road race rainbow jerseys to go with her five silver medals, Vos has shown herself to be a notch above the rest of the peloton. She is a figure who will go into the annals of cycling history as one of the most dominant racers on two wheels, male or female, but it was also the strength of her Dutch team which proved unbeatable.
In the women's road race in Florence, Italy, on Saturday, Vos had just one teammate in the leading group - her young trade teammate Anna van der Breggen - against a trio of Italians determined to claim victory on their home soil.
Van der Breggen marked the multiple attacks by Tatiana Guderzo, Rosella Ratto and Elisa Longo Borghini, keeping Vos in contact on the penultimate climb and then allowing her to be in a position to put in the winning blow on the short, steep ascent with 5km to go.
"She was so good," Vos said of van der Breggen's performance. "She did a great job to keep it together to give me an opportunity to attack on the last climb.
"Last year she did the same great job. She was the one we wanted to have in the final. Of course she can be good, but still - when we were there with two [of us] and three Italians and you have to react."
The sheer brilliance of Vos consistently leaves her competitors scratching their heads and wondering just what they have to do in order to match her power.
"She makes you finish the season and go home and train harder," fifth placed American Evelyn Stevens said. "[You ask yourself] what do we have to do to get to that level? She's raising the bar for women's cycling."
Silver medalist Emma Johansson has also been consistently near the top of the sport, but as is the case for everyone, she simply could not match the acceleration Vos put in on the climb.
"She's an amazing rider, and she's very hard to beat. I've done it a few times this year [notably in June's Emakumeen Euskal Bira -ed.], but today she was stronger. You can only say congratulations."
Her victory in Tuscany was Vos's 11th career elite world title: in addition to her three elite road race wins, she has six consecutive rainbow jerseys from cyclo-cross, and two on the track - one in the points race, one in the scratch race, plus two Olympic medals - her road race victory in London and a points race gold from Beijing.
Can Vos be the only rider in history, male or female, to claim a gold medal in three different cycling disciplines in the Olympic Games? It seems she has not given up on the idea of going for the mountain bike cross country title, even though she was unable to be a factor at the World Cup level this season.
Vos started out the year racing on the fat tires as a sort of diversion after a hard road season preparing for London, but it was clear from her press conference in Florence that she has bigger aspirations.
"It was great to do it this year. It was a fantastic experience in the beginning of season to do the training and races. I found I could be good enough to start in the World Cups," she said. "I still have a lot to learn. It's not that easy to step from one bike to another."
She said she intends to mix both road and mountain bike races in the future. "I will go on and try to find a way that is possible to combine those disciplines."
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