A class apart throughout the 2011 season, Marianne Vos (Netherlands) once again suffered heartache on the sport's biggest stage in Copenhagen on Saturday. For the fifth consecutive year, the Dutchwoman stood on the second step of the podium at the UCI Road World Championships after being pipped in the sprint in the elite women's road race by Giorgia Bronzini (Italy).
Vos, who won the world title in her first season as an elite rider in 2006, could scarcely hide her frustration on crossing the line and admitted afterwards that she was a little too hesitant in launching her sprint against the defending champion Bronzini.
"I didn't believe it was possible to get five silvers in a row," Vos said. "I made a mistake not to go in the sprint. It was a bit late, and when I started the sprint I think it was close but not enough."
Nontheless, Vos insisted that Bronzini had been the strongest rider on the day. "Giorgia is a fantastic sprinter, she won in a great way. Of course you think back about whether you made a mistake in the sprint, but I didn't. She was the best."
The race itself was a dour, tactical affair that was locked in stalemate until Canada's Clara Hughes gamely upped the ante with a solo move three laps from the finish. Vos explained that the nature of the course meant that the Dutch squad had little option but to pin their hopes on a bunch finish, and that her teammates had patrolled the race to that end.
"It was a perfect race for us," she said. "We knew it was going to be hard to get away in a small group or alone, so we tried to stay in front with all the team. We were prepared for a bunch sprint, and they placed me in a perfect position at 150 metres."
Vos won the Giro Donne, Flèche Wallone and Ronde Van Drenthe in a glittering road season, as well as world titles in cyclo-cross and on the track. Consequently, she was strongly fancied to take the rainbow jersey in Copenhagen. She said that while there was a certain pressure to being so strongly fancied to take the rainbow jersey, she saw it as an inspiration rather than a burden.
"It's the world championships. There's always a lot of pressure in that race. That's what you do it for, you race for the big races and it's great to do the world championships for your country," Vos said. "Of course when everybody in the team does the work for you, you want to end it perfectly. That's a bit of pressure. But it's also great to have and after this season, I was sort of used to it."
Vos's silver medal continues a remarkable sequence that began when she won the junior road race in 2004 and then took silver in the same event the following year. She instantly won the rainbow jersey on stepping up to the senior ranks in 2006, before her current run of near misses began in Stuttgart 12 months later.