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The Elite Women are going to go to it today: 128.8km on a circuit course with two climbs, including the Cauberg. May the best woman win!
Welcome to the Elite Women's World Championship Road Race! The top women face off today to see who will take home the rainbow stripes.
And we join you just in time to see Robyn de Groot of South Africa take a tumble. She is fine, though.
Ouch, and now a mass crash. Hope everyone is ok.
The field had all been together, but that has broken things up.
Judith Arndt is one of those who got caught in the crash, as was Ellen Van Dijk.
The course is a 16 km circuit, roughly between Maastricht and Valkenburg, to be ridden eight times. It features two climbs, the Bernelerberg and, lurking near the end, the Cauberg.
That crash really blew up the field. It happened just about smack in the middle of the pack, and took down a lot of women. We now have a large-ish lead group and then lots of small groups and individuals giving chase.
We think that Arndt is in the lead group. She was actually so far at the back of the field that she wasn't caught in the crash. She ran around the side of things and scurried up to the front.
An American rider has now charged out of the lead group on the Bernlerberg.
It is Megan Guarnier, with a five second lead.
It is hard to figure out where everyone is at the moment, but we assume that Vos is in the front group, Van Dijk is nearly two minutes down already.
The Cauberg is, of course, by this time a familier sight. It has already been included in the team time trial and the individual time trial.
We understand that USA's Amber Neben is about a minute back, so that takes out one of the USA's biggest support riders.
Guarnier is back in the group, a large peloton together. Ina Yoko Teutenberg of Germany has punctured.
Pooley is in the lead group, as is Arndt, we now hear.
There is another reason the Cauberg might look familiar to the riders. It was featured in the last stage of the Brainwash Ladies Tour earlier this month, won by – who else? -- Marianne Vos.
And another USA rider was caught back by the crash: Shelly Olds, who is now bridging back to the lead group.
They now head up the Cauberg, with the Dutch leading the way.
Germany's Hanka Kupfernagel had lost time earlier, but is also back in the top group now.
Kupfernagel in fact was pushing the pace at the head of the field at the same time Teutenberg was struggling to come back to the field -- oooops!
It is a lovely sunny autumn day, no rain or wind.
Five laps to go, and Kristin McGrath leads the field over the start-finish line.
Teutenberg gets on the back of the field, just as a Dutch rider attacks off the front.
She is caught again. There is just a lot of cat-and-mouse, testing of legs going on right now.
Three riders with a slight lead at the moment, including Trixi Worrack of Germany. But the field moves on up to them.
The next attack! Also unsuccessful, but the pace has picked up.
The Dutch and Germans have controlled things much of the way so far.
Everyone together again and the speed has dropped -- for the moment.
So who is the favourite here? Without doubt, Vos, of the Netherlands. In her first Elite year, 2006, she won the World title on the road, but since then, she has finished second every single year. This year, she won the gold medal at the road race in the London Olympics – a sign that she will win again here?
A British rider now leading the field up the climb.
The riders are on the Bernerlerberg. We now hear that six riders have already abandoned.
And another Dutch attack!
Three or four riders together in the front, led by Teutenberg.
And now just the Dutch rider alone in the lead, but with a minimal gap.
All together again.
And the next attack: USA, Germany, Netherlands. The three nations who are so far dominating this race.
We now have a group of six in the lead, as the three leaders have been joined by riders from Belgium, Italy and Russia.
Pooley, Arndt, Vos, all together near the front of the field.
Four riders with a slight lead now: Noemi Cantele (Italy), Kristin McGrath (USA), Annemiek Van Vleuten (Netherlands) and Larisa Pankova (Russia).
Two more riders break out of the field, which is looking a bit disorganized at the moment.
A group of ten in the lead, as Cantele leads the way over the start-finish line yet again.
That group was: Cantele (Italy), McGrath (USA), Pankova (Russia), Becker (Germany), Laws (GB), Van Vleuten (Netherlands), De Vocht (Belgium), Tagliaferro (Italy), Boroviechenko (Ukraine) and Brzezna-Bentkowska (Poland).
But now they have been caught.
GB and USA leading the way. Vos doesn't like that and makes a move to the front, just to remind everyone she is there.
Vos' palmares are almost overwhelming, especially when you consider that she is only 25. Here is a selection of her wins: Giro d'Italia Femiminile (twice), with 10 stage wins; Olympic and World road race; national road (four times) and time trial (twice) titles; the UCI women's World Cup (four times); and a whole long list of stage and one-day races.
And once more up the Bernerlerberg!
Still a very large group together.
Italy attacks, with a USA right behind her. Now five riders with a slight lead.
Neben is the USA rider, we also have Italy, Australia, Germany and the Netherlands.
Rossella Ratto (Italy), Charlotte Becker (Germany) and Rachel Neylan (Australia) are in the group, with Neben and Anna Van Der Breggen of Netherlands.
They now have a gap of 25 seconds. Adrie Visser of the Netherlands is trying to join them.
Visser has been caught. The peloton has picked up its speed but the gap is still at 28 seconds.
Neben suggests one of the others do some lead work....
We had 132 women at the start today, from 37 different countries. Team sizes range from eight (Italy, Netherlands and USA), to a number of one-woman teams. The latter include Saint Kitts and Nevis, San Marino, Guam, Turkey and Israel.
Three laps to go, and we have a gap of about 28 seconds.
The gap holding steady at 30 seconds.
The gap is in fact creeping up, nearly 40 seconds now!
French and Belgian rider are attacking out of the field, getting away only slowly.
Neben continues to do much of the lead work in the break group.
The gap is now down to 22 seconds.
But we also hear that the gap is 40 seconds....which source should we trust?
The Dutch are still controlling the peloton.
Van Der Breggen is not doing any lead work in the break group, simply sitting on the back.
This year alone Vos has 19 wins, more than anyone else, including: national and world cyclo-cross champion, UCI Women's Road World Cup, Ronde van Drenthe, Trofeo Alfredo Binda, overall title, points ranking and five stages at the Giro d'Italia Femminile, the Olympic road race, GP de Plouay, and the Brainwash Ladies Tour.
The field hits the top of the Bernerlerberg about 37 seconds after the leaders.
The peloton rides into the feed zone as the leaders leave it.
And a French rider hits the road, but bounces right back up.
Sandrine Bideau now has to scurry to catch the field agian.
At the last intermediate time check, we had a large group 41 seconds down. Any one not in that group has no chance, as behind them most of the times are over four minutes back.
26 riders have abandoned so far, including Emilia Fahlin and Ellen Van Dink and Loes Gunnewijk, the latter two from the Netherlands. That is not good news for Vos.
The break is preparing to tackle the Cauberg once again.
Vos attacks on the climb!
No one can go with her, although we see someone distantly behind her.
Vos has caught the lead group. The other chaser was Elisa Longo Borghini of Italy who is also with the group now.
Pooley takes off in pursuit as well.
Two laps to go. Johannson (Sweden), Pooley (GB), De Vocht (Belgium), Van Vleuten (Netherlands), Bronzini (Italy), Cromwell (Australia) and Kozonchuk (Russia) are 15 seconds down, with the field at 22.
A mechanical for Worrack. Kupfernagel drops back to help her.
Worrack throws her bike to the ground and jumps on a new one from the team car.
Sveral Germans have fallen back to help bring Worrack back up.
The gap has rocketed! 53 seconds to the chaser, and over a minute to the field.
The group with Pooley was caught and now the only chaser is Russia's Pankova.
We would say this seven-woman group has good chances to take the medals.
They are 1:34 ahead of Pankova.
The field is at 1:56.
Van Der Breggen didn't do any work in the group earlier, but now that her captain is there, things have changed. Neben, who did so much work earlier, is taking it easier now.
19 km to go. Over the Cauberg, and then one more lap of the course....
Vos attacks at the foot of the Cauberg. Only Longo Borghini can go with her.
But Neyland moves up to join them. Becker has dropped back and the other three fight their way up.
Neben pulls the other two riders up with her towars the three leaders. Ratto can't keep up.
Neben and Van der Bruggen are nearly on to the lead group. That would be a great advantage to Vos.
They come to the finish line for the penultimate time. Ratto is at 22 seconds, and Becker at 44 seconds.
Vos is absolutely determined to win this race.
We have stil not heard that the peloton has crossed the finish line to start the final lap.
Ah,speak of the devil. There they are, at 2:57. Yup, that ship has sailed!
Vos is leading the group now. She is not going to leave anything to chance.
The two Dutch women are in the first two place, and don't even ask the other three to take turns.
Up the Bemelerberg for the last time.
The question, of course, is whether the Dutch women are doing too much at the moment. Their rivals are saving up their strength for the finale.
7.5km to go. Longo Borghini seems to want something from one of the cars.
Will Vos be able to pull it off, and once again take the gold medal, after so many silvers?
Vos at the front of the group, Van Der Breggen at the end of it.
Now Van Der Bruggen leading, then Neben, then Vos.
Not much longer until the final climb up the Cauberg.
Van Der Breggen leads the group into Valkenburg, and soon they will start climbing. Who will be the first to attack?
Neyland goes, follosed by Vos and Longo Borghini. Vos takes off!
The italian had already dropped back and falls further back. Neben and Van Der Breggen are way back, too.
Vos charges along with one goal in mind. She hits the top, with Neyland some meters back.
Neben is fighting her way up to Longo Borghini.
The home crowd is of course carrying Vos along, who now has a huge gap.
Final km for Vos!
A most impressive performance today by Vos.
She has enough of a lead to cross teh road and grab a Dutch flag. She raises her arms and the flag with meters to go and takes the title of World Champion!
Neylan takes second and Longo Borghini third.
Van Den Breggan celebrates as she crosses the finish line. She certainly did her part in ensuring Vos' victory, and deserves much credit.
We now see the peloton. Arndt and Pooley look like they want to fight it out for the honour of winning the sprint of the chase group.
Last km for the group with Pooley and Arndt., as Ratto crosses the finish line in sixth place.
The peloton has now splittered and will cross the line in a series of groups.
Villumsen takes seventh place, with Arndt right behind her, all 4:37 down.
Congratulations to Vos, who showed her absolute dominance. What a relief it must be to her to have finally taken the top spot.
It is a stunning year for the 25-year-old Dutch woman, who is also World cyclo-cross champion and of course also Olympic champion on the road.
The top five in the 2012 World Road Race:
1 Marianne Vos (Netherlands) 3:14:29
2 Rachel Neylan (Australia) 0:00:10
3 Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy) 0:00:18
4 Amber Neben (United States of America) 0:00:33
5 Anna Van Der Breggen (Netherlands) 0:00:55
That was it for today! Thanks for reading along, and be sure to join us again tomorrow for the men's road race.