Amber Neben (USA) stunned the women's time trial field at the UCI Road World Championships in Doha, claiming the rainbow bands at the age of 41, a full eight years on from her first world time trial title won in 2008 in Varese, Italy.
As was the case with 43-year-old Kristin Amstrong’s Olympic time trial victory in Rio this summer, the winner was an American and the oldest rider in the field, as Neben clocked 36:37.04 on the sinous 28.9km on Doha’s 'Pearl' island.
Ellen van Dijk (Netherlands), the current European champion and a former 2013 world champion herself, was a close second at six seconds, with Australia's Katrin Garfoot finishing eight seconds down to take the bronze medal, having finished just outside the podium in Richmond last year.
Neben was in the second wave of riders, and had to wait a full 90 minutes before the last rider crossed the line ensuring her time stood as fastest.
"It's so unbelievable. My heart hasn't stopped beating since I finished," Neben said.
"It was a long wait – I think I used more energy sitting there waiting than I did on the bike. I was so nervous, it was so hard to watch. I feel for Ellen, but at the same time I'm so excited to be able to hold on.
Neben produced an assured ride in the Qatar heat, steadily turning over a big gear at a low cadence, and compared to some of the riders she was on the road with at the same time, including Trixi Worrack and Annemiek van Vleuten, her split times indicated that she was doing something special.
The final batch of riders was where the true danger lied, and Neben twitched uncomfortably in the hotseat when pre-race favourite Van Dijk beat her time at the second intermediate checkpoint after 13.7km.
Garfoot was a constant threat, too, as was Olympic silver medallist Olga Zabelinskaya, though the Russian faded markedly in the final portion of the course, as has been the case with so many riders here.
"The difference, I think, was the mental perseverance, to have that extra power to finish strong," Neben said. "Traditionally I am a pretty steady rider, I'm not real fast in the beginning so I try to just sustain it and be steady."
It was clear from quite early on that Olympic bronze medallist Anna van der Breggen was not having the best of days, compounding the Dutch disappointment after Annemiek Van Vleuten had to kill her speed on approach to a roundabout as Phetdarin Somrat failed to move over when she was being caught. The Thai rider, who had missed her start time due to a mechanical on the start ramp, was disqualified, capping a thoroughly miserable day.
Van der Breggen was the last rider out on the course, and only when she crossed the line could Neben, who had just watched Germany's Lisa Brennaeur finish almost minute back, engage in celebration.
The American, who served a doping ban in 2003 for unintentional ingestion of a banned product, claimed her first World Championships time trial title in Varese back in 2008 but this one tasted even sweeter.
"I think this one is more special because of everything that's happened between 2008 and now," she said. "There have been so many things I've had to persevere through. Just the struggle and being resilient and persevering, getting up and not giving up. I'm speechless."
|#||Rider Name (Country)||Result|
|1||Amber Neben (United States Of America)||0:36:37.04|
|2||Ellen Van Dijk (Netherlands)||0:00:05.99|
|3||Katrin Garfoot (Australia)||0:00:08.32|
|4||Olga Zabelinskaya (Russian Federation)||0:00:11.52|
|5||Annemiek Van Vleuten (Netherlands)||0:00:25.79|
|6||Lisa Brennauer (Germany)||0:00:57.59|
|7||Trixi Worrack (Germany)||0:01:11.14|
|8||Ann-Sophie Duyck (Belgium)||0:01:27.96|
|9||Katarzyna Pawlowska (Poland)||0:01:36.49|
|10||Alena Amialiusik (Belarus)||0:01:41.59|
|11||Lotta Lepisto (Finland)||0:01:57.00|
|12||Carmen Small (United States Of America)||0:02:02.15|
|13||Anna Van Der Breggen (Netherlands)||0:02:11.26|
|14||Hannah Barnes (Great Britain)||0:02:23.33|
|15||Elena Cecchini (Italy)||0:02:30.28|
|16||Emilia Fahlin (Sweden)||0:02:30.40|
|17||Julie Leth (Denmark)||0:02:31.71|
|18||Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (South Africa)||0:02:45.92|
|19||Karol-Ann Canuel (Canada)||0:02:48.62|
|20||Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Denmark)||0:02:53.51|
|21||Eri Yonamine (Japan)||0:03:01.79|
|22||Audrey Cordon (France)||0:03:14.58|
|23||Olena Pavlukhina (Azerbaijan)||0:03:21.20|
|24||Olga Shekel (Ukraine)||0:03:28.05|
|25||Hayley Simmonds (Great Britain)||0:03:47.18|
|26||Valeriya Kononenko (Ukraine)||0:03:58.87|
|27||Anastasiia Iakovenko (Russian Federation)||0:04:02.19|
|28||Anna Turvey (Ireland)||0:04:14.85|
|29||Nicole Hanselmann (Switzerland)||0:04:15.13|
|30||Sheyla Gutierrez Ruiz (Spain)||0:04:55.32|
|31||Varvara Fasoi (Greece)||0:05:09.59|
|32||Samantha Sanders (South Africa)||0:05:55.31|
|33||Mossana Debesai (Eritrea)||0:06:53.51|
|34||Ebtissam Mohamed (Egypt)||0:08:15.53|
|35||Wehazit Kidane (Eritrea)||0:08:56.92|
|36||Hong Guo (People's Republic of China)||0:09:42.89|
|37||Jiajun Sun (People's Republic of China)||0:10:13.91|
|38||Najla Aljeraiwi (Kuweit)||0:10:19.49|
|39||Beatha Ingabire (Rwanda)||0:13:25.25|
|40||Nada Aljeraiwi (Kuweit)||0:15:10.15|
|DSQ||Phetdarin Somrat (Thailand)|