Italy's Tatiana Guderzo smiled happily on the podium after finishing third behind Anna van der Breggen and Australia Amanda Spratt in the elite women's road race, proud to have secured a medal for Italy at the UCI Road World Championships, reviving memories of when she won the world title in Mendrisio in 2009.
"This bronze medal is as special and shimmers just as bright my Mendrisio gold medal," Guderzo said happily after the podium ceremony.
"I didn't expect his. I hoped and believed that the Italian team could ride well a get a medal but I honestly didn't think I'd be the one to do it."
Now 34, Guderzo was the road captain and role model for her younger Italian teammates but stepped up to fight for a medal after the tough Innsbruck circuit shook out the peloton and Anna van der Breggen made her 40km solo attack to win by over three minutes.
After young teammate Elena Pirrone's chase group was caught, Guderzo attacked on the final climb and gave her all in a 15km time trial to the finish. She finished 5:26 down on Van der Breggen but was 47 seconds ahead of Emilia Fahlin (Sweden) who finished fourth.
Only 81 riders finished, the last more than 23 minutes down. 68 riders failed to finish the tough 155km race.
"I think this was a very hard Worlds for everyone," Guderzo said.
"I had cramp with two laps to go and honestly thought I'd get dropped and would need to ease up. But I dug deep to hang on to convince my teammates to fight on. I placed myself as well as I could and then saw the Canadian rider attacked and so knew I had to help again by chasing the moves. That lead me to suffer all the way to the finish."
Guderzo finished third in the 2004 world championships in Verona and has always been loyal to the Italian team, helping national coach Dario Savoldi develop a generation of successful female riders who have outshone the Italian men year after year.
Guderzo started the season with the Hitec Products team, but switched to the Italian Bepink team in July, and she worked hard to be at her best for Innsbruck.
"It's been a hard season for me. I lost my grandfather and a lot of things stopped me being at my best," she revealed.
"After 16 years of racing for him, Italian coach Dino Savoldi knows how much I love being part of the Italian team and how much I love pulling on the Italian Azzurra jersey.
"He knows I'm ready to die for the Italian team. He also knows how much I've worked in the last six weeks even if there weren't the results to show it. Today I died time and time again with each kilometre as I fought for the bronze medal but it was worth it."
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