It wasn't so much a case of 'So long, Marianne' as 'How long, Marianne?' Since turning professional in 2006, Marianne Vos had never finished outside the top two in the World Championships road race, but all week in Ponferrada, the speculation was that her remarkable sequence might be about to come to an end.
Though Vos did not seize the initiative on the Mirador as she did so memorably on the Cauberg and Via Salviati in the past two years, she did have the wherewithal to follow when Armitstead and Johansson's forcing near the summit led to the formation of what seemed destined to be the winning move.
Afterwards, Armitstead was critical of Vos and Johansson's respective contributions on the front as the road flattened out on the approach to the final kilometre. It was, Vos explained, a question of mind-set – rather than ride to secure a ninth successive podium place, she staked everything on a fourth rainbow jersey.
"If I had to start the sprint, then Armistead would have been stronger, perhaps," Vos said. "I was riding for a world title, not for a medal. That's how it is, and we have to live with it."
Vos being Vos, of course, her challenge didn't end there. When the four leaders were swept up in the finishing straight, she immediately positioned herself for the sprint. In another gamble, she opened her effort from distance, but once Ferrand-Prévot came past, she slowed up and rolled home in 10th place.
"That's cycling. That's part of the game," Vos said. "There comes a time when such a sequence comes to an end. But I would have preferred to have postponed it for another year."