Elite Women road race: Montecatini Terme - Florence
Her rivals lined up to ask questions of her in the finale of the elite women's world championships road race, but Marianne Vos (Netherlands) provided an emphatic answer with a clinical attack the last time up the climb of Via Salviati.
Vos had a lead of just five seconds over Emma Johansson (Sweden) and Rosella Ratto (Italy) when she crested the summit with 3.5 kilometres to go, but that was all she needed to claim her second successive world road race title, and her third in total.
The Dutchwoman showed strength and poise to fend off the pursuers through the streets of Florence, and had time to savour her victory as she crossed the line, while Johansson out-sprinted Ratto for second place 15 seconds later.
"Of course it's great to defend the title. They say always it's hard to win one, but to do it two in a row it's even more difficult," Vos said. "It was especially with such strong competition, the Italians were very strong today, they made it a tough race."
It was perhaps the manner of Vos' single attack, rather than her margin at the top of the final climb, that broke the resistance of the elite group that had formed at the front on the penultimate lap of the demanding Florence circuit.
When Vos took the bell for the final lap, she had just Anna van der Breggen for company in a group that included the Italian trio of Rosella Ratto, Tatiana Guderzo and Elisa Longo Borghini, Emma Johansson (Sweden), Evelyn Stevens (USA), Tiffany Cromwell (Australia), Linda Villumsen (New Zealand), Claudia Hausler (Germany) and Tatiana Antoshina (Russia).
On the long haul up to Fiesole, the penultimate climb on the circuit, Guderzo and Longo Borghini took turns to attack for Italy, while Cromwell and later Stevens put in fierce digs closer to the summit. Seemingly unmoved, Vos simply feathered the pedals in the heart of the group, while her teammate van der Breggen diligently tracked the moves at the front.
Stevens tried again on the steep wall of Via Salviati, before Johansson – who had wisely allowed the Dutch, Americans and Italians dictate affairs for much of the afternoon – finally showed her hand midway up the climb.
Johansson's move shattered the leading group, but it also had the effect of stirring Vos into action. The Dutchwoman edged her way up to Johansson's shoulder and then kicked fiercely as the gradient stiffened. Vos immediately opened a small gap, but such was the purpose behind her move that it already seemed unbridgeable.
Behind, Johansson and Ratto had battled their way clear of the remnants of the leading group, which was now strewn across the hillside. Johansson, in particular, fought to breathe life into the chase, but with Ratto unwilling to contribute to the chase, she was reliant on an error from Vos if she was to have any hope of catching her.
No such error was forthcoming, and Vos even stretched out her advantage as she entered the final kilometre. By that point Johansson was resigned to her fate and, reluctant to tow Ratto to the silver medal, she sat up, all but confirming Vos' second consecutive world title.
While Italy had the greatest strength in numbers in the selection that ultimately decided the destination of the rainbow jersey, the Dutch had the greater strength in depth. Van der Breggen performed her supporting role to perfection – raising and lowering the pace as necessary, and dutifully tracking the vital moves – and she even summoned up the strength to jump clear for fourth place on the day, while Evelyn Stevens took fifth, just ahead of Villumsen, Guderzo and Longo Borghini.
How it unfolded
Low Autumn sunshine and pleasant temperatures greeted the peloton as it rolled out of Montecatini Terme, and the racing was similarly benign on the run-in to the finishing circuit in Florence, with most riders eager to save their legs for the five demanding laps around Fiesole and Via Salviati.
Once on the circuit, the American and Italian teams were conspicuous in controlling affairs at the head of the peloton. Their tempo was gradually dropping riders from the rear of the bunch every time the road went uphill and with three laps to go the leading group had been whittled down to 30 or so riders.
"They started already at beginning of the circuit, but then we knew this was going to be a hard five laps," Vos said of the American forcing. "But it was a really good race from the Dutch team. They gave me the opportunity to keep us as quiet as possible in the bunch until the last lap."
Tiffany Cromwell (Australia) ignited the racing in earnest on the third to last lap when she hurtled after Lucinda Brand (Netherlands) on the descent of Fiesole. Although she was pegged back shortly afterwards, Cromwell was undeterred and remained an aggressive presence every time the road plunged downhill.
On the penultimate lap the climb of Fiesole forced another selection, with Stevens and van der Breggen's pressing shedding a number of riders, including Lizzie Armitstead (Great Britain) and Giorgia Bronzini (Italy), from the leading group. When Ratto followed up on Via Salviati, the leading group was whittled down to just eleven riders as they approached the final lap.
The three Italian riders deliberated on the front as they came through the finish line for the penultimate time, and they duly set about probing Vos as soon as the road climbed towards Fiesole. But as is so often the case, Vos had the final word.
|1||Marianne Vos (Netherlands)||3:44:00|
|2||Emma Johansson (Sweden)||0:00:15|
|3||Rossella Ratto (Italy)|
|4||Anna van der Breggen (Netherlands)||0:00:33|
|5||Evelyn Stevens (United States of America)||0:00:46|
|6||Linda Melanie Villumsen (New Zealand)||0:00:50|
|7||Tatiana Guderzo (Italy)||0:00:52|
|8||Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy)|
|9||Tiffany Cromwell (Australia)||0:01:40|
|10||Tatiana Antoshina (Russian Federation)|
|11||Elena Kuchinskaya (Russian Federation)||0:02:41|
|12||Claudia Häusler (Germany)||0:03:34|
|13||Pauline Ferrand Prevot (France)||0:04:20|
|14||Megan Guarnier (United States of America)||0:04:41|
|15||Annemiek Van Vleuten (Netherlands)||0:05:03|
|16||Eleonora Van Dijk (Netherlands)|
|17||Paulina Brzezna (Poland)|
|18||Maja Wloszczowska (Poland)||0:05:05|
|19||Elizabeth Armitstead (Great Britain)||0:05:28|
|20||Trixi Worrack (Germany)|
|21||Eugenia Bujak (Poland)|
|22||Ashleigh Moolman (South Africa)|
|23||Flavia Oliveira (Brazil)|
|24||Francesca Cauz (Italy)||0:05:30|
|25||Carlee Taylor (Australia)|
|26||Giorgia Bronzini (Italy)||0:05:35|
|27||Lucinda Brand (Netherlands)||0:06:44|
|28||Valentina Scandolara (Italy)||0:07:40|
|29||Jolanda Neff (Switzerland)|
|30||Oxana Kozonchuk (Russian Federation)|
|31||Shara Gillow (Australia)|
|32||Kristin McGrath (United States of America)|
|33||Karol-Ann Canuel (Canada)|
|34||Edwige Pitel (France)|
|35||Doris Schweizer (Switzerland)||0:07:46|
|36||Tetyana Riabchenko (Ukraine)||0:08:51|
|37||Mara Abbott (United States of America)||0:09:40|
|38||Miriam Bjørnsrud (Norway)||0:12:09|
|39||Liesbet De Vocht (Belgium)|
|40||Eri Yonamine (Japan)|
|41||Susanna Zorzi (Italy)|
|42||Inga Cilvinaite (Lithuania)|
|43||Anastasiya Chulkova (Russian Federation)||0:13:00|
|44||Andrea Dvorak (United States of America)|
|45||Eivgenia Vysotska (Ukraine)|
|46||Anna Sanchis Chafer (Spain)|
|DNF||Noemi Cantele (Italy)|
|DNF||Hanna Solovey (Ukraine)|
|DNF||Audrey Cordon (France)|
|DNF||Madelene Olsson (Sweden)|
|DNF||Joanne Kiesanowski (New Zealand)|
|DNF||Natalia Boyarskaya (Russian Federation)|
|DNF||Lorena Maria Vargas Villamil (Colombia)|
|DNF||Maaike Polspoel (Belgium)|
|DNF||Reta Trotman (New Zealand)|
|DNF||Enkhjargal Tuvshinjargal (Mongolia)|
|DNF||Cecilie Gotaas Johnsen (Norway)|
|DNF||Paz Bash (Israel)|
|DNF||Uenia Fernandes Da Souza (Brazil)|
|DNF||Aude Biannic (France)|
|DNF||Amanda Spratt (Australia)|
|DNF||Elise Delzenne (France)|
|DNF||Olivia Dillon (Ireland)|
|DNF||Melanie Späth (Ireland)|
|DNF||Ingrid Lorvik (Norway)|
|DNF||Julie Leth (Denmark)|
|DNF||Daiva Tuslaite (Lithuania)|
|DNF||Diana Peñuela (Colombia)|
|DNF||Agne Silinyte (Lithuania)|
|DNF||Špela Kern (Slovenia)|
|DNF||Malgorzta Jasinska (Poland)|
|DNF||Patricia Schwager (Switzerland)|
|DNF||Lex Albrecht (Canada)|
|DNF||Romy Kasper (Germany)|
|DNF||Lisa Brennauer (Germany)|
|DNF||Leah Kirchmann (Canada)|
|DNF||Ane Santesteban Gonzalez (Spain)|
|DNF||Denise Ramsden (Canada)|
|DNF||Polona Batagelj (Slovenia)|
|DNF||Ursa Pintar (Slovenia)|
|DNF||Carolina Rodriguez Gutierrez (Mexico)|
|DNF||Amy Cure (Australia)|
|DNF||Gracie Elvin (Australia)|
|DNF||Christine Majerus (Luxembourg)|
|DNF||Annelies Van Doorslaer (Belgium)|
|DNF||Sofie De Vuyst (Belgium)|
|DNF||Esther Fennel (Germany)|
|DNF||Andrea Graus (Austria)|
|DNF||Martina Ritter (Austria)|
|DNF||Daniela Pintarelli (Austria)|
|DNF||Sara Mustonen (Sweden)|
|DNF||Joelle Numainville (Canada)|
|DNF||Amy Pieters (Netherlands)|
|DNF||Minami Ueno (Japan)|
|DNF||Ana Fagua (Colombia)|
|DNF||Lilibeth Chacon Garcia (Venezuela)|
|DNF||Belen Lopez Morales (Spain)|
|DNF||Vita Heine (Latvia)|
|DNF||Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Poland)|
|DNF||Sari Saarelainen (Finland)|
|DNF||Ingrid Drexel (Mexico)|
|DNF||Jessie Daams (Belgium)|
|DNF||Kirsten Wild (Netherlands)|
|DNF||Katie Colclough (Great Britain)|
|DNF||Nikki Harris (Great Britain)|
|DNF||Loes Gunnewijk (Netherlands)|
|DNF||Lelizaveta Oshurkova (Ukraine)|
|DNF||Silvija Latozaite (Lithuania)|
|DNF||Ivanna Borovychenko (Ukraine)|
|DNF||Katarzyna Pawlowska (Poland)|
|DNF||Lauren Kitchen (Australia)|
|DNF||Martina Ruzickova (Czech Republic)|
|DNF||Ana Teresa Casas Bonilla (Mexico)|
|DNF||Edith Guillen (Costa Rica)|
|DNF||Diána Szurominé Pulsfort (Hungary)|
|DNF||Nontasin Chanpeng (Thailand)|
|DNF||Jutatip Maneephan (Thailand)|
|DNF||Antonela Ferencic (Croatia)|
|DNF||Clemilda Fernandes Silva (Brazil)|
|DNF||Supaksorn Nuntana (Thailand)|
|DNF||Kathryn Bertine (Saint Kitts and Nevis)|
|DNF||Véronique Fortin (Canada)|
|DNF||Katazina Sosna (Lithuania)|
|DNF||Christel Ferrier-Bruneau (France)|
|DNF||Emilia Fahlin (Sweden)|
|DNF||Jessica Kihlbom (Sweden)|
|DNF||Céline Van Severen (Belgium)|
|DNF||Svetlana Stolbova (Russian Federation)|
|DNF||Hanna Nilsson (Sweden)|
|DNF||Martina Thomasson (Sweden)|
|DNF||Elke Gebhardt (Germany)|
|DNF||Karen Doljak (Paraguay)|
|DNF||Carmen Small (United States of America)|
|DNF||Jade Wilcoxson (United States of America)|
|DNF||Lucy Garner (Great Britain)|
|DNF||Emily Collins (New Zealand)|
|DNF||Tereza Trefná (Czech Republic)|
|DNF||Lotta Lepistö (Finland)|
|DNF||Samah Khaled (Jordan)|
|DNF||Cindi Magali Dinatale (Argentina)|
|DNF||Dragana Kovacevic (Serbia)|
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