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UCI Road World Championships 2018: Women's Elite Road Race


Good morning, and welcome to Innsbruck, Austria. It's Saturday morning and the final weekend at the UCI Road World Championships. That can mean only one thing, the women's elite road race. The start is just under an hour away and riders are signing on and warming up in the autumn sunshine. Ahead of the peloton 179.9km of tough, demanding racing. We should be in for another thrilling race.

We've an incredible start list on show this morning but it's hard to look beyond the Dutch - at least at the start of the race - such is their calibre and depth. If they get their tactics right then they're the team to beat. You can find our start list, right here.

In terms of individual riders we have to start with Annemiek van Vleuten. She's been so dominant this year, including her win in the TT earlier in the week and then of course GC wins at the Giro, Boels Tour, and although she wasn't all-conquering at the Classics, she is the rider to beat today. However, she could also act as a perfect foil for one of her teammates  - as she did last year. Think Boonen & Devolder in Flanders as another comparison. 

Anna Van Der Breggen came out on top in Liege Bastogne Liege, Fleche Wallonne, Strade Bianche and the Tour of Flanders this year. She's still chasing her first rainbow jersey - incredible when you think about the one-day success that she has had. The Olympic champion finished second in the time trial earlier in the week, so the form is there. The main question is whether she can take this chance. Here's what she said last night at the Dutch press conference: 




We're about 30 minutes away from the official start of the race. Now is the perfect chance to watch our 10 riders to watch video. Here it is.

We have to give credit and attention to the rest of the field. This isn't just going to be a Dutch procession - fingers crossed - and in Amanda Spratt, Australia have a genuine contender for a medal. 

Ashleigh Moolman leads the charge for South Africa and Cyclingnews bloggers everywhere. The 32 year old is one of the best specialist climbers in the world. She's finished second a bunch of times this season but is always incredibly consistent. She only has one teammate in the race, so that means she'll have to surf the wheels and really pick her moment because going up against the Dutch and Italian is going to be super hard for a rider with limited support. 

The Italian team arrive here with decent hopes of a medal, and they've a strong team. In Elisa Longo Borghini they have a rider who hasn't hit the high notes too often this year, she's had injuries, but remains a class act. She was third in the Olympics in 2016 and won Strade Bianche a year later and next year she will be part of the Trek team. Here's the Italian squad for today's race. 

Just over ten minutes to go until we roll out from the start. It's overcast out on the course at the moment but the forecast is for sun later. We've had near-perfect conditions all week so far, so hopefully we're in for another good day. 

Before the start, shall we hear from last year's winner and the defending champion? Cyclingnews' Sadhbh O'Shea spoke to Blaak last night at the Dutch team press conference. Here's what she had to say:

More from Blaak:

How do the Dutch approach the race? You are the major favourites, again.

It is a hard position but we have to do it because you cannot ride the race for silver. It is possible that we lose it but we are only riding for gold and that position is clear. It’s difficult.

It didn’t go to plan in Glasgow, did you learn from that?

We learned a lot from that and we talked about it, so for sure that won’t happen tomorrow. We are all motivated so I think it will work out.

Who are the toughest challengers?

There is Kasia Niewiadoma, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, Longo Borghini can also go quite far. I think that there will also be some surprises because there are always girls that you don’t see, maybe because they do mountain biking, so I think it’s very clear. In a race like Bergen, you can ride tactically and maybe you can do something here but, for sure, the best climbers will be there in the end.

We've not mentioned Katarzyna Niewiadoma but as Blaak brought her up, it's probably a good time to mention the Canyon rider. Another strong climber, she was third at the Tour of California, won at Binda and recently claimed the overall title at the Tour Cycliste Féminin International de l'Ardèche. This course really does suit her too, and although there's much talk of a Dutch one-two we could also have a similar result this weekend if Niewiadoma wins today and Kwiatkowski wins the road race tomorrow. Here's Poland's team for today.

Every rider has finished signing on and we should be underway in the next five minutes or so.

Reminder: Here's our complete start list for this morning's race.

And we're on the startilne, with the Dutch lining out at the front of the peloton. A few last minute clothing adjustments as some jackets are tossed into the crowd. Here we go...

The flag has dropped and all 149 riders are racing the World Championships. The sun is now out and we've lovely blue skies overhead as the Dutch team lead us into the neutralized zone.

The Dutch are going to pressured into making the race but that's not a position of weakness as they could simply blow the race apart and be aggressive, rather than sitting on the front and waiting for others to attack. 

We're rolling through the neutralized zone and already a few mechanicals in the bunch with riders putting their hands up and calling for assistance. If you're going to have a problem with your bike, I guess you'd rather have it now than with 10km to go.

We do a short lap around the start town before heading towards the finishing circuit as we see the riders breeze through the neutralized zone. No action just yet.

We can see Megan Guarnier (United States Of America) near the front of the race at the moment. This is her last outing in the national kit as she's set to hang up her wheels at the end of the season. She's been real star over the last few years and been such a successful rider with wins in the Giro, California and Strade Bianche. She won in Yorkshire earlier in the year too.

The bunch spread out across the road and we're about see the flag drop... and we're officially racing.

And there's the first attack. And it's from Eyeru Tesfoam Gebru (Ethiopia). She's caught almost immediately. 

155km remaining from 156km

All back together again, however, but riders are looking at each other and waiting for the next attack to form. 

The Dutch once more close down a move that involves riders from Israel and Russia. We've already seen a few casualties at the back of the field with some of the weaker riders distanced. Amalie Dideriksen (Denmark) is second wheel at the moment and the former world champion is marking moves early, perhaps for her teammate Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, who many believe can make the podium today.

151km remaining from 156km

Katharine Hall (United States Of America) crashes and drops her chain but she's back up and running, having fixed her chain herself. No problems from the fall and she's back chasing through the cars. She should make it back without too much trouble because the pace isn't too high for now.

150km remaining from 156km

The more established nations want to drop the less experienced and weaker riders as soon as possible because they dont want any complications once we get the circuits. And now as we crest the top of the climb the Germans go on the attack with two riders. Worrack leads the way and she's powering along with Brennauer. They've strung out the peloton on the descent and that injection of pace has really woken up the main field. 

The German tandem has caught  a few riders napping as we race down this descent at a blistering pace. The pace will slow once we hit the flat and we should then see further attacks. 

The bunch ease up slightly, and that allows for more riders to regain contact. And there's another attack, this time from Lotta Pauliina Lepisto (Finland). She's a great sprinter but doesn't have the climbing legs for a course like this but she's trying to make it into an early break. She has the biggest gap so far, of around 200m. 10/10 for the Finnish kit. Moomins all over the world would be proud of that one.

12 seconds for Lotta Lepisto (Finland) but she would want a few more riders to join her at this time. 144km to go.

Lotta Lepisto (Finland) settles down and takes on some food. I think she's waiting for others to join her but the bunch are just letting her sit out there for now. 10 second lead for the lone leader. 

One rider has taken the bait and jumped out from the peloton, but the lead to Lotta Lepisto (Finland) is just four seconds. However.... Italy use this as a springboard to send a rider up the road and we could have a larger break... if the Dutch let it go. 

The Dutch are chasing the move, because it's too big and there are too many dangerous riders on the attack. 

141km remaining from 156km

A few more digs from the front of the peloton as we see Hall back with the medical car after her fall. She's still not comfortable as France, Italy and Canada drive the latest attack. A break of around nine riders have formed and the Dutch are not present. Australia, Germany, Denmark, France and a few other riders are present. Each rider takes a turn but they keep looking back to see if the gap is extending or not. That essentially kills the move but Aurela Nerlo (Poland) presses on and goes alone with 139km to go.

The lone leader has been given 33 seconds as the bunch start to look at each other. Australia, and the riders from the USA sit on the front and just tap out a steady pace. 137km to go and but there's no let up with three more riders attacking. Then another three try and jump out from the field too. Italy and Belgium are playing a part in the attacks, while the Dutch have two riders in the counter attacks.

The rise in pace has seen the bunch line out, and the lone leader's advantage has been cut to 17 seconds, so almost in half. 

Nerlo has been joined by Ana Cristina Sanabria Sanchez (Colombia) and the duo have 11 seconds on the peloton. 135km to go. 

132km remaining from 156km

Rowe is leading the peloton at the moment. She's been near the front of the race all morning and has been marking moves. She's now setting the pace and just holding the gap at around one minute. The Dutch can take a breather. 

Another slight downhill section and the Danish team increase the pace with a move that's neither an attack or a steady rise in pace. The rider in question looks around, soft pedals and the gap moves out to 1:06.

The team from the USA have settled at the front of the peloton and set the pace, with the leaders now at 1;58, and 123km to go. 

Over two minutes for the leaders but there's a counter attack on the road with Lepisto and Emma Cecilie Norsgaard Jorgensen (Denmark) linking up. They have around 20 seconds on the peloton.

116km remaining from 156km

114km remaining from 156km

Two more riders have clipped off the front but no action from the main race favourites. This time there's a reaction from the bunch and the latest two riders are going to be caught soon. 111km to go.

Ana Cristina Sanabria Sanchez (Colombia) and Aurela Nerlo (Poland) have 1'33 on the chasers, with the bunch at 2'22.

Vita Heine (Norway) has a gap on the field now as well. She's alone though and it's a big ask to catch either of the two groups up the road. 106km to go.

98km remaining from 156km

The third group contains Vita Heine (Norway) and three other riders as Germany lead the chase. So far the Dutch have only needed to mark a couple of moves, so it's advantage the strongest team in the race.

The real contenders for the race start to show their faces for the first time in the race. We're about to hit the climbs and everyone wants to be at the front and there's a crash!

Annemiek Van Vleuten (Netherlands) is down. 95km to go.

Dani King also down but Annemiek Van Vleuten (Netherlands) is the biggest contender taken down there. The riders went into a road island as they fought for position. That's  a big blow for the Dutch team though. Annemiek Van Vleuten (Netherlands) is back on her bike and chasing but how badly has she been hurt?

Ellen Van Dijk (Netherlands) was also taken down in the fall.

The Dutch pair are chasing back to the main field but Annemiek Van Vleuten (Netherlands) did not look comfortable as she got to her feet after the fall. She is coming back through the cars as the four rider group up the road is about to be caught. We're now climbing with 93km to go. 

Annemiek Van Vleuten (Netherlands) is being paced back as we see the two leaders tackle the lower slopes of the climb. 2.6km in length and sections of up to 14 per cent. Annemiek Van Vleuten (Netherlands) is coming back through the dropped riders but still has around 150m to go. Germany are still on the front and setting the pace.

Annemiek Van Vleuten (Netherlands) accelerates after coming back to the bunch and she looks a bit better now. She cuts through more and more dropped riders and should make contact with the rest of the favourites shortly. How much energy has this cost her though?

The two leaders have 2;09 on the main field but the Lepisto group is still out there too. 

Everyone is out of the saddle as we see the favourites spread out over the road. Lepisto has dropped the rider she was in the break with but she has one minute or so on the bunch as she grinds her way to the top of the climb. 

Up ahead and Ana Cristina Sanabria Sanchez starts to drop Nerlo. 

Elena Cecchini, Becker and Brennauer have all been dropped as we see Lepisto is caught with 91km to go. 

Moolman is riding second wheel at the moment and she's looking good as we close in on the top of the climb. Jolanda Neff and Niewiadoma are both near the front too. 

The US still have a couple of riders in the main field but we're down to around 20 riders. The defending champion has been dropped, as well as Kirchmann as Nerlo is caught too. 

Riders are all over the road and the race has been blown to pieces on the climb thanks to the pace from Germany. The second group are around 10 seconds down but they should be able to make contact on the long descent. 

We're back up to around 30 riders in the main field, and that includes Blaak, who was dropped briefly. 89km to go.

And Blaak has attacked over the top of the climb, and she's leading the bunch into one line. 

Lepisto has raced a smart race. She went on the attack twice earlier in the race and she's gone again for a third time. 

Sanchez has 43 seconds on Lepisto, with the main field at 55 seconds. 

Sanchez has just 18 seconds on Lepisto, who is closing rapidly on the flatter sections and descents. The main field are at 49 seconds.

Lepisto can see the lone leader and will catch her before we hit the finishing circuits as Blaak once again attacks from the field. 79km to go.

Blaak is back in the bunch but Italy then try their luck and the move is matched by Emilia Fahlin.

78km remaining from 156km

The Kiwis are leading the chase of the Blaak group. 

77km remaining from 156km

Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig is in the move and these four riders are looking to create a gap before the finishing circuit. That front four are too strong to let go and Australia immediately start to chase.  The gap is at four seconds.

Good luck trying to close a gap to Ellen Van Dijk (Netherlands), who has three rivals sitting in her slipstream. 

Tatiana Guderzo (Italy) is the fourth rider in the break but it's still being pulled along by the Dutch rider. The gap is up to 10 seconds as the peloton line out due to the pace setting from Australia. We're about to start the finishing circuit. Three laps of that to go, and we've got 73km to go.

The front four are working well together as they cross the finishline for the first time. The US are are also chasing on the front of the bunch with Germany and Australia. 

22 seconds for the leaders.

70km remaining from 156km

Onto the Iglis and Lepisto has been dropped almost right away. That leaves us three up front, although the Finnish rider hasn't sat up just yet. She's just racing at her own pace. 68km to go.

Canada have moved to the front as the climb starts, and the gap is only at 8 seconds with 67km to go. 

Australia have raised the pace because the gap to the break has moved out to 1'15 seconds. 

The leading trio of Tatiana Guderzo (Italy), Ellen Van Dijk (Netherlands), and Emma Cecilie Norsgaard Jorgensen (Denmark) are working well together on the long climb as we see Australia string things out. 

Lepisto's day is almost done as she's about to be caught by the peloton with 66km to go. 

Moolman is still second wheel at the moment. She's been near the front on almost every important climb so far today. She has no teammates left so she's having to do it all on her own. 

Spratt is right on her wheel and his marking her while we see the Dutch a little further back. We're down to around 20 riders in the main field. 

The leaders have just 31 seconds left of their advantage as the Dutch slowly move up towards the front of the peloton.

61km remaining from 156km

Rivera is still there, and riding well in the middle of the peloton. The three leaders have 12 seconds as the road kicks up once more. Barnes has been dropped, along with Blaak.

The Dutch riders are sitting in at the moment and they look comfortable as Australia set a fast but steady pace. The three leaders have been caught. 

We've still 1.4km to go until we reach the top of the climb, as Ellen Van Dijk is dropped.

Attack and it's Rivera!

Rivera has attacked from the front and that's a bit of a surprise. She looked good on the climb but is going alone. She already has a gap, 18 seconds in fact, with 60km to go.

Rivera has attacked from the front and that's a bit of a surprise. She looked good on the climb but is going alone. She already has a gap, 18 seconds in fact, with 60km to go.

This is the first time the Dutch have let a real threat go clear without marking the move. They're not chasing yet but the gap has gone out to 26 seconds as Rivera descents with class.

58km remaining from 156km

Rivera's advantage has been destroyed by the chase from the Dutch team. It's just  handful of seconds as we approach the final 50km of racing. I've still not seen Spratt since her crash but I think she's back in the main field. 17 seconds for Rivera.

Rivera heads over a stretch of cobbles, and through the old town. There's a counter from the Dutch and French as Sweden chase. Spratt is there, in second wheel. Around 20 riders left in contention as we approach the final part of this first lap. Two more to go.

Brand is leading the chase at the head of the peloton as Rivera looks over her left shoulder to see that her attack is almost over.

Rivera has pushed on and her gap is at 45 seconds as we start the second lap.

Sorry that gap is to another group. Rivera is about to be caught by a group that contains Spratt.

44km remaining from 156km

The Dutch are playing a dangerous game at the moment as the gap moves out to 1;06 with 43km to go and we start to climb once more. The six leaders are working well together as we see the chase settle down once more. None of the teams are willing to chase as they spread out over the road. The Dutch, the Americans, they have numbers but are the Dutch going to be happy with the rider they have up the road? That's a key question as the gap moves to 1;16 and wow Ellen Van Dijk ha been dropped.

There's been a huge swell in riders in the main field as two groups merge but the fact is that the Dutch have to chase and it's Brand who goes again. She kicks clear but is that the right tactic? The gap is over a minute and surely the Dutch would be better off setting a steadier pace and bringing the gap down as the climb goes on. Brand is caught by a rider from Canada.

42km remaining from 156km

Good move but a number of riders can match her, including Moolman. There is a split but the leaders still have 1;05. And the Dutch go again and this time it's Olympic road champion Anna Van Der Breggen (Netherlands). 

Anna Van Der Breggen (Netherlands) gets into her pace and then rises out of the saddle as she starts to chase the leaders. 56 seconds is the gap with 41km to go. She's going to have to close this gap on her own as the Moolman group virtually sit up. The Dutch had the numbers but have they left it too late?

Spratt responds and lifts the pace at the front of the break but in the blink of an eye she's caught the Spratt group. 

Fahlin is dropped but Rivera and Spratt latch onto Anna Van Der Breggen (Netherlands) for dear life. 

And now Anna Van Der Breggen (Netherlands) has just Spratt for company. Rivera was the last rider to slip back but she's digging in and trying to come back. 

According to the map we've still got 3.5km of this climb remaining. 

Rivera is going backwards with 40km to go. 

The Dutch rider calls for Spratt to come through and take a turn but the Australian refuses. The gap to Rivera is at 15 seconds. Spratt can climb and should at some point come through and share the work. And she does, with the gap to Rivera at 22 seconds.

And Anna Van Der Breggen kicks again, just after a turn from Spratt. 

39km remaining from 156km

Spratt won't give up and she knows that if she can come back on the descent then a medal will be a realistic aim aim because she will not be dropped on the flat sections on the final lap and a half. Anna Van Der Breggen looks unstoppable though.

Anna Van Der Breggen has around 35 seconds at the top of the climb but riders are all over the road as Spratt descents in second place on her own. 

Back with the main body of the bunch, the gap is at 1:45. Not sure anyone will chase from that portion of the field as Anna Van Der Breggen continues to push the pace on the descent. 35km to go and the gap is at 40 seconds to Spratt.

Spratt has no option but to keep going. Anna Van Der Breggen has pushed the lead out to 48 seconds with 29km to go.

Rivera is still in third place on the road but she's being hunted down by Pirrone on the descent back into Innsbruck.

Over a minute for Anna Van Der Breggen as she rolls through the cobbled sector. Spratt continues to give chase but she has to hope that the Dutch rider cracks on the final climb. That's a huge ask with 27km to go.

The Dutch are on the front of the bunch but they're just slowing things up for their teammate who is up the road and heading towards her first world road title. 25km to go for the lone leader and there is an attack from Germany and then Niewiadoma as Pirrone goes backwards and is caught. The counter attacks have surely come too late though.

24km remaining from 156km

Back down the road and Rivera is joined by Fahlin and Malgorzata Jasinska. 

The Rivera group are 3'06 down on the race leader. That's just incredible. 

There's another three rider group Canuel, Pieters and Guzerzo around another minute down. The main field are at 4'23.

Just two attacks, the first to go clear and then a second to drop Spratt but right now Anna Van Der Breggen has more than enough to take this world title. The time gap to Spratt is at 1'38 with 19km to go as we hit the first climb of the race. The battle for third might be more competitive...

The Rivera group is about to merge with the Canuel group, so that's a group of six fighting for bronze. 17km to go. 

Spratt has two minutes on the chase behind her and that should be enough to hold onto silver. Anna Van Der Breggen, meanwhile, has 3km to go on the climb before the descent to the rainbow jersey. 

155km remaining from 156km

15km remaining from 156km

They're on their knees in that third group as Jasinska cracks and Tatiana Guderzo girts her teeth and pushes on towards a possible bronze medal. 14.6km to go. 

13km remaining from 156km

Guderzo is digging in and trying to push for every second as she closes in on the top of the climb. Out of the saddle now but Canuel isn't giving up the chase for that bronze medal just yet. 

10km remaining from 156km

6.5km to go now for Anna Van Der Breggen. She's about to take her maiden elite world title on the road after being so close on a number of occasions. She attacked on the penultimate lap and now has 3'04 on Spratt. Incredible. Simply incredible. 

One of the most dominant rides we've seen at a Worlds, Anna Van Der Breggen reaches down and heads over the cobbled sector. 4.3km to go and she's still pushing hard as the gap goes out to 3'14. 

Just over 2km to go for Anna Van Der Breggen. She could have done half the main climb once more and still been in contention for a medal. Spratt is holding on and will take silver. 

Anna Van Der Breggen looks back for the first time since her last attack. She comes over the line, and the Olympic champion becomes the World Champion. A totally dominant ride.

She come to a standstill and is mobbed by her national support crew. A quick moment to just rest on the bars before she is taken away for the podium. 

Spratt raises one hand and comes over the line to take silver. She gave it her best shot, and was the only rider to really give the winner any trouble on the main climb. It wasn't enough though, but a determined ride from the Australian. 

And here comes Tatiana Guderzo to take bronze after attacking on the final climb and creating a gap. She already has a gold and silver and now she has bronze. 

Fahlin takes fourth, and just misses out on the podium. 

The Dutch take seventh, eighth and ninth. The Dutch women's team are just on another level at this year's Worlds. 

The key moment, and you may have forgotten because it seems like an age ago, came when Annemiek Van Vleuten (Netherlands) attacked on the second time up the main climb. That stretched the main field and then set up Anna Van Der Breggen for her winning move.

Here are the top ten:

Onto the podium celebrations and  Anna Van Der Breggen pulls on the rainbow jersey for the first time in her elite career. There's a strong presence from the Dutch fans out there and they cheer the new world champion as David Lappartient applauds from the sidelines. 

You can find our report, results, and photos from today's race, right here.

We've updated our race report page, with quotes from the winner, more images, and complete results. You can find it all here

We've updated our race report page, with quotes from the winner, more images, and complete results. You can find it all here

Annemiek Van Vleuten who crashed earlier in the race, had to be helped away from the finish. She appeared to have an injured knee but still managed to set up her teammate for the win by stretching the opposition, and then took seventh at the finish.

Thanks for joining us today. We'll be back tomorrow morning with complete coverage from the men's road race. 

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