Van Vleuten caught the peloton off-guard on the exposed Lofthouse climb and, despite a fervent chase by some pre-race favourites including Lizzie Deignan (Great Britain), she managed to carve out over a two minute lead.
Teammate and defending champion Anna van der Breggen kept the chasers in check, waiting until the last five kilometres to finally make her move and solo in for the silver medal.
Amanda Spratt (Australia), the last rider to hold onto the Dutchwoman's wheel, held on for the bronze.
Chloe Dygert Owen (USA), the elite women's time trial world champion, attempted to go clear with 30km to go, but faded on the final lap. After being passed by Van der Breggen and Spratt, she held off Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy) for fourth.
Marianne Vos led the peloton home for another top result for the Netherlands in sixth, 5:20 behind the race winner Van Vleuten.
Van Vleuten said she did not go into the race planning to ride solo for two thirds of the race, but when she had a gap she simply kept going.
"It was not actually planned, I wanted to go hard on the climb, I think that was good for our team," Van Vleuten said.
"Then when I saw I had a gap, then my coach said ‘continue now’. It was a crazy plan. It was all a little bit crazy. I’m a little crazy. I train a lot and I think that also helped me a lot today, to be ready for such a big effort. People know I train a lot of hours on the bike and that helped me today.
"There’s so many emotions; my mother’s here and that’s special for me, my father a little bit too, because I was also wearing the earrings I had in Rio."
Van Vleuten had one glaring hole in her palmares - after winning the time trial world championships, the Giro Rosa (twice) and the Tour of Flanders - the elite road race was the one she really wanted.
Her 2019 season was hampered by a leg fracture she suffered in last year's road race, and she only had three opportunities to wear her time trial rainbow jersey - the Dutch championships, the Giro Rosa time trial and the prologue of the Boels Ladies Tour, winning all three. In 2020, she will be showing her rainbow bands far more frequently.
"It was a big win to already be the time trial world champion but on the road you can wear it so much more often," she said.
"This win has a special taste because I was so disappointed after the time trial on Tuesday. To finish it and with a 100km solo, I can’t believe it. Innsbruck last year was more my course than today and it was hard to come back from injury and I couldn’t enjoy my time trial title. Now I have time to enjoy it.
"Anna did a great job for me. Having her behind me was good, so it’s a super good podium."
How it unfolded
A cold, damp morning gave way to bright sunshine for the elite women's road race, drying out the roads for the 149.4km race. The wind was stiff enough to be a factor but not as brutal as earlier races.
The nerves led to a few minor crashes, starting with Vita Heine (Norway) in the neutral section and a rider from Colombian soon after the start.
Former world champion Lizzie Deignan was given a huge round of applause and allowed to lead the peloton through her home town of Otley.
It wasn't long before the racing started to heat up, with the Norwood Edge climb - a 2km ascent - already splitting the peloton after 13km.
Only 25-30 riders were left after the climb after Demi Vollering (Netherlands) set the pace, with her teammate Floortje Mackaij putting in the next attack to soften up the field.
Mackaij's move didn't last and there was a lull in the action as the peloton settled in for the long haul. On the next climb - the Lofthouse - there was a brisk cross-tailwind and it was here that Van Vleuten decided to make her move.
There were still 106km left, but the audacious attack caught most of the favourites off guard, and as Van Vleuten's gap opened up, the cream rose to the top with Lizzie Deignan (Great Britain) launching the chase.
Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy) scrambled across to Deignan, and soon Anna van der Breggen, Chloe Dygert Owen (USA), Amanda Spratt (Australia), Clara Koppenberg (Germany), Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Denmark) and Soraya Paladin (Italy) bridged to the chasers. The rest of the peloton was scattered further back, including Marianne Vos of the Netherlands.
This elite group - with the defending champion in tow - chipped away at Van Vleuten's gap, with the Dutch woman's lead down to 45 seconds after the halfway point of the race, but then indecision and in-fighting in the group let the gap go back out.
With 50km to go, Van Vleuten had two minutes on the chasers and much more on the peloton and the race looked decided. Gold would go to Van Vleuten but who would make up the podium?
Deignan pulled back attack after attack, but a dig from Dygert Owen made her lose contact with the chasers. Soon, it was only Dygert Owen, Longo Borghini, Spratt and Van der Breggen in the first chase group.
The Oak Ridge climb on the Harrogate finishing circuit with around 30km to go gave Dygert Owen the platform she needed to leap away solo. The time trial world champion pulled back a big chunk of time on Van Vleuten - bringing it down to 1:49. She suddenly looked a threat but then faded.
Van Vleuten held 2:15 on the chase as Van der Breggen and Spratt dropped Longo Borghini and set off in pursuit of Dygert Owen, bringing her within sight as they crossed the line with one lap to go.
Dygert Owen could not hold onto the pair as they came past and spent the rest of the race chasing in for fourth. Van der Breggen cracked Spratt with 5km to go and set off to take the silver medal and complete yet another extraordinary Dutch domination.
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Annemiek van Vleuten (Netherlands)||4:06:05|
|2||Anna van der Breggen (Netherlands)||0:02:15|
|3||Amanda Spratt (Australia)||0:02:28|
|4||Chloe Dygert (United States Of America)||0:03:24|
|5||Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy)||0:04:45|
|6||Marianne Vos (Netherlands)||0:05:20|
|7||Marta Bastianelli (Italy)|
|8||Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (South Africa)|
|9||Lisa Brennauer (Germany)|
|10||Coryn Rivera (United States Of America)|
|11||Christine Majerus (Luxembourg)|
|12||Arlenis Sierra (Cuba)|
|13||Amalie Dideriksen (Denmark)|
|14||Sofie de Vuyst (Belgium)|
|15||Emilia Fahlin (Sweden)|
|16||Alison Jackson (Canada)|
|17||Audrey Cordon Ragot (France)|
|18||Alena Amialiusik (Belarus)|
|19||Amy Pieters (Netherlands)|
|20||Paula Andrea Patino Bedoya (Colombia)|
|21||Elise Chabbey (Switzerland)|
|22||Anna Henderson (Great Britain)|
|23||Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Poland)|
|24||Elena Cecchini (Italy)|
|25||Margarita Victo Garcia Canellas (Spain)|
|26||Ane Santesteban Gonzalez (Spain)|
|27||Chloe Hosking (Australia)|
|28||Lucinda Brand (Netherlands)|
|29||Susanne Andersen (Norway)|
|30||Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Denmark)|
|31||Elizabeth Deignan (Great Britain)|
|32||Tatiana Guderzo (Italy)|
|33||Floortje Mackaij (Netherlands)|
|34||Marlen Reusser (Switzerland)||0:05:31|
|35||Eider Merino Cortazar (Spain)|
|36||Aude Biannic (France)|
|37||Nikola Noskova (Czech Republic)|
|38||Leah Thomas (United States Of America)|
|39||Brodie Chapman (Australia)|
|40||Katrine Aalerud (Norway)||0:05:36|
|41||Lucy Kennedy (Australia)||0:05:38|
|42||Sara Poidevin (Canada)|
|43||Chantal Blaak (Netherlands)|
|44||Tayler Wiles (United States Of America)|
|45||Eugenia Bujak (Slovenia)||0:05:46|
|46||Karol-ann Canuel (Canada)||0:05:51|
|47||Elisa Balsamo (Italy)||0:05:56|
|48||Clara Koppenburg (Germany)||0:06:25|
|49||Lisa Klein (Germany)||0:06:43|
|50||Soraya Paladin (Italy)||0:07:02|
|51||Vita Heine (Norway)||0:08:49|
|52||Anastasiia Chursina (Russian Federation)||0:08:55|
|53||Maria Novolodskaya (Russian Federation)||0:09:02|
|54||Tatsiana Sharakova (Belarus)||0:09:51|
|55||Olha Shekel (Ukraine)|
|56||Demi Vollering (Netherlands)|
|57||Lisa Norden (Sweden)||0:09:53|
|58||Joanna van de Winkel (South Africa)|
|59||Ella Harris (New Zealand)||0:09:54|
|60||Omer Shapira (Israel)||0:09:53|
|61||Julie Leth (Denmark)|
|62||Hannah Barnes (Great Britain)|
|63||Alice Barnes (Great Britain)|
|64||Malgorzata Jasinska (Poland)|
|65||Juliette Labous (France)|
|66||Liane Lippert (Germany)|
|67||Ruth Winder (United States Of America)|
|68||Pernille Mathiesen (Denmark)|
|69||Teniel Campbell (Trinidad & Tabago)||0:12:55|
|70||Franziska Koch (Germany)|
|71||Katharine Hall (United States Of America)|
|72||Anastasiya Kolesava (Belarus)|
|73||Kelly van den Steen (Belgium)|
|74||Lourdes Oyarbide Jimenez (Spain)||0:13:50|
|75||Angelika Tazreiter (Austria)|
|76||Letizia Paternoster (Italy)|
|77||Jesse Vandenbulcke (Belgium)||0:18:08|
|78||Jarmila Machacova (Czech Republic)||0:19:13|
|79||Marta Lach (Poland)||0:19:55|
|80||Nicola Juniper (Great Britain)||0:23:47|
|81||Blanca Liliana Moreno Canchon (Colombia)|
|82||Monika Brzezna (Poland)|
|83||Rasa Leleivyte (Lithuania)|
|84||Ariadna Gutierrez Arzaluz (Mexico)|
|85||Severine Eraud (France)|
|86||Eugenie Duval (France)|
|87||Brenda Andrea Santoyo Perez (Mexico)|
|88||Evita Muzic (France)|
|DNF||Tiffany Cromwell (Australia)|
|DNF||Diana Carolina Penuela Martinez (Colombia)|
|DNF||Louise Norman Hansen (Denmark)|
|DNF||Kathrin Hammes (Germany)|
|DNF||Jessica Allen (Australia)|
|DNF||Lauren Kitchen (Australia)|
|DNF||Leigh ann Ganzar (United States Of America)|
|DNF||Valerie Demey (Belgium)|
|DNF||Julie van de Velde (Belgium)|
|DNF||Marie Soleil Blais (Canada)|
|DNF||Gillian Ellsay (Canada)|
|DNF||Gabrielle Pilote-fortin (Canada)|
|DNF||Aurela Nerlo (Poland)|
|DNF||Anna Plichta (Poland)|
|DNF||Katarzyna Wilkos (Poland)|
|DNF||Elizabeth Banks (Great Britain)|
|DNF||Alicia Gonzalez Blanco (Spain)|
|DNF||Sheyla Gutierrez Ruiz (Spain)|
|DNF||Tiffany Keep (South Africa)|
|DNF||Maroesjka Matthee (South Africa)|
|DNF||Stine Borgli (Norway)|
|DNF||Ingvild Gaskjenn (Norway)|
|DNF||Jeydy Pradera Bernal (Cuba)|
|DNF||Elise Maes (Luxembourg)|
|DNF||Anet Barrera Esparza (Mexico)|
|DNF||Andrea Ramirez Fregoso (Mexico)|
|DNF||Clara Lundmark (Sweden)|
|DNF||Hanna Nilsson (Sweden)|
|DNF||Sara Penton (Sweden)|
|DNF||Urska Pintar (Slovenia)|
|DNF||Urska Zigart (Slovenia)|
|DNF||Hiromi Kaneko (Japan)|
|DNF||Eri Yonamine (Japan)|
|DNF||Valeriya Kononenko (Ukraine)|
|DNF||Elizaveta Oshurkova (Russian Federation)|
|DNF||Desiet Kidane (Eritrea)|
|DNF||Mikayla Harvey (New Zealand)|
|DNF||Rotem Gafinovitz (Israel)|
|DNF||Maria Jose Vargas Barrientos (Costa Rica)|
|DNF||Alexi Costa (Trinidad & Tabago)|
|DNF||Kathrin Schweinberger (Austria)|
|DNF||Denisse Ahumada Riquelme (Chile)|
|DNF||Flavia Maria de Oliveira Paparella (Brazil)|
|DNF||Ana Paula Polegatch (Brazil)|
|DNF||Tereza Neumanova (Czech Republic)|
|DNF||Maja Perinovic (Croatia)|
|DNF||Mia Radotic (Croatia)|
|DNF||Varvara Fasoi (Greece)|
|DNF||Alice Sharpe (Ireland)|
|DNF||Alzbeta Bacikova (Slovakia)|
|DNF||Tereza Medvedova (Slovakia)|
|DNF||Natalya Saifutdinova (Kazakhstan)|
|DNF||Makhabbat Umutzhanova (Kazakhstan)|
|DNF||Maria Martins (Portugal)|
|DNF||Agusta Edda Bjornsdottir (Iceland)|
|DNF||Skye Davidson (Zimbabwe)|
|DNF||Mae Lang (Estonia)|
|DNF||Fabiana Granizal (Uruguay)|
|DNF||Fernanda Yapura (Argentina)|
|DNF||Agua Marina Espinola (Paraguay)|
|DNF||Noura Alomairi (Kuwait)|
|DNF||Latefa Alyaseen (Kuwait)|
|DNF||Hoi ian Au (Macao, China)|
|DNS||Anne-Sophie Harsch (Luxembourg)|
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Laura Weislo has been with Cyclingnews since 2006 after making a switch from a career in science. As Deputy Editor, she coordinates coverage for North American events and global news. As former elite-level road racer who dabbled in cyclo-cross and track, Laura has a passion for all three disciplines. When not working she likes to go camping and explore lesser traveled roads, paths and gravel tracks.
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