Anna van der Breggen wins elite women's world title at Imola World Championships

Anna van der Breggen brought the Netherlands its fourth consecutive world title in the elite women’s road race at the 2020 UCI Road World Championships in Imola. It was her second world title in three days having also won the time trial on Thursday, an accomplishment that has not been done since Frenchwoman Jeannie Longo won both titles in 1995.

“It’s incredible. It was a really hard race and there was fighting from the beginning. The climbs were really tough and on the penultimate lap I felt strong and we discussed in front trying to make the race hard. We did it and I just went for it,” Van der Breggen said. 

“I thought that in the last lap everyone would be tired and that it would be difficult to make the difference on the climbs so I went but it was really far. I didn’t think about Innsbruck in the race [where she won the world title in 2018 - ed.]. The circuit here was different and it had some flat parts. It was hard all the same, but I’m really happy. I never expected this. It’s incredible. The season has been incredible so far. It’s everything behind each other but if you’re in shape then it’s also a good thing. I’m pretty tired now but the season so far has been pretty good for me.”

Annemiek van Vleuten (Netherlands), who came into the race with a broken wrist, secured the silver medal after a two-up sprint with Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy) on the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari. Marianne Vos (Netherlands) secured fourth place from a reduced chase-group sprint - giving the Netherlands three places in the top four.

How it unfolded

The women’s 143km road race, five laps of a 28km circuit, started and finished at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Imola, and it featured two steep climbs on each circuit – the Mazzolano was 2.2km with an average gradient of 7 per cent and pitches as steep as 11 per cent, and the Cima Gallisterna was 2.3km with an average gradient of 7 per cent with pitches as steep as 14 per cent – and a total of 2,800 metres of climbing.

On the third lap, and with 83km to go, Alison Jackson (Canada) attacked and was quickly followed by Grace Brown (Australia). A select group of 10 bridged across to the pair to form a lead group of 12 riders. Joining Jackson and Brown were Juliette Labous (France), Lisa Brennauer (Germany), Katia Ragusa (Italy), Tayler Wiles (USA), Alice Barnes (Great Britain), Hannah Barnes (Great Britain), Amy Pieters (Netherlands), Susanne Andersen (Norway) and Christine Majerus (Luxembourg).

Spain realised they missed the move and tried to send one rider across but the Dutch brought her back, and that move was countered by Mavi Garcia, who successfully jumped across to the leaders midway up the Mazzolano ascent, as Alice Barnes and Grace Brown dropped off the back of the move.

The Dutch initially stayed toward the front monitoring the gap to the lead group, and then Australia moved forward once Brown was dropped. Other key nations that missed the move altogether were Poland, working for Kasia Niewiadoma, and Denmark working for Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, and Switzerland.

On the Cima Gallisterna, 65km to go, the leaders on the road held 1:15 over the main field. However, the key contenders came to the front on the steeper sections of the climb mainly to stay in a good position and to be prepared for any decisive attacks from their rival. Over the top, Slovenia’s Eugenia Bujak jumped from the field to try to get across to the breakaway.

The nine breakaway riders; Jackson, Wiles, Barnes, Pieters, Majerus, Garcia, Ragusa, Brennauer, Andersen, Labous, continued to push their lead out to 2:14, with 61km to go, which became too dangerous, even for the Italian team that had a rider in the move, but perhaps not a rider who could contest a potential breakaway sprint.

On the penultimate lap, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (South Africa) was involved in a crash on a tight downhill corner, and although she was able to get back up, she was out of contention for the more decisive racing to come.  Bujak finally made the connection after 15km of chasing with 50km to go, however, the gap to the lead group had dropped by under a minute over the Mazzolano climb.

Van der Breggen’s winning move

The key contenders of the race attacked from the main field on the Mazzolano climb with two laps to go. Anna van der Breggen (Netherlands) launched one strong attack followed by Lizzie Deignan (Great Britain), Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy), Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Denmark), Annemiek van Vleuten (Netherlands), Marianne Vos (Netherlands) all in a decisive front group of roughly 30 riders.

The Dutch had the numbers in the reduced peloton, also including Chantal van den Broek-Blaak, Demi Vollering, Ellen van Dijk, and then added Amy Pieters into the mix once they closed the gap to the initial breakaway. All the key contenders, minus Moolman-Pasio, made the front group over the Mazzolano and heading into the Cima Gallisterna.

Vos came to the front and led the field into the Cima Gallisterna with Van Vleuten on her wheel (42km to go), as the defending champion took over at the front. Van Vleuten then got out of the saddle in an attack on the lower slopes of the climb and was followed by Longo Borghini, Uttrup Ludwig, and then Van der Breggen on her wheel. Deignan and Lianne Lippert (Germany), along with Niewiadoma, all lost contact part way up as the race exploded into pieces. 

Van der Breggen counter attacked and opened a sizeable gap as Van Vleuten continued chasing with Longo Borghini and Uttrup Ludwig on her wheel. Over the top of the Cima Gallisterna, Van der Breggen had 11 seconds and appeared to be riding away, in similar fashion to her solo performance that won her the 2018 world title in Innsbruck. 

Longo Borghini, wanting to get rid of Van Vleuten, attacked her chase companions but couldn’t gain any time on Van Vleuten and Uttrup Ludwig, as Deignan caught back up to the chasers on the descent.Van der Breggen, who won the time trial world title two days earlier, raced into the final lap with a 1:23 gap on Deignan, Uttrup Ludwig, Longo Borghini and Van Vleuten sitting on the back with no pressure to help chase. The four chasers looked back to see the main field right behind them on the race track and once they were reunited, Lizzy Banks (Great Britain) rode straight to the front to set the tempo, however, a lack of organisation among the other nations, with the exception of the Italian team, meant that Van der Breggen’s lead continued to grow.

The race for silver and bronze

As van der Breggen pushed a big gear and raced smoothly in a time trial-like position to maintain a 1:30 lead, the race behind her had to settle for second and third place.Van der Breggen increased that lead to 1:50 on the last time up the Mazzolano climb, as Anna Shackley, just 19 years old, led the reduced main field with Deignan on her wheel. A small gap opened and Shackley on the descent but the field remained together as the raced into the final climb over the Cima Gallisterna.

Van der Breggen further increased her lead to 2:18, effectively and barring any accidents, sealed the world title over the last climb. Italy and Great Britain, with the strongest contenders Longo Borghini and Deignan, set the pace on the flatter roads before the climb with 13km to go, in the race for the lesser medals.

Uttrup Ludwig attacked over the Cima with Longo Borghini, as Deignan struggle to stay on their wheels. Van Vleuten caught up to the attack and crested the climb with Longo Borghini as Uttrup Ludwig was distanced on the upper slopes.With Van der Breggen safely at nearly two minutes up the road with the victory, Van Vleuten took her turn in the rotation with Longo Borghini to try and stay away from the chase group at 30 seconds behind. Longo Borghini attacked several times on the smaller hills on the run-in to the finish as she tried to drop Van Vleuten.

As Van der Breggen crossed the line, she had enough time to get off her bike and watch the sprint for second place. Longo Borghini led Van Vleuten onto the race track and through the final kilometre. The Italian hugged the barriers and then started her sprint first, but mistakenly allowed a small gap to open up along the barriers for Van Vleuten to come through on the inside to take the silver medal. Marianne Vos sprinted from a small chase group to take fourth place. 

The rainbow jersey-glory went to the Dutch team once again and with Van der Breggen securing her second world title in two days in Imola.

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Full Results
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Anna van der Breggen (Netherlands) 4:09:57
2Annemiek van Vleuten (Netherlands) 0:01:20
3Elisa Longo Borgini (Italy)
4Marianne Vos (Netherlands) 0:02:01
5Liane Lippert (Germany)
6Elizabeth Deignan (Great Britain)
7Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Poland)
8Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Denmark) 0:02:41
9Lisa Brennauer (Germany) 0:03:08
10Marlen Reusser (Switzerland)
11Lauren Stephens (United States Of America)
12Chantal van den Broek-Blaak (Netherlands)
13Audrey Cordon Ragot (France)
14Eugenia Bujak (Slovenia)
15Niamh Fisher-black (New Zealand)
16Rasa Leleivyte (Lithuania)
17Urska Pintar (Slovenia)
18Mavi Garcia (Spain)
19Dijk Van (Netherlands)
20Evita Muzic (France)
21Eri Yonamine (Japan)
22Mikayla Harvey (New Zealand)
23Ane Santesteban (Spain)
24Katrine Aalerud (Norway)
25Anna Shackley (Great Britain)
26Tayler Wiles (United States Of America)
27Sandra Levenez (France)
28Lucy Kennedy (Australia)
29Krista Doebel-hickok (United States Of America)
30Alison Jackson (Canada) 0:04:49
31Katia Ragusa (Italy) 0:04:51
32Brodie Chapman (Australia) 0:05:50
33Marta Cavalli (Italy) 0:07:25
34Amy Pieters (Netherlands) 0:09:29
35Demi Vollering (Netherlands)
36Hannah Barnes (Great Britain)
37Coryn Rivera (United States Of America) 0:10:16
38Spela Kern (Slovenia)
39Arlenis Sierra (Cuba)
40Omer Shapira (Israel)
41Juliette Labous (France)
42Sara Poidevin (Canada)
43Aigul Gareeva (Russian Federation) 0:11:50
44Anna Kiesenhofer (Austria) 0:11:53
45Tatiana Guderzo (Italy) 0:12:57
46Georgia Williams (New Zealand) 0:14:01
47Teniel Campbell (Trinidad & Tabago)
48Marta Lach (Poland)
49Maria Novolodskaya (Russian Federation)
50Valerie Demey (Belgium)
51Rachel Neylan (Australia)
52Hanna Nilsson (Sweden)
53Jesse Vandenbulcke (Belgium)
54Kata Blanka Vas (Hungary)
55Paula Patino (Colombia)
56Ashleigh Moolman-pasio (South Africa)
57Ievgeniia Vysotska (Ukraine)
58Elise Chabbey (Switzerland)
59Leah Kirchmann (Canada)
60Anna Henderson (Great Britain)
61Emma Jorgensen (Denmark)
62Christine Majerus (Luxembourg)
63Elizabeth Banks (Great Britain)
64Nikola Noskova (Czech Republic)
65Erica Magnaldi (Italy)
66Karol-ann Canuel (Canada)
67Soraya Paladin (Italy)
68Sarah Roy (Australia) 0:14:43
69Amber Neben (United States Of America) 0:15:08
70Susanne Andersen (Norway) 0:15:13
71Stine Borgli (Norway)
72Victorie Guilman (France)
73Melanie Maurer (Switzerland) 0:15:53
74Tereza Neumanova (Czech Republic) 0:18:03
75Franziska Koch (Germany) 0:20:08
76Jarmila Machacova (Czech Republic) 0:21:12
77Diana Klimova (Russian Federation) 0:21:18
78Yuliia Biriukova (Ukraine) 0:21:20
79Sara Martin (Spain)
80Malgorzata Jasinska (Poland) 0:21:22
81Ariadna Gutierrez (Mexico) 0:22:57
82Lija Laizane (Latvia)
83Carolina Upegui (Colombia)
84Anastasiya Kolesava (Belarus) 0:23:42
85Karolina Kumiega (Poland)
86Sarah Rijkes (Austria)
87Noemi Ruegg (Switzerland)
88Eyeru Tesfoam Gebru (Ethiopia) 0:26:47
89Ingrid Lorvik (Norway)
90Amalie Dideriksen (Denmark)
91Grace Brown (Australia)
92Floortje Mackaij (Netherlands)
93Julie Leth (Denmark)
94Lone Meertens (Belgium)
95Tereza Medvedova (Slovakia)
96Catalina Anais Soto Campos (Chile)
97Alicia Gonzalez Blanco (Spain)
98Sandra Alonso Dominguez (Spain)
99Mieke Kroger (Germany) 0:27:47
100Fien van Eynde (Belgium)
101Kathrin Hammes (Germany)
102Mieke Docx (Belgium)
103Olivija Baleisyte (Lithuania) 0:29:24
104Julia Borgstrom (Sweden) 0:30:06
105Urska Zigart (Slovenia) 0:33:33
DNFRuth Winder (United States Of America)
DNFGloria Rodriguez Sanchez (Spain)
DNFTiffany Cromwell (Australia)
DNFLisa Norden (Sweden)
DNFAlice Barnes (Great Britain)
DNFElena Cecchini (Italy)
DNFRomy Kasper (Germany)
DNFTrixi Worrack (Germany)
DNFAngelika Tazreiter (Austria)
DNFFernanda Yapura (Argentina)
DNFBrenda Andrea Santoyo Perez (Mexico)
DNFAndrrera Ramirez Fregoso (Mexico)
DNFKatarzyna Wilkos (Poland)
DNFUrska Bravec (Slovenia)
DNFAnn-sophie Duyck (Belgium)
DNFValeriya Kononenko (Ukraine)
DNFShara Gillow (Australia)
DNFPernille Mathiesen (Denmark)
DNFAnna Plichta (Poland)
DNFBirgitte Andersen (Denmark)
DNFDaniela Atehortua Hoyos (Colombia)
DNFMagdeleine Vallieres Mill (Canada)
DNFFatima el Hayani (Morocco)
DNFMaria Gaxiola Gonzalez (Mexico)
DNFAkvile Gedraityte (Lithuania)
DNFKerry Jonker (South Africa)
DNFNina Berton (Luxembourg)
DNFMarie Soliel Blais (Canada)
DNFMae Lang (Estonia)
DNFBriet Kristy Gunnarsdottir (Iceland)
DNFAgusta Edda Bjornsdottir (Iceland)
DNFHafdis Sigurdardottir (Iceland)
DNFClaire Faber (Luxembourg)
DNFMartine Gjos (Norway)
DNFSiham Es-saddy (Morocco)
DNSMie Bjorndal Ottestad (Norway)
DNSAlena Amialiusik (Belarus)
DNSOlga Zabelinskaya (Uzbekistan)

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Kirsten Frattini
Women's Editor

Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in cycling from the community and grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all men's and women's races including Spring Classics, Grand Tours, World Championships and Olympic Games, and writes and edits news and features. As the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten also coordinates and oversees the global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.

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