29 September 2018

Van Der Breggen takes Netherlands second straight win in Elite Women’s Road Race

Anna van der Breggen secured a spectacular solo victory  in the Elite Women’s Road Race on Saturday as the Netherlands racked up their third gold medal of the 2018 UCI Road World Championships.

In one of the most dominant rides in recent UCI Road World Championships history, Van der Breggen went solo 39 kilometres from the finish of the very hilly Innsbruck course, finally to claim  gold by  well over three minutes on Australia’s Amanda Spratt and over five minutes on former Road World Champion Tatiana Guderzo of Italy.

Three times a silver medallist in the World Championships in individual events, most recently in the Elite Women’s Time Trial,  Van der Breggen has now her first ever rainbow jersey. She has also captured the Netherlands’ fourth successive gold medal in the World Championships Elite Women’s category in two years.

The reigning Olympic Road Race champion and a European Road Race champion in 2016, Van der Breggen later said her first World Championships jersey was one she had been targeting all season.

“The World Championships is so hard to win, so I’m really happy to be able to take this,” she said. “It was only when I got to the finish line that I really believed it was possible.”

"I was a bit doubting if it was too early or not but we tried to open things up and then I got in this position so I took this opportunity and I had to go.”

Asked if she was surprised to see the gap opening on all her rivals, she admitted, “I was, actually, so for me, it was a good thing and I had to keep going.”

Warm weather, yet again, greeted the 149 starters as they rolled out of the small town of Kufstein for the 156.2 kilometre, very hilly course, with no less than 2,400 metres of vertical climbing.

The Netherlands team were briefly on the backfoot, when Ellen van Dijk and Annemiek van Vleuten were entangled in an early crash.

But as the race began the last three decisive laps of the 23 kilometre Olympic circuit and its lungburstingly long ascent to Igls, Van Dijk was still up there in the first important move, a four rider breakaway also including  Lotta  Pauliina Lepisto (Finland),  Guderzo and Emma Cecilie Norsgaard Jorgensen (Denmark).

The last survivors of the quartet were caught with 61 kilometres to go, sparking an attack by the USA’s Coryn Rivera, and her move was later joined by Van Dijk - again - Emilia Fahlin (Sweden), Spratt, Elena Pirrone and Malgorzata Jasinska (Poland).

On the second last ascent of the Igls, the six rider break was at less than a minute and Van Dijk was beginning to struggle when the pivotal moment of the entire Elite Women’s race took place. A brief dig by team-mate Van Vleuten in the peloton stretched out the chasers, then Van der Breggen made a much more sustained counter-charge from the pack, and this was the move that really mattered.

In no time at all, Van der Breggen had reached the six rider breakaway, and having ploughed her way through it, the Netherlands rider put in a testing charge at the front of the half-dozen group, which promptly shattered.

Rivera was the second last rider to fall behind Van der Breggen, then Spratt stayed with Van der Breggen a little longer. But having asked for collaboration and received none, Van der Breggen then pounded on up the Igls, easily dropping the Australian. It was the last any of her rivals would see of her before the finish.

The gap between Van der Breggen and Spratt, still soloing behind, grew remorselessly as, in a stunning performance, the Netherlands’ rider rode all of the last lap and a half of the course alone.

Racing what was effectively an individual time trial, when Van der Breggen  reached the summit on the final lap, her advantage stood at a massive two and a half minutes. By the time the main peloton reached the same point, Van der Breggen had already dropped back down into Innsbruck and was well en route to the finish.

Behind her, Guderzo pulled her way clear of a group of four riders,  heading for bronze, but Van der Breggen was in another league altogether. However, there were no victory celebrations until she was within sight of the line. And then, with a big smile and two arms raised aloft, triumphantly,  Van der Breggen finally clinched her long sought World Championships title.

The 2018 UCI Road World Championships conclude on Sunday with the Elite Men’s Road Race, an extremely hilly 258.5 kilometre course, with over 4,600 metres of vertical climbing.