UCI Road World Championships: Annemiek Van Vleuten wins gold to deny Lizzie Deignan fairytale

Annemiek Van Vleuten
Annemiek Van Vleuten

The fairytale story was not to be for Lizzie Deignan as Holland's Annemiek Van Vleuten secured a superb victory in the women's elite race at the UCI Road World Championships in Harrogate on Saturday.

Van Vleuten rode alone for a little over 100 kilometres of the 149km route through the Yorkshire Dales after attacking on the climb of Lofthouse, and produced a stunning ride to keep the chasing pack comfortably at bay.

Deignan will long remember leading the peloton through her home town of Otley early in the day, but when the racing picked up on the finishing circuit around Harrogate the 30-year-old, a year removed from becoming a mother, paid the price for hard work done leading the chase.

The 2015 world champion - who spent most of the day in a select group chasing Van Vleuten - ultimately finished in the pack, crossing the line 31st, five minutes 20 seconds down.

It was a first world road race title for the 36-year-old Van Vleuten, who was world time trial champion in 2017 and 2018 before giving up her title to American Chloe Dygert earlier this week.

Dygert was firmly in the action here too, and it was her attacks on the first of three laps of the 14km finishing circuit that left Deignan behind as the eight-strong group which had set off after Van Vleuten on Lofthouse finally splintered.

The 22-year-old Dygert, an established star on the track but a revelation this week on the road, looked good for silver as she pulled clear, but she too ran out of legs and was caught and passed by defending world champion Anna Van Der Breggen and Amanda Spratt with 10km to go.

Van Der Breggen, for so long excused the hard work of the chase with her team-mate up the road, left the Australian behind on the final ascent of the Oak Beck climb to make it a Dutch one-two.

Following the bad weather that has dogged these World Championships for much of the week, the race began under blue skies in Bradford as crowds lined the road in the sort of scenes which have become familiar from the Tour de Yorkshire.

Deignan's grandparents were waiting on the roadside in Otley, where the local star came to the front of the peloton and soaked up the adulation of the crowds.

The first climb of Norwood Edge brought some splits in the peloton as Holland's Demi Vollering set a fierce pace but it was on Lofthouse that the race came alive.

Van Vleuten attacked and quickly distanced the group. Behind, Deignan led a chase which quickly whittled down the group, with only eight riders making the selection.

Van Vleuten crested Lofthouse with a lead of just over a minute but the gap steadily grew. It stood at 90 seconds with 50km to go and maxed out at two minutes 30 seconds the first time over the line in Harrogate.

Dygert set off in pursuit soon after to begin the final battle for podium places, while Deignan was left trailing in their wake.

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