By Martyn Herman
HARROGATE, England (Reuters) – Dutchwoman Annemiek van Vleuten produced one of the greatest solo rides ever seen at the UCI Road World Championships to storm to victory in the women’s road race on Saturday.
Team mate Anna van der Breggen made it a Dutch one-two with Australia’s Amanda Spratt in third.
The 36-year-old Van Vleuten attacked on the second climb of the day in the Yorkshire Dales and rode on her own for 105km of the 149km, never wavering as she powered to the gold medal.
A chasing group of five, including local favourite Lizzie Deignan, appeared powerless as Van Vleuten disappeared down the road, although young American Chloe Dygert, winner of the time trial, made a late attempt to reel in Van Vleuten.
After the first of three 14km circuits around Harrogate she had cut the gap to less than two minutes but could not sustain her attack as Van Vleuten rode away in the sunshine.
The 22-year-old Dygert, who outclassed the Dutch in the time trial, paid a heavy price for her effort and was a spent force on the final circuit as Van der Breggen and Spratt overtook her.
The relentless Van Vleuten, who suffered a horrific crash when leading the Olympic road race in 2016, avoided any mishaps as she turned the final few kilometres into a lap of honour and was roared on the final uphill straight by huge crowds.
Van der Breggen was a little over two minutes behind.
Spratt appeared to have cracked with 5km left, allowing last year’s winner Van der Breggen to surge ahead, but she had just enough left to deny Dygert a second medal of the week.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris)