Annemiek van Vleuten yesterday staged a classic late attack to win the UCI Road World Championships road race in a stunning finish, despite nursing a fractured elbow throughout the 164.3km race.
The 39-year-old was a major doubt for the race after sustaining the injury in a crash in the mixed relay on Wednesday and rode through pain to claim the rainbow jersey for the second time after 2019.
Van Vleuten had been buried in the peloton for most of the race, but came out of nowhere to sweep to the front as the sprinters were jockeying for position on the other side of the road about 500m from the finish line.
“I knew that I couldn’t sprint because of my elbow, so I knew that I had to attack from behind, that was the only, only, only chance that I had,” she said. “I was waiting and waiting and waiting for the sprinters to come, but they couldn’t catch me.”
Belgian Lotte Kopecky finished second, while Italian Silvia Persico was third, with both cursing themselves after being completely outmaneuvered by their Dutch rival.
Van Vleuten clocked 4 hours, 24 minutes, 25 seconds over a course that ran along the Pacific coast from Helensburgh to Wollongong on Australia’s eastern seaboard south of Sydney.
“It was hell,” the Olympic time trial champion said. “I couldn’t go out of the saddle because of my elbow and my legs were exploding on the climbs. Normally, I really like to go out of the saddle and attack.”
“I had such a different plan before I broke my elbow and now I win it in the last kilometer and I’m world champion,” she said.
Van Vleuten’s triumph brings the title back to the Netherlands for the fifth time in six years after the reign of Italian Elisa Balsamo, who dropped out of the running with about 25km to go just after rain started falling on the course.
The men’s road race concludes the championships today.
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