Van Vleuten goes solo to win women's road race title

Damian MCCALL

Harrogate (United Kingdom) (AFP) - Dutch ace Annemiek van Vleuten pulled off a major gamble on Saturday, launching a solo attack from 100km out to win the women's road race world title as huge, festive crowds cheered her home at Harrogate.

The enthusiastic roadside fans Yorkshire has become known for at cycling events, gave van Vleuten a hero's welcome after her unprecedented crosswind defying solo effort from such a mammoth distance.

It was her first world road race title as she beat her compatriot Anna van der Breggen, the 2018 champion, by 2min 15sec. Australia's Amanda Spratt took third a few seconds farther adrift.

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The 36-year-old van Vleuten attacked on a steep climb at Lofthouse early in the 149.4km (92.8miles) run from Bradford, which was largely free of the rain that has dogged these UCI world championships in Yorkshire, England.

Cresting the summit of the day's toughest climb just an hour into the race, van Vleuten had pulled almost a minute clear of a select group of rivals.

Her pursuers appeared bamboozled by the depth of the attack as the Dutch veteran ignored conventional cycling tactics and unleashed a towering performance from 104km away from the finish line

Even as the best of the rest took it in turns to lead up the pursuit, van Vleuten slowly but surely stretched her lead.

Eventually, the American Chloe Dygert, winner of the time-trial in midweek, set off on a doomed solo chase some 40km out.

Dygert, a 22-year-old powerhouse in pink shoes, might have been better served working a deal with the other pursuers as she never truly got clear of them and eventually cracked to finish fourth.

With the rain holding off over the latter part of the race, crowds packed the hilly and town-centre sections along the roads used when the Tour de France spent four days here in 2014 and during the subsequent Tour de Yorkshire, established in its wake.

"Everyone was cheering for me along the way it was so exciting," said the sunny van Vleuten with a broad smile.

"I wanted to go hard all the time. It was crazy, I must be a little crazy to attack from that far," she said.

"I trained a lot of hours, I had so many emotions," said van Vleuten, whose father died in 2008.

"My mother is here and my father is here with me in the form of these ear-rings he bought me. I wore them at the Rio Olympics," said the new world champion.

At the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro van Vleuten was on course for the road race title before being knocked unconscious when hitting a concrete slab on a descent.

She recovered to win the time-trial world title in 2017 and 2018 at Bergen and Innsbruck.

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