Giorgia Bronzini of Italy succeeded team mate Tatiana Guderzo as women's World Road Champion in Geelong this afternoon as Britain's Nicole Cooke, who had attacked with Judith Arndt of Germany around 8 kilometres out, caught right before the line.
Cooke and Arndt seemed poise to fight it out for the gold medal as they entered the finishing straight, but a couple of seconds of hesitation between the pair before Arndt made the move to initiate the sprint was enough for the chasing trio to close the gap.
Even then, Cooke, who seemed stonger than the German, could have prevailed to claim back the title she won in Varese in 2008, the same year she won gold in the Olympic road race at Beijing, but with her attention focused on Arndt, the Welsh rider seemed to be caught unawares as the pursuers drew level then passed her.
Video: M2010RoadWorlds on YouTube (courtesy UCI/Network Ten)
Bronzini, who afterwards dedicated her win to Franco Ballerini, the Italian national coach who died in a rally accident earlier this year, proved strongest to clinch gold from Marianne Vos of the Netherlands, with Emma Johannsson of Sweden third.
However, following a thrilling race punctuated by attack after attack, with Britain's Emma Pooley, winner of Wednesday's time trial, also figuring prominently, Cooke finished frustratingly out of the medals in fourth place.
Afterwards, Bronzini, who succeeds team mate Tatiana Guderzo in the rainbow jersey, said: "I'm very, very happy, this victory is for my team, they are the best team. I started my sprint in the final metres, because I knew it was the only possibility to beat Vos who was faster… I thank Franco Ballerini and the team Italia. We are a very strong team. We are the best. “
Vos, the world cyclo-cross champion, was left to rue a third consecutive silver medal on the road. "Oh yeah, three times second," she reflected. I would prefer the Gold of course. Until the last lap everything was going quite well, but in the sprint I just had to go otherwise the other two with Arndt and Cooke would stay in front. It was just too long and Italy was stronger."
Bronze medallist Johansson meanwhile was critical of the tactics the Dutch rider had employed. "It didn't feel like it was a fair sprint from Marianne, she really put me into the barriers and I really knocked my head on the public. I know there was more in my legs and I would have gone for Gold. I’m a little bit happy, but I’m also very disappointed because it’s not nice to not be able to sprint because someone is not holding their line,” she added.
Women's Road Race
1. Giorgia Bronzini (Italy) 3:32:01
2. Marianne Vos (Netherlands)
3. Emma Johansson (Sweden)
4. Nicole Cooke (Great Britain)
5. Judith Arndt (Germany) @ 1 sec
6. Grace Verbeke (Belgium) @ 3 secs
7. Trixi Worrack (Germany)
8. Rasa Leleivyte (Lithuania)
9. Lizzie Armitstead (Great Britain)
10. Carla Swart (South Africa)
Other British finishers
16. Sharon Laws, Gbr
20. Emma Pooley, Gbr
29. Catherine Williamson, Gbr @1.42
Did not finish
Lucy Martin, Gbr
Katie Colclough, Gbr
123 starters/76 ranked at the finish
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.