Marianne Vos of the Netherlands, runner-up in the world championship road race in each of the past five years, put in a towering perfomance to clinch victory on home soil in Valkenburg this afternoon, the second time she has won the event. Her previous win came in 2006, her first participation in the event, when she was still an amateur. Australia's Rachel Neylan finished second, with Elisa Longo-Borghini of Italy third and Amber Neben of the United States fourth.
Today, the 25-year-old Vos attacked on each climb of the Cauberg during the last three laps of the 129km race, the first of those ending the hopes of riders including Great Britain's Emma Poooley as Vos bridged across to a small breakaway group including team mate Anna Van Der Breggen.
The Dutch pair were among just five women left in contention as they swung onto the Cauberg for the final time, Vos jumping clear on the climb and already looking assured of victory as she crested the summit ahead of a flat 1.7km run-in to the finish.
Vos, winner of the Olympic road race in London in July, emulates Nicole Cooke's achievement of four years ago in winning the Olympic and world titles in the same year.
The Cauberg proved to be stage for the dramatic moments of the race, including a big crash on the second lap in which more than 50 riders were brought down, including Vos's team mate Ellen Van Dijk, who abandoned shortly afterwards.
On the fifth of the eighth laps, five riders got clear - Neylan, Neben, Van Der Breggan, Charlotte Becker of Germany and Italy's Rossella Ratto, who would eventually finish sixth.
It was on the ascent of the Cauberg on the following lap that the decisive moment of the race came as Vos jumped clear of the bunch and quickly got across to the lead group.
The move took most of her rivals by surprise, including Pooley whose wheel she had been following, and the narrow width of the road meant that the British rider, like many others, was in no position to respond immediately due to riders blocking her.
It didn't take long for riders such as Pooley, Sweden's Emma Johansson and Italy's Giorgia Bronzini, winner of the rainbow jersey in Copenhagen last year and Geelong in 2010 to organise themselves for the pursuit, but their chase would be in vain.
Only Longo-Borghini was able to go with the eventual winner. The Italian 21-year-old would have no response, however, when Vos lauched her race-winning attack on the last climb of the Cauberg.
"It’s been an amazing year," reflected Vos afterwards. "Really incredible. It started great with the world championship cyclocross [which she won for the fourth year running] but then I broke my collarbone.
"The plan was to get in shape at the Giro d’Italia. Well, that worked: I won. Then the gold at the Olympics, the World Cup overall and now this. We had such a strong team here. I asked the girls to keep the gap at 35 seconds, you can bridge that on the Cauberg.
"Anna (Van der Breggen) was in front so that was excellent. I knew this break was the correct one, good riders on board.
"I geared up before the steepest part of the Cauberg and went flat out. It was pretty hard, especially the last 1.5 kilometers with the headwind.
But is sure helps if you’ve been here a hundred thousand times," she added, an allusion perhaps not only the hours of training that she has put in on the Cauberg ahead of today's race, but also those occasions over the last five years when she has come so close to the rainbow jersey only to hend up with the silver medal.
UCI road world championships elite women's road race 1 Marianne VOS NED 03:14:29 2 Rachel NEYLAN AUS +10 3 Elisa LONGO BORGHINI ITA +18 4 Amber NEBEN USA +33 5 Anna VAN DER BREGGEN NED +55 6 Rossella RATTO ITA +3:40 7 Linda VILLUMSEN NZL +4:37 8 Judith ARNDT GER +4:37 9 Emma JOHANSSON SWE +4:37 10 Paulina BRZEZNA POL +4:37 11 Annemiek VAN VLEUTEN NED +4:37 12 Ashleigh MOOLMAN RSA +4:37 13 Joelle NUMAINVILLE CAN +4:37 14 Alena AMIALIUSIK BLR +4:37 15 Emma POOLEY GBR +4:37 16 Evelyn STEVENS USA +4:37 17 Jessie DAAMS BEL +4:37 18 Liesbet DE VOCHT BEL +4:37 19 Hanka KUPFERNAGEL GER +4:49 20 Giorgia BRONZINI ITA +4:49
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.