In recent years the Dutch women’s team have proved unstoppable at world road race championships and their domination continued in Italy with Anna van der Breggen taking the squad’s fourth title in as many years, becoming the first elite rider since 1995 to win time trial and road race gold medals in the same year.
“It’s incredible,” she said. “It was a really hard race; the climbs were really tough. We discussed it, we wanted to make the race hard and we did. I went for it and thought that on the final lap everyone would be tired but it was a long way [to the finish].”
Lizzie Deignan, the 2015 champion, finished sixth, frustrated by the orange machine for the second year running in spite of a strong collective performance by her teammates: “a bit hillier than I would have liked,” was her verdict.
Unfortunately, although Great Britain have improved rapidly in the wake of Deignan’s title five years ago, like all other nations they cannot match the Dutch.
Van der Breggen’s double gold was sealed with a 42km solo break that marked the climax of an astonishing run of world championship success with six gold and silver medals at the time trial and road race in the past three years, including her previous title in the road race in Innsbruck in 2018. On top of that, she is the reigning Olympic road race champion, with her defence of the title postponed by the pandemic.
She has planned her retirement for the end of next year in the hope of adding the Olympic time trial title to her sumptuous palmares. At the age of 30, Van der Breggen is on a golden run, marked by a win in the Giro Rosa in the run-in to Imola, a European title and her national title.
As with recent Dutch titles – 2019 for Annemiek van Vleuten, 2017 for Chantal Blaak – this fourth win in a row was born of outstanding team work. On a 28km circuit including two stiff climbs, whipped by crosswinds, the race came to the boil in the final two laps, with first Australia and then the Dutch leading the chase behind a nine-rider escape that included Great Britain’s Hannah Barnes.
An initial effort by the Dutch over the first climb, Mazzolano, whittled the peloton down, and on the second ascent of the lap, Gallisterna, the 2012 Olympic champion, Marianne Vos, softened up the survivors with a searing acceleration.
That was followed by Van der Breggen’s equally electrifying attack, with only Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig of Denmark, Italy’s Elisa Longo Borghini and Deignan remaining in touch as she made her attack, along with Van Vleuten, who looked only slightly off her very best in spite of a broken wrist nine days ago, that had kept her participation in doubt until the last minute.
With the race in tatters behind, Van der Breggen forged clear to a near two-minute lead at the bell, after which the last lap was a formality.
Behind, Deignan and her companions were swept up, with Longo Borghini going ahead again on the final climb with the astonishing Van Vleuten, who took silver to seal a Dutch double. To close a day of orange domination, Vos took the sprint for fourth from a four-rider chasing group with Deignan close behind.
On SundayToday, the men’s elite race on the same course will have the Tour de France winner, Tadej Pogacar, starting as favourite over the steep climbs, with Great Britain led by recent Team Ineos signing Tom Pidcock, eyeing a shot at glory after taking third on home roads in Yorkshire, and Lancastrian Hugh Carthy.