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As the orange train of the eight-rider Dutch squad stormed down the finish of the World Championship course in Doha, Qatar, a win for pre-race favourite Kirsten Wild (Hitec) seemed almost inevitable. But tucked on her wheel was youngster Amalie Dideriksen of Denmark. The 20-year-old Boels-Dolmans rider timed her sprint just right, coming around Wild in the final meters to edge out the win with a bike throw.
Crossing the line, it was too close to call right away but Wild knew she had been beat. She gave Dideriksen a congratulatory tap on her back, and disbelief flushed on Dideriksen’s face.
Finland’s Lotta Lepistö (Cervelo-Bigla) finished third.
“I think it’s a surprise for everyone,” Dideriksen exclaimed in the finish line interview. “I had a small crash and my teammates brought me back to the front. I had dreamt of a medal or to win this one day but now, at 20…”
While it may have been a surprise, it certainly wasn’t luck. Diderisken is a two-time junior world road race champion, a two-time Elite Danish national road race champion as well as the 2015 U23 European Champion in the individual pursuit and omnium on the track. Going into the final kilometres of the race today, she knew exactly where she had to be.
“I fought pretty hard with the other girls but I wanted [Wild’s] wheel!” she said.
And her battle paid off.
With Dideriksen as the new women’s world champion, the rainbow jersey stays within the Boels-Dolmans team. Defending champion Lizzie Deignan (nee Armitstead) settled for fourth today and was among the first to congratulate her young teammate.
1. Amalie Dideriksen (Denmark/Boels-Dolmans)
2. Kirsten Wild (The Netherlands/Hitec Products)
3. Lotta Lepistö (Finland/Cervelo-Bigla)
4. Lizzie Deignan (Great Britain/Boels-Dolmans)
5. Marta Bastianelli (Italy/Alé–Cipollini)
How the race was won
As a top pre-race favourite, there was a lot of pressure for The Netherlands going into this race. With an eight-rider team and sprinter Kirsten Wild, a four-time Ladies Tour of Qatar winner, in their midst, the Dutch had a clear plan how to win this race: control, attack, attack, attack some more, control, and lead out Wild for the finish.
The race very much played into their favour. In fact, up until the final meters it seemed like the Dutch would get their way but today was not Wild’s day.
When the 142 riders from the world over lined up outside of Doha this afternoon, temperatures were already creeping up to a balmy 36 C (96 F) degrees and riders were well prepared with cooling vests, ice socks and frozen bidons.
Missing from the start line, however, was former two-time world champion and possible race favourite, Giorgia Bronzini of Italy. She had come down with illness, and so the Italian squad was left without their trusted road captain.
In addition to the heat, the urban course was a much-debated one. From the start in Qatar Foundation, a twisty but otherwise fairly uneventful 23 kilometre (14.3 mile) highway took riders to the man-made island of Pearl Qatar to complete seven laps of a 15.2km (9.4 miles) loop filled with corners and roundabouts.
The first attack came right at the start as Japan’s Eri Yonamine went on a flyer, leading the peloton into the Pearl Qatar circuit.
And without any serious effort being made to reel her in the 25-year-old Japanese national road and time trial champion continued to dangle out ahead with a gap that got up to 35 seconds.
The tight feedzone was absolute chaos each and every time the peloton sped through. Many bottles were dropped and some riders went down.
Missing bottles in these conditions was costly as many riders struggled with the heat. The temperature became too much for Mexican rider Sofia Arreola who would later be taken away by ambulance due to heat stroke.
A touch of wheels saw a number of riders hit the deck including Dutch race favourite Wild. Unshaken, Wild calmly got going again and after a quick change of wheels, teammate Roxane Knetemann paced her back to the pack.
During the kerfuffle, however, Nicole Hanselmann (Switzerland) slipped away to join Yonamine on the front. Together, the duo extended their lead to 46 seconds.
The Dutch opened up the attacking on lap two with Amy Pieters followed by Israel’s Paz Bash. When Marianne Vos moved to the front to up the tempo, the duo of Yonamine and Hanselmann was soon caught.
With 69 kilometres to go the racing had started and the Dutch fired off one rider after another. Ellen van Dijk, Chantal Blaak, Marianne Vos, Annemiek van Vleuten, Anna van der Breggen — every one got their turn, forcing other teams to respond and chase.
Favouring a sprint, these attacks weren’t meant to stick so much as thin out the pack and keep the pace high for a clean sprint. And so, no break formed until newly crowned time trial world champion Amber Neben (USA) rode off the front with 43 kilometres to go.
Showing just how she became the new time trial champion, Neben quickly increased her lead to 45 seconds. Some chasing happened but in general the pack didn’t seem to be in a hurry to reel her back in.
When the kilometres ticked down and the penultimate lap was nearing, Vos took to the front to lead the chase. Neben held on to her lead, however, and people started wondering if it would be possible for Neben to take home two rainbow jerseys from the Doha championships. The last time a rider won both the world time trial and road race championships in the same year was in 1995 when Jeannie Longo dominated.
With 32 kilometres to go, Neben still had a comfortable 50-second lead on the peloton and so the Belgians and Australia’s Loren Rowney moved to the front to help the chase.
After the final chaotic ride through the feedzone, Neben was caught as she entered the last lap, and Great Britain’s Danielle King immediately responded with an attack.
The pace ramped up as attack after attack followed. Vos, Emma Johansson (Sweden) and defending champion Lizzie Deignan (Great Britain) were all being aggressive at the front until they ran out of time and a mass sprint was inevitable.
With 8 kilometres to go, the Dutch were in formation. Firmly planted on the right side of the road, a train of seven orange jerseys cascaded to the finish. While other teams were scrambled, the Dutch were locked in. With Wild on the trusty wheel of former three-time world champion Vos in the final metres, a win for Wild seemed inevitable.
But tucked on Wild’s wheel was youngster Amalia Dideriksen of Denmark. Wild put her nose in the wind just a tad early, making it possible for the 20-year-old Boels-Dolmans rider to come around her and nip her at the line.
A brilliant win by the young Dane, utter disappointment for the Dutch.
Other race favourites, too, were left disappointed with Australian Chloe Hosking finishing seventh, and Belgian hopeful Jolien d’Hoore in 10th.
“Seventh is not what we came here for, but it’s what we got…I’m probably going to go back to Spain and lick my emotional wounds,” Hosking said after the race. “I’m going to come back hopefully stronger next season. I don’t know if I’ll ever have a run at the rainbows but there are other races to win.”
The United States’ best finisher was sprinter Coryn Rivera in 16th.
The women’s peloton will return to the Qatari desert in February 2017 for the UCI season opener.