Anna van der Breggen solos to world road title in Imola

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For the second time in her career, Anna van der Breggen has taken a World Championship road title with a long-range solo attack. The Dutch national road champion and newly crowned world time trial champ looked unstoppable on the roads in Imola, Italy, barely moving around on her bike, while her competitors wobbled all over the place trying to chase her down.

Two days after winning the world time trial title, Van der Breggen took a clear win in the road race with plenty of time to enjoy the moment as she crossed the finish line.

Behind Van der Breggen the race for second was a close one, with Elisa Longo Borghini of Italy and the Netherlands’ Annemiek van Vleuten going on the attack on the final climb of the day. The two finished 1:20 behind the winner and Van Vleuten barely managed to outsprint Longo Borghini to take second.

Forty seconds later the next group of four rolled across the line, led by Marianne Vos, putting three Dutch riders into the day’s top five.

How it happened

It was a relatively calm start to the day. With 143 kilometers to race, five laps of a course containing two very steep short climbs, the peloton simply cruised along for the first lap of the race. Not until inside 100km to the finish did the first moves begin.

At first, when Canada’s Alison Jackson made a move off the front it seemed to be a futile attempt. Jackson was joined by Australia’s Gracie Brown, and although the two didn’t gain significant time, it was this nudge that caused action on the front of the peloton.

Just when Jackson and Brown would have thought they were likely to get swept up, they were joined by a large group of riders. Initiated by the American Tayler Wiles, the new group that formed off the front contained riders from a lot of the significant nations. Lisa Brennauer of Germany, who just placed fourth in the TT at Imola Worlds, Hannah and Alice Barnes of Great Britain, Amy Pieters of the Netherlands, French national TT champ Juliette Labous, Suzanne Anderson of Norway, Christine Majerus of Luxembourg, Katia Ragusa of Italy, and eventually Spain’s Mavi Garcia, who bridged to the move before it was too far away.

The break rapidly gained an advantage of over a minute, although Brown, Alice Barnes, and Anderson were dropped early on. With most of the nations with riders in the move, it was left to the Danish team to chase for their leader Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, but they were not organized for long, and the break quickly gained over two minutes on the peloton.

Behind the nine-rider breakaway, even without an organized chase, the speed of the peloton increased and more and more riders began to filter off the back. The pace wasn’t too hard for Eugenia Bujak of Slovenia to try to get herself across the two minutes to the leaders.

Finally at 50km to go the big names moved to the front of the peloton and started putting pressure on each other. The first to make moves was world TT champion and 2018 world road champ Anna van der Breggen, followed closely by Poland’s Kasia Niewiadoma, and although Van der Breggen did not immediately separate herself from the peloton, with her attack the gap to the leading nine riders completely evaporated.

The group of leaders went into the penultimate lap of the race with only 18 seconds’ gap on the chasing “peloton,” which was significantly reduced by Van der Breggen’s attack on the Cima Gallisterna. In the pack, the Dutch took control of the race and lined up on the front.

On the fourth time up the Cima Gallisterna climb, Dutch legend Marianne Vos made her move. With one attack she was in the breakaway, and then the blew past them. Uttrup Ludwig followed, as did Van der Breggen, defending champion Van Vleuten, Italian favorite Elisa Longo Borghini, and Liane Lippert of Germany. Starting with Vos’s move the Dutch were fully in control of the race.

Next, it was Annemiek van Vleuten on the front, the defending champ was able to crack a few of the main contenders, notably Lizzie Deignan of Great Britain. As Van Vleuten started to fade Anna van der Breggen made her move. With 41.3km to go Van der Breggen flew up the remainder of the Cima Gallisterna climb. Longo Borghini, Uttrup Ludwig, and Van Vleuten, clearly suffering, gave chase, but Van der Breggen channeled her 2018 self and smoothly rode away from her competitors.

Van der Breggen’s gap grew over the plateau and onto the Imola Formula One track. Behind her Uttrup Ludwig, Longo Borghini, and Deignan, who managed to catch the three after the Cima Gallisterna, were barely able to coordinate a chase, while Van Vleuten, with a teammate up front, hung out at the back of the chase.

Van der Breggen led the race by two minutes into the final lap, where the chasing group of four was swept up by the remaining peloton. With Longo Borghini leading the way amid a season of strong form, the Italians took the front and were able to claw back some of Van der Breggen’s time, but with such a large gap and only two climbs between Van der Breggen and her second road title, it was a big ask for anyone to bring the Dutchwoman back. Once Van der Breggen hit the Mazzolano, her gap again grew to over two minutes.

The race for second started on the final time up the Cima Gallisterna, where Longo Borghini went clear from the pack. At first, a few of the favorites were able to follow her, but as the climb went on only Van Vleuten could hang on. Behind, a chase formed with Deignan, Niewiadoma, Lippert, and Uttrup Ludwig.

Out front, van der Breggen rolled across the line to take her second world championship win in three days and her second road title in three years. A broken wrist didn’t stop Van Vleuten from sprinting to runner-up honors, which made it a Dutch one-two on the day, while Longo Borghini rounded out the podium in third.

Van der Breggen’s win marks another highlight in what has already been a career season for her. She won her third Giro Rosa last weekend, and now, she has become the first rider since Jeanie Longo in 1995 to win both the time trial and road race world titles in the same year.

Top 10

1 VAN DER BREGGEN Anna (Netherlands) 4:09:57
2 VAN VLEUTEN Annemiek (Netherlands) 1:20
3 LONGO BORGHINI Elisa (Italy)
4 VOS Marianne (Netherlands) 2:01
5 LIPPERT Liane (Germany)
6 DEIGNAN Elizabeth (Great Britain)
7 NIEWIADOMA Katarzyna (Poland)
8 LUDWIG Cecilie Uttrup (Denmark) 2:41
9 BRENNAUER Lisa (Germany) 3:08
10 REUSSER Marlen (Switzerland)

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