Annemiek van Vleuten has claimed the win of all wins in the UCI Road World Championships in Wollongong, just days after breaking her elbow in a terrifying crash.
On Wednesday, van Vleuten lay on the ground in agony while her Dutch teammates sprinted away in the team time trial mixed relay after a clumsy crash. The fall left her battered, bruised and carrying a fractured elbow.
That threatened to take her out of Saturday’s crown jewel event. Fortunately, medical clearance came on Friday and after 164.3km racing around the New South Wales east coast, the Dutch rider stole a seemingly unlikely win in the Women’s Elite Road Race.
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“It was hell,” said van Vleuten of her winning ride with the injury.
“I could not go out of the saddle so I had to do everything seated and my legs were exploding on the climb.
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“Normally I really like to go out of the saddle and attacking. I had a so different plan. I want to attack.
“Before I broke my elbow, we had Marianne as the lead. I was just the domestique today, with a broken elbow, and now I’m world champion.”
It was a game of cat and mouse in the final few kilometres as no one in the tightly packed peloton made a move.
Then, from the rear of the group, van Vleuten suddenly emerged as she began sprinting with less than 900 metres to go.
Within seconds, van Vleuten held a sizable lead. With the tank emptied, the chasing peloton began closing in. However, the lead was just enough as the 39-year-old took the line first.
“I felt like I was waiting for the moment,” van Vleuten recounted.
“The only thing I was thinking was ‘I need to attack from behind. That’s the only, only, only chance I have’.
“I was waiting and waiting until they come with the sprint over me, but they didn’t catch me,” she said, smiling and laughing in disbelief.
It’s the second time in as many years that van Vleuten has won at the UCI Road World Championships, claiming the 2019 title.
It means the Dutch rider, who will celebrate her 40th birthday in early October, will spend what is likely her last full season wearing the iconic rainbow jersey.
“That’s why I was super disappointed I broke my elbow in the team time trial because I knew if I have an opportunity then it was today,” said van Vleuten.
“It’s so beautiful to be able to wear the rainbow jersey. Especially, I had it in the COVID year and it was not the best year to have it, the rainbow jersey.
“I still enjoyed it, but now I will fully enjoy it next year.”
Alexandra Manley led the Australian contingent, finishing 15th overall. Brodie Chapman was 21st, Amanda Spratt 27th, Sarah Roy 58th. Josie Talbot and Georgia Baker failed to finish.
New Zealand’s Niamh Fisher-Black claimed the under 23 Road World Championships as she finished 12th overall.
The UCI Road World Championships concludes on Sunday with the Men’s Elite Road Race at 10:15am.
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