Dutch cyclist Annemiek van Vleuten wins the biggest victory of her career at the world road championships


Annemiek van Vleuten surprised herself and the rest of cycling with the biggest win of her career on Saturday at the world road championships in Wollongong, Australia.

Overcoming a broken elbow suffered three days earlier, the tall Dutchwoman claimed her second world road race title with an attack in the final 600 meters that caught the other eight leaders napping.

The 39-year-old runner and her Dutch teammates were in disbelief at the finish after putting the exclamation mark on a 164.3 kilometer race.

The 2019 world champion and reigning Olympic winner of the world time trial won cycling’s triple crown this year when she clinched the Italian, French and Spanish circuits.

But for Van Vleuten, who will retire at the end of next season, what she did on Saturday was very special.

« This might be my greatest win…I’m still speechless, still can’t believe it, » she said. « It took me a while to realize that I had really succeeded because I’m waiting for the moment when someone will tell me that there was someone in front or that it was a joke. I had the feeling that it couldn’t be true. »

She crashed during Wednesday’s mixed team relay at the world championships and suffered a broken bone, describing the pain during Saturday’s race as « hell ».

The win also perpetuates the dominance of the Dutch, who have finished on the road race podium in all but three of the last 20 world championships.

Earlier on Saturday, Britain’s Zoe Backstedt celebrated her 18th birthday by turning the junior road event into an individual race.

In wet and cold conditions, Backstedt pulled away from the peloton with a solo attack at 10 kilometers and stayed clear for the remaining 57 km to win by over two minutes. The French Eglantine Rayer finished second ahead of the Dutch Nienke Vinke.

Backstedt retained her junior road race title and is also a world track and cyclocross champion.

The championships wrap up Sunday with the men’s road race.

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