September 26, 2015 (Richmond, VA) – Both road races today at the 2015 Road World Championships featured nail-biting finishes that came down-to-the-wire as Great Britain’s Elizabeth Armitstead bested Holland’s Anna Van der Breggen by half a bike length in a photo-finish in the Elite women’s race, with American Megan Guarnier adding to the fan frenzy as she claimed bronze for the host country.
Team Canada was in the mix until the end with two riders Joelle Numainville and Karol-Ann Canuel just missing the final selection in the all-out battle to the line, finishing 11th and 13th respectively.
Armitstead’s victory came just a few hours after Austria’s Felix Gall had soared to a dramatic victory in the Junior Men’s road race just able to hold off a hard-charging challenge by France’s Clement Betouigt-Suire who settled for second with Rasmus Pedersen of Denmark winning the bronze. Derek Gee almost made the final split finishing 45th as the top Canuck.
The women’s peloton remained intact for most of the competition shutting down all attempts until a dangerous move on the penultimate lap saw a nine-rider break get away containing Australians Rachel Neylan and Lauren Kitchen, together with Sweden’s Emily Fahlin, Italian Valentina Scandolara, Germany’s Romy Kasper, Poland’s Malgorzata Jasinka, Amy Pieters of Holland, Audrey Cordon of France and Coryn Rivera of the USA.
At one point there was more than a minute between the break and the peloton, but the gap began to close when Polish national road race champion Jasinka made a solo attack on the second last climb that forced the eight remaining breakaway riders to react including the chasing pack.
When Jasinka was caught with 6.5 kilometres to go Cordon and Scandolara bolted. But the bunch, powered first by the Netherlands and then Canada’s Alison Jackson swept up the break at the foot of the final ascent of Libby Hill.
Cordon and Scandolara also succumbed to the high pace of the peloton, down to around 40 riders, which stretched and shattered into several large groups as the road steepened.
The four remaining Canadians which included Leah Kirchmann continued to forge ahead having lost Denise Ramsden who was not feeling well early in the race.
Armitstead, increasingly active in the front on the last two climbs, kept the pace high on the final ascent of Governor Street which saw nine riders take the lead for the final selection. Numainville and Canuel were near the front but ended up in the small chase group just behind the lead group that was now channeling towards the finish.
On the final, long, boulevard leading to the line, the front group including defending champ Prevot waited each other out until Van der Breggen began her final acceleration. Armitstead came thundering past the Dutchwoman’s right to take the gold with Van der Breggen earning the silver and Guarnier the bronze.
Numainville just missed the sprint for 10th against Ellen Van Dijk (Netherlands), a former ITT worlds winner, as Canuel was 13th, Kirchmann was 32nd and Jackson finished in 36th.
“It was good…Lizzie was the strongest,” said Numainville. “I missed a little bit of gas at the end but it was great to be part of the action. I was feeling fit but missed making the front split… but I was happy to be part of the action. Libby Hill was incredible. This is the best Worlds I have ever done. The crowd was so loud. The Worlds should be in America more often.”
For Canuel it was a long day in the saddle. “For over half of the race, I was not feeling very well. I’m still a bit tired from my participation in the two time trials earlier this week,” said Canuel who added that the team had no clear strategy. “We wanted to see how we felt, and depending on how the race would unfold, we would adapt. It’s always different to race with Team Canada as we don’t ride together often – we know each other’s strengths and try to communicate well.”
For Armitstead it was a dream come true. “I couldn’t believe I’d done it, I didn’t have time to celebrate because I was going for the line all the way. The rainbow jersey is the most special thing in cycling,” said the winner.
In a tumultuous eight-lap race, earlier on Saturday morning, the bunch was broken apart by several crashes as well as attacks on rain-soaked road surfaces. The key moment came when the main pack shattered into a group of five around two laps from the finish, forming a lead break that swelled to 14 riders with 25km to go.
Just before Libby Hill, with around 5km to go, 17-year-old Gall went clear. His rivals whittled back that gap from 15 seconds to a narrow margin of only three seconds as Gall headed up the final climb of Governor Street in the 129.8km race.
Betouigt-Suire slowly but steadily reduced that small margin yet further on the 680-metre finishing straight and tried his utmost to fling his front wheel in front of Gall at the line but to no avail with Pedersen of Denmark claiming the bronze.
Canada’s Junior squad of four riders was settled in the pack for the first half of the race. Gee and Willem Boersma were in the main group but when the pace picked up they were caught out when the final selections were being made. Gee who was near the top 10 at one point finished 45th while Boersma was 73rd. Joel Taylor and Adam Roberge were further back as Roberge did not finish and Taylor ended up 104th.