Marianne Vos (Netherlands) enhanced a reputation as the most complete rider of her generation by adding a second world title on the road to those already won in cyclo-cross and on the track.
Riding on home soil, the slightly built Vos was a formidable presence throughout the 129km race, riding at the head of the peloton, before joining and finally riding clear of the decisive selection.
Her achievement in Limburg makes her only the second woman to win the Olympic road race and world road race championship in the same year. Britain’s Nicole Cooke, who finished 5.39 down on Vos today, was the first to achieve this remarkable double, four years ago.
Vos told the BBC: “I knew it could be the decisive break and it was great to see the gap growing from one, to two and then to three minutes. When we got to the last lap I thought this is the moment when I could be world champion.”
Vos won her first world road race title in 2006, before suffering five consecutive visits to the world’s podium as runner up.
The manner of her victory left little doubt concerning her superiority on this occasion. Still only 25, years of dominance cannot be ruled out.
Rachel Neylan (Australia) was second, 10 seconds behind Vos, while Italy’s Elisa Borghini, finished third, a further eight seconds down.
Great Britain suffered a disappointing day. Emma Pooley, the team’s strongest rider on the hilly terrain of Limburg, and the nation’s first rider home, finished fifteenth.
In an unflinching account of her performance, Pooley told the BBC her performance hadn’t been good enough and that she had let the team down.
“Days like today don’t fill me with encouragement and I have been disappointing all year,” she said.
A fairer assessment might include her position at the head of affairs for much of today’s race, second overall in the Giro d’Italia Feminine, in which she won the mountains classification, and a key role in Lizzie Armistead’s Olympic silver medal winning performance, where she chased down every early attack.
Today, Pooley was unable to respond when the decisive selection was made. She crossed the line 4.37 after Vos in a group of nine riders led home by New Zealand’s Linda Villumsen.
Pooley was by some distance the best placed of her British teammates.
National champion, Sharon Laws, finished 21 seconds after Pooley in 39th position, 21 places ahead of Nicole Cooke. Nikki Harris finished in the same group as Cooke, while Katie Colclough failed to finish after being caught in a huge pile up at the start of the second ascent of the Cauberg.
Elite women’s road race championship – result
1) Marianne Vos (NED) – 3.14.29
2) Rachel Neylan (AUS) +10”
3) Elisa Borghini (ITA) +18”
4) Amber Neben (USA) +33”
5) Anna Van Der Breggen (NED) +55”
6) Rossella Ratto (ITA) +3.40
7) Linda Villumsen (NZL) +4.37
8) Judith Arndt (GER)
9) Emma Johansson (SWE)
10) Paulina Brzezna-Bentkowska (POL)