Great Britain’s Lizzie Armitstead is the new women’s UCI World Road Race champion after outsprinting Anna van der Breggen (Netherlands) to claim the rainbow jersey in Richmond.
Armitstead animated the final lap attacking twice, including on the final climb of Governor Street, but was unable to distance the elite leading group.
However, despite being forced to lead out the sprint, the 26-year-old Yorkshirewoman outsprinted in-form van der Breggen to claim her first world title on the road.
The victory, on the partially cobbled, punchy Richmond circuit also sees her enter the record books as only the fourth British woman to win world road race gold after Beryl Burton (twice), Mandy Jones and Nicole Cooke.
It is also Great Britain’s first medal of this year’s UCI Road World Championships – though it owed as much to Germany and the Netherlands shutting down a well-populated breakaway group on the final lap.
Both nations had riders in that nine-rider move, which held a minute’s advantage with two laps remaining, as did Australia, France and Italy and as Armitstead’s group took the bell it appeared her chances of winning the rainbow jersey were over.
The Netherlands clearly felt van der Breggen was a better option for the gold medal than Amy Pieters in the break, however, and had all-but reeled them in on Libby Hill.
Sensing the renewed, and slightly unexpected, opportunity, Armitstead hit the front next on 23rd Street but could not earn a gap – the same story playing out on Governor Street.
The day’s pace had whittled the front group down to just nine riders, but with defending champion Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (France), van der Breggen, Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy) and Emma Johansson (Sweden) all still in contention it was still far from Armitstead’s to lose.
And when she had to lead the sprint out, it appeared the odds were stacking even higher against her.
Armistead allowed van der Breggen to come past her, however, and once she did latched onto the Dutchwoman’s wheel and passed her in sight of the line to claim victory by half a length.
Megan Guarnier came in third, having started from too far back to earn a shot at gold but sprinting well enough to round off the podium.
As she crossed the line, Armitstead clapped her hand to her mouth in shock but Britain’s leading lady pulled on the rainbow bands on the podium to crown another superb year.
UCI Road World Championships 2015 – elite women’s road race: result
1) Lizzie Armiststead – Great Britain – 3.23.56hrs
2) Anna van der Breggen – Netherlands – ST
3) Megan Guarnier – United States
4) Elisa Longo Borghini – Italy
5) Emma Johansson – Sweden
6) Pauline Ferrand-Prevot – France
7) Katarzyna Niewiadoma – Poland
8) Alena Amialiusik – Belarus
9) Jolanda Neff – Switzerland
10) Ellen van Dijk – Netherlands +9”