Pauline Ferrand Prevot of France proved she’s one of the sport’s rising stars when she won the Women’s Road Race at Ponferrada, outsprinting a number of powerful rivals including defending champion Marianne Vos in a thrilling final.
A large crash early on in the race took several riders out; many of them appearing to have suffered injury – Rabo-Liv announced after the race that Thalita De Jong sustained a broken collar bone, and eleven riders received treatment in hospital; see Lucinda Brand’s smashed fork here. Leah Kirchmann also broke her collar bone, but her Canadian team mate Karol-Ann Canuel, who was seen being carried off the road, was worse off still with a broken hip while Joelle Numainville, taken to hospital after hitting her head due to the long-term problems she suffered following concussion last year, was given the all-clear. Early concerns that Giorgia Bronzini was among the injured riders proved unfounded; she and Vos, caught behind the accident, were able to rejoin the peloton without much delay. Heavy rain complicated matters later on but, with the peloton still avoiding unnecessary risks after the crash, did not cause serious issues; nor did it prevent breakaways by the USA’s Alison Powers (who had gone down hard in the crash but recovered well) and Rachel Neylan (Australia).
One of the most spectacular of many impressive performances was that of Slovenia’s Spela Kern, who took a long turn off the front despite the efforts of a very strong German team to reel her back in. The Germans were somewhat hamstrung by the other teams’ reluctance to join forces, but nevertheless Kern will have been noticed by managers of the top trade teams.
Evie Stevens (USA) shook things up with an attack at 12km to go, forcing Marianne Vos (Netherlands), Tiffany Cromwell (Australia) and Britain’s Lizzie Armitstead to go after her. She still had the reserves to try again on final climb, with Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy) and Emma Johansson joining Vos and Armitstead to make sure she didn’t get away. Further cat-and-mouse games characterised the next few kilometres until 3km to go when Johansson attacked and was also prevented from escaping. Longo Borghini went a little over a kilometre later, but Vos was on her instantly.
Armitstead, who remained in contention all day, had apparently expended too much on the last climb and in making sure the chasers didn’t catch her group; she finally ran out of strength as the sprint to the finish began – a pity, as she’d raced perfectly. Vos looked an almost definite winner as the leading riders got their sprint underway, but was seen to sit down when her trade team-mate Ferrand Prevot appeared from behind her and then passed her, having caught up despite being left behind on the final climb. Meanwhile, Lisa Brennauer (Germany) followed in Ferrand Prevot’s wake for a well-earned second and Johansson was third.
Vos’ tenth – the first time she has finished lower than top two in any of the Road World Championships she’s contested – soon sparked the usual “is Vos’ reign over?” discussions, much as was the case with Eddy Merckx every time he finished outside the top three, but is far more likely to be an indication that for one day in a year when she’s been taking things a little easier than in recent seasons, she didn’t have the strength left.
Is Vos, as some have suggested, “washed up?”
28 victories in 2014, including The Women’s Tour, the Giro Rosa and La Course, say ” no – of course not.”
2014 World Championships Top Ten
1 Pauline Ferrand Prevot (France) 3h29’21”
2 Lisa Brennauer (Germany) ST
3 Emma Johansson (Sweden) ST
4 Giorgia Bronzini (Italy) ST
5 Tiffany Cromwell (Australia) ST
6 Shelley Olds (USA) ST
7 Lizzie Armitstead (United Kingdom) ST
8 Linda Villumsen (New Zealand) ST
9 Ganna Solovey (Ukraine) ST
10 Marianne Vos (Netherlands) ST
38 Annie Last (United Kingdom) +3’06”
DNF Anna Christian (United Kingdom)
DNF Hannah Barnes (United Kingdom)
DNF Alice Barnes (United Kingdom)
DNF Lucy Garner (United Kingdom)