Victory for Vos in Euskadi

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Marianne Vos brings her total of race wins up to 309 (image: Neutral Service CC BY-SA 3.0)

World Champion Marianne Vos has added a fourth win at the Durango-Durango Emakumeen Saria to her palmares after a thrilling duel with arch-rivals Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) and Emma Johansson (Orica-AIS) – bringing her total number of victories up to an incredible 309.

Last year, the climb on the first four laps permitted a group consisting of Vos, Johansson, Elisa Longo Borghini, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio and Evie Stevens to get away early on and the peloton was powerless to bring them back. Realising that the only way to beat Vos is to gang up against her, Johansson, Longo Borghini, Mollman-Pasio and Stevens did precisely that, managing to leave the Rabo-Liv leader behind on the final climb. However, Vos is well-known for having bike-handling skills to match her strength (honed in cyclo cross, a discipline in which she has been World Champion seven times); on the difficult final descent she was on them like a hawk, got back into the lead and beat them to the line.

This year, the four laps were completed in the opposite direction and although the climbs weren’t taxing enough for a selection to be made, several riders certainly began to feel the pressure and were taken out of contention. It wasn’t until the two final climbs that a selection was made this year, but with eighteen riders making it in it remained impossible to predict a winner with any reasonable chance of accuracy – and with so many strong riders in the break, it effectively ended the chances of several riders and teams. Armitstead, who this year has become one of a very small handful of riders able to challenge Vos in every competition, began turning up the heat on the final climb with 11km to go and led the group for a while, but in the end it came down to a matter of team support: she had three riders – Katarzyna Palowska, Ellen van Dijk, Jessie Daams and Megan Guarnier – to assist her, while Vos had Anna van der Breggen and Annemiek van Vleuten. Five against three doesn’t sound fair but, while Armitstead has become one of Vos’ strongest rivals, Vos remains such a phenomenally talented rider that the odds were considerably more even than may at first appear. Sadly for Johansson, the same did not apply to her – she and Shara Gillow were the only Orica riders to get into the group.

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Britain’s Lizzie Armitstead was second (image: Neutral Service CC BY-SA 3.0)

Johansson’s the second-best rider in the world, but to be in with a chance against that sort of opposition she’d have needed more back-up and it showed in the final kilometres when she needed to use up a greater percentage of what she had left than her two rivals in order to keep up as the trio sped away, forcing a 17″ wedge between themselves and Van der Breggen who rode just off the front of the chasing group. She did stay with them, and in doing so proved how good she is, but by now she’d given too much to pose a realistic challenge in the sprint to the line – when Vos kicked, she did to too but was simply unable to generate the same horsepower. Armitstead could give more and, next year, she’s going to really cause problems for Vos; for now, Vos remains The Boss.

The best-placed British rider after Armitstead was 2012 winner, Lotto-Belisol’s Emma Pooley who took 18th place at +34″. Tamina Kate Oliver, riding for CAF Transport Engineering, was 75th at +9’42”.

Top Ten
1 Marianne VOS (Rabo-Liv) 2h52’50”
2 Lizzie ARMITSTEAD (Boels-Dolmans) ST
3 Emma JOHANSSON (Orica-AIS) ST
4 Anna VAN DER BREGGEN (Rabo-Liv) +17″
5 Elisa LONGO BORGHINI (Hitec Products) +19″
6 Annemiek VAN VLEUTEN (Rabo-Liv) +27″
7 Katarzyna PAWLOWSKA (Boels-Dolmans) +28″
8 Ashleigh MOOLMAN-PASIO (Hitec Products) ST
9 Trixi WORRACK (Specialized-Lululemon) ST
10 Rossella RATTO (Estada de Mexico-Faren) ST
Full result