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Sept 23, 2017 – Dutch champion Chantal Blaak overcame a painful crash to take a surprise victory in the women’s world championship road race in Bergen on Saturday. The 27-year-old used her more illustrious team-mates Anna van der Breggen, the Olympic champion, and Annemiek van Vleuten, the time-trial world champion, as a foil to escape to a solo victory at the end of the 152.8km street circuit course. Australia’s Katrin Garfoot took silver with last year’s champion Amalie Dideriksen of Denmark in bronze.
“No, I can’t believe it, everything happened in the race: I crashed, I was in a lot of pain, in that moment I thought my race was over,” said Blaak about her crash with around 65km to ride. “(Then) I thought I can come back and see what I can do. The plan was not that I should win race but do my best possible for the team. After that (attack) I just followed my heart and stayed away.”
Blaak had instigated an attack with 23km left that saw Briton Hannah Barnes and Audrey Cordon of France join her. But a counter attack led by Van Vleuten and including Van der Breggen saw the lead group swell to seven riders — three of them Dutch — with 11km left. It gave the Dutch trio a commanding tactical advantage and Blaak exploited
With Garfoot, Barnes, Cordon and Katarzyna Niewiadoma of Poland all keeping an eye on the two star Dutch riders, Blaak took off on a solo bid with 8km left. No-one was willing to lead the chase knowing they would be simply towing Van Vleuten and Van der Breggen to the line, and by the final kilometer, Blaak had a comfortable lead of more than 30 seconds and knew the world title was in the bag.
“We didn’t really talk to each other but we knew what to do,” added Blaak. “We were seven (in the break) and three of us (were Dutch). Annemiek attacked first and everyone was reacting. Then I thought this was the right moment. We had really good teamwork, everything went as planned, everyone was strong and we raced aggressively also.
“There was a lot of pressure because we have to win, but it worked. I was already super happy that I had the national jersey this year but, yeah, it’s a dream.”
Garfoot explained her reluctance to chase Blaak had been a gamble as she thought Van Vleuten or Van der Breggen would let their pride get the better of them.
“It’s always going to be tough to have three Dutchies in a race of seven,” said the German-born rider, who took bronze in the time-trial on Tuesday. The odds were just stacked against me. When Chantal went I thought if she’s gone maybe Vleutie (Van Vleuten) or Van der Breggen want it more and (will) chase her, hopefully. I just gambled because if I’d have chased her they would then have attacked off that. The best option I had was just to rest my legs for the sprint or a late sort of attack.”
And if she had to lose to one of the Dutch riders, Garfoot was glad that it was Blaak.
“I’m happy for her because she’s not one of the huge names in between the Dutchies. That’s why I liked it when I saw her attack, I liked that the other two were put under pressure and that’s why I played that game.”
The chasers were even caught by the remnants of the peloton inside that final kilometer, although Garfoot had left enough in the tank to win the bunch sprint, with the fast finishing Dideriksen coming from far back to snatch third. Van Vleuten had to settle for fourth with Van der Breggen eighth.