Silver for Emma Johansson; Top Ten for Tiffany Cromwell in Worlds Road Race

Sat 28 Sep 2013

Marianne Vos (Netherlands) claimed back-to-back world titles with a decisive attack the last time up the Via Salviati. It is the third road world title for the Dutchwoman, who enjoyed strong support from her national team at the Road World Championships. Emma Johansson (Sweden) capped off an incredibly successful season with a silver medal. The Swede outsprinted Rosella Ratto (Italy) in the race for second place.

The day had been billed as a battle royale between Italy and the Netherlands, and while the two countries enjoyed numbers in the final two laps, the underdog nations were keen to leave their mark on the race.

A quiet peloton rolled out of Montecatini Terme. The calm belied the injection of pace that awaited the bunch as they the hilly circuit around Fiesole and Via Salviati. During the first of five laps, Team USA set a blistering tempo at the head of affairs. Their work forced repeated splits in the bunch. With three laps remaining, the lead group contained one-fifth of the original 141 starters.

Australians Tiffany Cromwell and Carlee Taylor had made the elite selection. Cromwell lit up the race on the third lap, throwing herself downhill after Lucinda Brand (Netherlands). Although the reduced peloton pegged back the duo, it was the first hint of the feisty style of racing Cromwell would employ for the remainder of the afternoon.

“We knew we weren’t the strongest team, but we wanted to play our cards,” said Cromwell. “The first lap was super hard and super fast. It whittled down the peloton quickly. Shara [Gillow] wasn’t on a good day, so it was just me and Carlee battling the Dutchies and Italian. They had a massive presence in the front group.”

“Carlee was awesome to cover everything the way she did,” Cromwell continued. “Eventually, it was my turn to get into the moves.”

While Johansson, who was left without teammates at the first lap, quietly bided her team. Cromwell put in a few digs. Her moves inspired others into action. Eventually, a lead group of eight took shape.

“I got dropped at one point,” said Cromwell. “I descended my way back into the group. After that, my legs started to cramp. I knew I was running out of time. I’m a racer, so I wasn’t content just to sit in and sprint for a minor place. I wanted to give it everything I had and finish off the work my team had done. I was hurting, but I attacked again when everyone else was just looking around at each other.”

Cromwell’s attack split the group that had swelled to 11 at the start of the bell lap, and while she ultimately lost contact with the leaders on the penultimate climb, Cromwell continued to fight all the way to the finish. Evie Stevens (USA) launched the next attack. Anna van der Breggen (Netherlands), looking after Vos shut down the attempt. Stevens gave it another go up the Via Salviati, and Johansson countered the move.

As the Via Salviati steepened, Vos jumped around Johansson and immediately opened up a gap. Johansson, with Ratto in her wake, gave the chase a committed effort. Under the flamme rouge, it became clear that Vos had an unassailable advantage.

Fifteen seconds after Vos crossed the line to claim the world title, Johansson outkicked Ratto for the silver medal. Cromwell came across the line in ninth place with Tatiana Antoshina (Russia) who rounded out the podium.

“I gave it a real try,” said Johansson. “Rossella and I played everything we could. We did come a bit closer, but it was still too much of a gap. When Rossella didn’t want to take over in the last k, I realised I would not do it alone. I changed my focus on securing second place.”

“Coming in, my goal was at least top ten,” said Cromwell. “I thought that was a realistic goal. I’m happy with ninth place. Anything higher would have been a bonus. I’m getting stronger and stronger each year. I’m closer to racing for the win instead of racing for the front group, and that gives me a lot of confidence.”

“The podium was a classy group,” Cromwell added. “This was a tough world championships, as it should be. The three on the podium are worthy of their places.”

Editor’s note: Additional comments from Emma Johansson forthcoming