GLASGOW: Italian Marta Bastianelli won a sprint finish with the great Marianne Vos to foil the strong Dutch team and strike gold in the European Championships road race on Sunday.
The Oranje riders seemed to be controlling affairs at the end of the 130km race, ready to set up victory at the Glasgow Green finish for Vos, only for former world champion Bastianelli to beat her to the punch with a scintillating final burst.
Vos, often hailed as the greatest woman cyclist in history, roared through for the silver but her fellow 31-year-old rival had already flown, beating the Dutchwoman just as she had done at their world championships duel in Stuttgart in 2007.
After nearly three-and-a-half hours of fascinating racing on the undulating nine-lap course, Germany’s Lisa Brennauer, gold medallist in Saturday’s individual pursuit on the track, took the bronze.
“I think this is just as good a feeling as when I won the world title in 2007,” said Bastianelli. “It was a very, very hard race.
“I didn’t have a good feeling about it during the first three laps but my team worked really hard for me and I think I took my opportunity well.”
Victory had looked set to go to either Dutch Olympic road race champion Anna van der Breggen or Bastianelli’s Italian teammate Elisa Longo Borghini, who broke clear with eight kilometres left.
But though the pair distanced themselves from the field, they blew their own chances by playing cat and mouse near the finish, allowing the peloton to catch them at the one-kilometre marker.
Vos still looked the big danger as a group of about 25 gathered for the sprint denouement but she timed her effort poorly and looked a picture of disappointment at the line.
She made no excuses, though, saying: “We could have done a few things differently but Italy deserved the win.”
The Glasgow crowds cheered the remarkable effort of 19-year-old Briton Sophie Wright, who had taken the lead on the second of nine laps and, extraordinarily, held on to it for almost half of the race after opening up a two-and-half minute gap.
The teenager, who has twice undergone heart surgery in the past few years, eventually paid for her noble effort, finishing 57th.