September 26, 2015

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) Lizzie Armitstead had an idea of how she wanted the world championships to play out, the field whittling down to a select bunch and the fastest few eventually sprinting for gold.

Everything went perfectly, right down to her on the top step of the podium.

The British sprint ace patiently waited until the final lap Saturday, then had enough left on the long finish on Broad Street, overcoming Anna van der Breggen of the Netherlands with a powerful kick to capture the road cycling title that had so far eluded her.

Armitstead quickly clasped her hand over her mouth and burst into tears.

''It's very surreal,'' she said. ''I think every cyclist dreams of the rainbow jersey and this morning, I've never been so nervous in my life. That's why I'm still in shock, to be honest.''

Van der Breggen added another silver medal to the one the Dutch standout captured in the time trial. Megan Guarnier won the sprint among several riders for bronze, the first won by an American in the elite road race since Jeanne Golay finished third in 1994.

''All day the crowds were just incredible for the Americans,'' Guarnier said. ''You heard, `U-S-A!' all over the course. I even heard my name, which is rare for me being in Europe all the time.''

Earlier in the day, Felix Gall of Austria beat Clement Betouigt-Suire of France in a photo finish - they were awarded the same time - in the junior race. Rasmus Pederson of Denmark was third.

The world championships end with the men's road race Sunday.

Rain in the forecast for the women's race held off as the field tackled the hard, undulating 10-mile course through downtown Richmond. But that didn't stop attrition from setting in. Among those eliminated early were U.S. speedster Shelley Olds, who crashed going around a corner and never caught back up, and her teammate Lauren Stephens.

With about 15 miles to go, the first capable breakaway of nine riders materialized. The group that included young American rider Coryn Rivera worked in harmony to build an advantage of more than a minute heading into the final lap, only to be swept up after the Dutch team began driving the rest of the peloton as they approached the cobbled climb up Libby Hill.

Armitstead's training partner, Tiffany Cromwell of Australia, was the first to make a move as the lead group approached the finale on Broad Street. She was eventually caught, and a cat-and-mouse game ensued among the leaders as they prepared for the sprint finish.

''Any time Lizzie attacks, it's going to put everybody in the hurt box,'' Guarnier said. ''I knew I needed to stay on her wheel to get on the podium. There wasn't much option.''

Van der Breggen was the first to go, with Armitstead latching onto her wheel. The two-time World Cup champion drafted off her Dutch rival, then went by like a slingshot to claim victory.

''I think it was a really good sprint,'' van der Breggen said, ''but Lizzie was faster.''

Guarnier came from well back in the group with a massive sprint to finish third, just ahead of Italian sprinter Elisa Longo Borghini and Emma Johansson of Sweden.

Defending champion Pauline Ferrand-Prevot of France finished sixth, though she still has two rainbow jerseys to wear. She is also the reigning cyclocross and mountain bike world champion.

The road jersey now belongs to Armitstead, the fourth British rider to win it.

''It just went perfectly,'' she said, her gold medal draped around her neck. ''You have to have lady luck on your side, and she was with me today.''

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