Holland had a double reason to celebrate on Saturday as Mathieu Van Der Poel and Marianne Vos clinched gold in their respective Menâ€™s Junior and Elite Womenâ€™s categories, both, interestingly, from solo breaks.
For Vos gold in Firenze was her second straight World Championships win in a row and the third of her career. When she blasted away on the Via Salviati climb, around five kilometres from the line, the Dutchwoman revealed herself to be the dominating force of womenâ€™s cycling.
Those who came closest to stopping Vos in what had effectively been a war of attrition on the 140 kilometre course, Swedenâ€™s Emma Johansson and young Italian Rossella Ratto, briefly looked as if they might catch Vos but then eased back and settled into their own duel for the next two spots on the podium. Johansson claimed the silver medal to add to the bronze she took in 2010 in Melbourne in the same event, whilst Ratto netted host nation Italyâ€™s first medal of the Toscana World Championships with bronze.
Vos though, had played a masterly game to claim her eighth World Championships medal in a row - three golds, in 2006, 2012 and 2013, and five silvers, from 2007 to 2011. On the fourth ascent of the FIesole, an attack by team-mate Anna Van Der Breggen (who finally took fourth herself) whittled the front group down to eight, and then a lap later on the same climb, Fiesole, American Evelyn Stevens squeezed the front group down to five.
Vos assumed her status of pre-race favourite
However, it was Vos, forcing down the pedals on the Salviati as if her life depended on it, who wrenched her way clear alone - and onwards to victory. The overwhelming favourite before the race, the Dutchwomanâ€™s impressive lone triumph made it clear exactly why.
â€śItâ€™s great to be able to defend the title, they always say itâ€™s hard to win one but to win two in a row is even more difficult,â€ť Vos said afterwards.
â€śThe Italians and the Americans made it a really tough race, but I had great team support and they gave me the opportunity to stay calm and with Anna there I knew I had a chance.â€ť
â€śAnna did a great job keeping the race together, pulling back attacks and that was really important.â€ť
â€śI didnâ€™t feel too confident until the last lap although I wasnâ€™t at the best on the longer climb, so when I saw that last lap sign I knew it had to be the moment and that I would have to go for it on the steeper climb.â€ť
Johansson by Dutch and Italians
â€śI know Marianneâ€™s attack is really strong and I gave it a real try to pull her back when she finally sat back a little,â€ť Johansson said, â€śwe did get a bit closer, but I realised it was no good and I had to focus on the second place.â€ť
â€śI was quite isolated from the first lap onwards, and it was a very hard race, riders kept getting shed out he back. When there was a break with three Italian and two Dutch riders, it was difficult, my brain was working as hard as my legs and I think I got the best result possible.â€ť
Ratto added: â€śThere were three of us Italians and we decided I should stay on Vosâ€™ wheel whilst the other two attacked. Racing in Toscana there were a lot of people supporting me here, getting that result was a dream come true.â€ť
Junior Men: Van der Poel lives up to family name
On a great day for Dutch racing, in the morning Junior Menâ€™s Road Race was won by Hollandâ€™s Mathieu Van Der Poel, son of the former famous Classics racer Adri Van Der Poel, thanks to a lone breakaway ahead of Mads Pedersen of Denmark and Albanianâ€™s Iltjan Nika.
After dropping Franceâ€™s Franck Bonnamour with six kilometres to go, Van Der Poel had time to grab a Dutch flag from a supporter and drape it around his shoulders before crossing the line three seconds clear. A short margin, perhaps, but enough after Ellen Van Dijkâ€™s victory in the womenâ€™s individual time trial to secure Hollandâ€™s second gold of the 2013 UCI Road World Championships.
Colombiaâ€™s Daniel Martinez had led the 140 kilometre race for a long time, but first Frenchman Franck Bonnamour reached the Colombian on the fourth lap of five, then Mathieu Van Poel joined Bonnamour as Martinez finally ran out of steam.
Van Der Poel then managed to open up his own lead on the final lap, shedding Bonnamour on the descent of the Fiesole climb, with a dozen chasers at less than 30 seconds as the Dutchman climbed the steep slopes of the Via Salvati for the last time.
Junior Cyclo-cross World Champion
â€śIt was not a prepared attack, but I felt it was the moment to go,â€ť Van Der Poel, already a double World Champion at junior cyclo-cross level, said afterwards, â€śthe technical descent from the Fiesole suited me, because I could race it like in a cyclo-cross event and get away.â€ť
Van Der Poel said he enjoys cyclo-cross more than road racing for now, â€śso I will focus on that but I will do some races on the road too. [Lars] Boom and [Zdenek] Stybar were both cyclo-cross riders who changed to the road later on and maybe Iâ€™ll follow that path too in the future.â€ť
Adri Van Der Poel, his father, had offered him valuable advice, the junior Van Der Poel said. â€śHe told me to wait for as long as possible before I made my move because the Worldâ€™s was a longer distance that juniors usually race. And he was right, although itâ€™s me that has to turn the pedals, his advice can only help so much!â€ť
â€śI canâ€™t have any regrets,â€ť Mads Pedersen added, â€śit was a tough race and longer course than usual for us, but Van Der Poel was the strongest on the day. You just had to keep fighting all the way through and thatâ€™s what I did.â€ť
Albania's first world medal
Whilst Pedersen celebrated Denmarkâ€™s fourth medal of the Toscana 2013 Road World Championships, Nika was delighted to take Albaniaâ€™s first medal at this level in his countryâ€™s history.
â€śWe didnâ€™t have a lot of riders here, as one of the smaller nations we only had two team-mates,â€ť Nika said. â€śI had to race with my head as well as my legs, and it paid off.â€ť
â€śI live in Toscana and race here in a team so in the this Road World Championhips itâ€™s like riding at home, these are roads I know well. But itâ€™s also very important for Albania to get a result like this - and letâ€™s hope itâ€™s just the beginning of even greater success for my country in cycling.â€ť
The UCI Road World Championships concludes on Sunday with the elite menâ€™s road race, 272.2 kilometres long and finishing in Firenze.