Chantal Blaak 2017 Road World Champion

When Chantal Blaak toed the line of the 2017 Road World Championships, she had a very clear team role to play. While Blaak would be an obvious team leader on most national teams, on a stacked Dutch squad, she was prepared to play a supporting role to the likes of Olympic road champion Anna van der Breggen, three-time road champion Marianne Vos and newly crowned individual time trial champion Annemiek van Vleuten.

When Blaak crashed heavily in the second half of the race, she chased back on thinking about how she needed to get back to the bunch to lend her remaining efforts into her teammates.

When Blaak lit up an already-animated final with an attack at 23 kilometres still to race, she drew out Audrey Cordon (France) and Hannah Barnes (Great Britian). The move was a good one, Blaak explained, because she could help her teammates on the final time up Salmon Hill, the circuit’s decisive climb.

When the leading trio was joined by a group that included Van der Breggen and Van Vleuten, giving the Dutch team three out of seven riders in the lead, Blaak was ready to play the attacking game for her teammates. Van Vleuten launched first. Blaak countered with an acceleration she thought would set-up Van der Breggen or Van Vleuten for the win.

Instead the attack turned into the race-winning move.

For eight kilometres, Blaak was a lone figure powering towards the finish line in Bergen. She hit the 500 metre mark and sneaked a quick peek behind her shoulder.

No one was there.

The grimace turned first to a smile and then the impossible look of disbelief.

Blaak raised her arms across the finish line, put her face in her hands just across it. The new road world champion delivered a Boels-Dolmans Cycling three-peat.

“I can’t believe it,” Blaak said. “Really everything happened in this race. I crashed, and I was in a lot of pain in that moment. I thought my race was over, but maybe I could come back, and we’d see what I could do. It wasn’t the plan that I should win the race. I wanted to make it the best possible race for the team.

“I was already super happy to have the national champ jersey this year, and now I have the rainbows,” Blaak added. “It’s a dream.”

In Blaak’s wake, a reduced bunch swept up the chase group. Katrin Garfoot (Australia) won the messy bunch kick for second place while Dideriksen, the defending champion, rounded out the podium. Boels-Dolmans ended the day with four riders in the top ten in Blaak, Dideriksen, Christine Majerus (sixth) and Van der Breggen (eighth).