Florence - Olympic champion Marianne Vos has outclassed her rivals to claim her third gold in the women's road race at the world cycling championships on Saturday.
Sweden's Emma Johansson took the silver medal after beating Italy's Rossella Ratto in a two-up sprint for the finish line of the 139.6 km race, which began in Montecatini Terme.
"It's great to defend the title. They always say it's hard to win one, but to do it two times in a row is even more difficult," said Vos, who now has 11 senior world titles spread across road, track and cyclo-cross.
Vos, the London Olympic champion, was arguably the biggest threat from the field of 139 starters on an undulating race which ended on a 2.8 km flat section.
But her third victory, after titles in 2006 and 2012, came in large part down to teammate Anna van der Breggen, whose numerous counter-attacks on the final two laps helped dissuade rivals and allow Vos some extra comfort.
After the Dutch pair had stayed with a five-strong group over the two main climbs on the fifth and last lap of the circuit, Vos took the race by the scruff of the neck.
On a steep, 600-metre rise she stunned American climbing specialist Evelyn Stevens with a turn of pace that no one could match and after reaching the top of it hit top speed on the closing 2.8 km to leave her rivals with no chance.
"Until the last lap I didn't feel too confident but on the steep climb I knew I had the chance to attack," added Vos, who was quick to pay tribute to van der Breggen.
"Of course you have to make those tactical moves... but it was great to have Anna van der Breggen there to close down the attacks, and that gave me the belief I could do something.
"She's been strong all season and last year she did the same, great job. She was the one we wanted to have in the final."
Although Johansson and Ratto fought to close a gap of only a handful of seconds, it had grown to 15secs at the finish where Vos completed the race in 3hr 44min.
Having been left isolated for the final laps, Johansson's silver medal was well deserved given she outwitted and out-raced rivals who could rely on teammates for the finale.
In the end, Johansson admitted: "Obviously I would prefer to be sitting here with the rainbow jersey. She (Vos) is an amazing rider and she's really hard to beat.
"Marianne's jump is really strong. We did everything we could and we did get a bit closer but Rossella didn't want to help chase in the final kilometre.
"So when that happened I knew it was too late."
With Italian veterans Giorgia Bronzini, Noemi Cantele and Tatiana Guderzo tiring earlier than was hoped by the hosts, Ratto was given the green light to carry Italy's hopes of victory on home turf.
In the end, the 20-year-old from Bergamo was happy to settle for the bronze.
"When I was on the circuit and I heard people shouting my name from the side of the road I thought to myself, okay I really need to do something," said Ratto.
"I'm still shaking, so what I did still really needs to sink in."
Results from the world road race cycling championships on Saturday:
Road race (139.6 km)
Marianne Vos (NED) 3hr 44min 00sec, 2. Emma Johansson (SWE) at 15sec,
3. Rossella Ratto (ITA) same time, 4. Anna Van Der Breggen (NED) 33, 5.
Evelyn Stevens (USA) 46, 6. Linda Villumsen (NZL) 50, 7. Tatiana Guderzo
(ITA) 52, 8. Elisa Longo Borghini (ITA) s.t., 9. Tiffany Cromwell (AUS)
1min 40sec, 10. Tatiana Antoshina (RUS) s.t.
Road race (140 km)
Mathieu Van der Poel (NED) 3hr 33min 14sec, 2. Mads Pedersen (DEN) at
03sec, 3. Iltjan Nika (ALB) same time, 4. Logan Owen (USA) s.t., 5.
Lorenzo Rota (ITA) s.t., 6. Lucas Eriksson (SWE) s.t., 7. Scott Davies
(GBR) s.t., 8. Artem Nych (RUS) s.t., 9. Sergey Shemyakin (KAZ) s.t.,
10. Benjamin Brkic (AUT) s.t.