Lizzie Armitstead described becoming women’s road race world champion as a “dream come true” after a stunning victory in Richmond.
The Otley rider defied the odds with a late charge to catch the race leaders and made her move on the final climb up Libby Hill, holding off Anna van der Breggen in a dramatic sprint finish at the UCI World Road Championships.
Armitstead is already Commonwealth champion as well as 2015 World Cup winner, but was clearly emotional having claimed the rainbow jersey.
“This is the big one, the most special thing in cycling,” she said.
“It’s a dream come true.”
The 26-year-old raised her hand to her mouth in disbelief as she crossed the line a wheel’s length in front of Van der Breggen.
“I just couldnt believe it...I didn’t get to celebrate, I was just going all the way for the line,” she explained.
“It was such a strange sprint for me because I was in front, leading out and waiting for the rush to come and it never came.
“It was just perfect.”
Armistead’s sensational finish was all the more satisfying given the way the odds stacked against her as the race progressed.
With two of the eight laps remaining she was well placed but 20 kilometres from home a nine-strong break left Armitstead in the peloton.
With little support Armitstead was forced to shelve one attack and at one stage sat 36 seconds back with just 8km left.
But she reeled that in before embarking on her triumphant finish, beating Van der Bruggen and Megan Guarnier into silver and bronze.
Armitstead was determined to walk away with the win after a tactical hesitation cost her world championship glory in Ponferrada last year.
Having come in strongly fancied, she erred at the business end of the race and said ahead of her latest attempt “I don’t want to finish the race with regrets”.
British Cycling president Bob Howden said: “This is a landmark moment in the history of British Cycling. Lizzie represents the best of our great sport and deserves all of the praise coming her way.
“Her coolness under pressure in that final kilometre is the hallmark of all the great champions of cycling. She was the pride of Yorkshire and Great Britain already – now she’s the best in the world.
“I was very proud to have been there to see it in person, and in the company of Jonny Clay, now cycle sport and membership director at British Cycling, who spotted Lizzie’s potential when she was still at school in Otley.”