France's Pauline Ferrand Prevot is the new women's road world champion, winning a very tight sprint in Ponferrada to beat Germany's Lisa Brennauer, winner of Tuesday's time trial, and Emma Johansson of Sweden at the end of the 127.4km race to clinch the rainbow jersey.
Italy's Giorgia Bronzini, seeking her third world title, finished fourth despite crashing earlier, with Great Britain's Lizzie Armitstead seventh and defending champion Marianne Vos of the Netherlands 10th - breaking a run of eight years in which she was either first or second.
Coming towards the top of the final climb at Mirador, Johansson and Armitstead forced the pace at the front of what had been a sizeable front group, only Vos and Elisa Longo Borghini able to go with them.
The quartet stayed away on the descent, but were caught by a group of around 10 riders inside the final kilometre, only Johansson managing to salvage a medal.
The attacks began in earnest with two of the seven 18.2km laps remaining. First to make a move was time trial specialist Alison Powers of the United States, her shorts ripped after a crash earlier in the race.
She was brought back as the road headed up the two climbs on the latter part of the circuit, just as the riders were caught in a brief but heavy downpour, and next to chance her arm was Australia’s Rachel Neylan, runner-up to Vos at Valkenburg in 2012.
Armitstead, Vos and Bronzini were in a group of a dozen or so riders that approached the final lap ahead of the field, but once again the race came back together, five riders including Neylan again and Italy’s Rosella Ratto now trying to get away.
Heading up the penultimate climb and into the final 10km, Armitstead was well positioned at the front of what was now a sizeable group of around 40 riders, with Vos also present and with team mates such as Ellen van Dijk putting in attacks off the front to try and put rivals under pressure.
But despite trying to get away on the shorter, punchier climb of Mirador, followed by a sharp descent towards the finish, the pair were frustrated as they were caught by that small group containing faster finishers with the line in sight.
World champion, Pauline Ferrand Prevot of France
“After I was dropped on the climb I thought my chances of a podium were over. But the Germans were riding very strongly and they brought us back to the group of four so I’m very grateful to them. I knew Marianne’s was a good wheel to follow and once I started sprinting I never looked back. I really didn’t expect to win a sprint at the Worlds!”
After the race, the 22-year-old was immediately congratulated by the woman whose crown she took – her Rabobank-Liv team mate, Marianne Vos.
— KNWU Live Weg (@KNWULiveWeg) September 27, 2014
Great Britain’s Lizzie Armitstead, 7th today
"I messed it up. It's difficult to be focused on a sprint with 500 metres to go when you were so committed to the break.
"It needed to be harder so much earlier in the race and everyone played the sprinter card. It was just a negative race.
"I worked really hard. I'm in good shape, but that's cycling."
Runner-up Lisa Brennauer of Germany won three medals in Ponferrada – in the team time trial, won by her Specialized-Lululemon team, and added road silver to time trial gold.
“I will only take home good memories. With a medal in every discipline I competed in [the team time trial, won by her Specialized-Lululemon team plus gold in the time trial and silver today], it's really quite overwhelming.”
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.