The Dutch women were very critical on Saturday about their performance at the World Cycling Championships.

Marianne Vos' second place behind Italy's Elisa Balsamo in the road race in Flanders felt like a defeat for the strongest team in the peloton.

The youngest rider from the Dutch team felt most guilty in Leuven.

"I'm disappointed that I couldn't help the girls today," said Demi Vollering (24) with tears in her eyes.

"They didn't really look at me after the race, so I don't think they are very happy with me. We are all very disappointed with second place."

For the Dutch women, only the gold at major tournaments counts.

The world title invariably went to a rider in orange between 2017 and 2020 and the team of national coach Loes Gunnewijk was again the favorite in Belgium on Saturday to conquer the rainbow jersey.

The course in Flanders did not make it easy to play out a surplus, because the many short climbs were not heavy enough to make big differences.

The plan was therefore to start attacking early and then never stop, but that didn't quite work out.

"We could have made the race much harder," said Chantal van den Broek-Blaak, the world champions of 2017. "Of course it is difficult that everyone is looking at us, but we have so much power in the team. We have all proven that we Top ten in this terrain, so we could and should have taken control of the race sooner."

World Championship cycling results

  • 1. Elisa Balsamo (Ita)

  • 2. Marianne Vos (Ned) +0.00

  • 3. Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Pol) +0.01

  • 4. Kata Blanka Vas (Hon) +0.01

  • 5. Arlenis Sierra (Cub) +0.01

  • 6. Alison Jackson (Can) +0.01

  • 7. Demi Vollering (Ned) +0.01

  • 8. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Den) +0.01

  • 9. Lisa Brennauer (Germany) +0.01

  • 10. Coryn Rivera (US) +0.01

'I am especially sorry for Marianne'

The seven Dutch riders in the first group - title defender Anna van der Breggen missed top form and had to release relatively early - only really started attacking with less than 60 kilometers to go, but it seemed to happen with little consultation .

Van den Broek-Blaak and Lucinda Brand talked about "loose sand" after the race, while Annemiek van Vleuten only wanted to say "it could have been better today".

"I will not discuss with the media what I think of the others, we will evaluate it with the team," said the 2019 world champion. "I am especially sorry for Marianne."

Just like the brand new world time trial champion Ellen van Dijk, Van Vleuten was very active in the final, but they also had to waste a lot of energy to close a gap of thirty seconds on the Spanish champion Mavi Garcia.

That was revenged in the last 4 kilometers, when the Dutch team, according to agreement, put everything in a sprint with Vos.

Where the Italian women with Maria Giulia Confalonieri, Marta Bastianelli and Elisa Longo Borghini still had three riders to guide sprinter Balsamo to the finish in a seat, the Dutch team came up short in the final kilometre.

"Our lead-out was really not good enough, we made a mistake there by not forming well. Marianne had to close a gap herself," said Van Dijk.

"We just missed riders, especially compared to Italy. That is probably because we attacked so much."

Demi Vollering rode an unfortunate race.

Demi Vollering rode an unfortunate race.

Photo: Getty Images

Vollering did not have enough power in the final kilometer

Vollering should have been the last helper for Vos after Van Vleuten and Van Dijk, but the winner of Liège-Bastogne-Liège and La Course did not have enough power left after a long chase due to a bike change at 65 kilometers from the finish.

"I felt strong until I started having problems with my chain," Vollering said.

"I tried to bring Marianne forward in the last kilometer with all the strength I had, but it wasn't enough. It's a shame, because Marianne deserved that rainbow jersey."

See also: Overview: Programme, results and Dutch participants of the World Cycling Championships