American Kristin Armstrong reclaimed her world time trial title at the world road race championships on Wednesday, then announced her retirement from the sport.
Armstrong, the Olympic champion in the race against the clock, timed 35min 26sec for the undulating 26.8km course to leave her closest rival, Italian Noemi Cantele, in second at a significant 55secs adrift.
Denmark's Linda Melanie Villumsen, 24, took the bronze medal, her first silverware from the world championships, after finishing third at 58.
Armstrong, the 2006 world champion, won Olympic gold in Beijing last summer but was upstaged a month later at the world championships in nearby Varese, Italy, by compatriot Amber Neben's gold-medal winning ride.
This year Neben finished off the podium at over a minute off the pace.
Kristin Armstrong powers to the rainbow jersey
While Armstrong has concentrated this season on helping some younger teammates at her Cervelo Test team find their feet in the women's peloton, her impending retirement gave her the spur to regain her rainbow jersey.
"I had a little extra motivation today because I am retiring. This is my last week of racing and I wanted to give everything I possibly could," she said.
Armstrong, 36, is no relation to seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong.
But while the American icon won the men's world championship crown in 1993, his namesake is hoping that someone from her "strong" United States team will step up and emulate him by winning Saturday's women's road race.
"I still have a big race Saturday. We have a strong team and I hope to see another American on top of the podium. I cannot think of any better way to say goodbye to the sport than to be on top."
Cantele admitted she had surprised herself by winning a medal having only taken up the discipline fairly recently on a whim.
"I won the Italian time trial championship earlier this year and only then did I say to myself that perhaps I could compete in the world championships," said the Italian, who admitted she raced on instinct alone.
"I didn't have a race radio, or a heart-rate metre so I wasn't really aware of my time splits throughout the course. All I could hear was my coach screaming at me through the mega-phone. So I'm really happy I've won a medal.
"Before this I didn't really like the time trial. I'm 28 years old and it's taken me this long to realise my potential, but maybe this shows me that I'm finally starting to approach these kind of races the right way."
A delighted Villumsen said: "I truly didn't expect this. I wanted to get a good result, but looking at the top ten starters I had no idea I could have a chance of getting a medal.
"It's not so far from silver, just three seconds away, but maybe next year it'll be better."
© AFP 2009
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