New Zealand rider Linda Villumsen was eighth as Pauline Ferrand-Prevot became the first Frenchwoman in 19 years to win the elite race at the road cycling world championships in Ponferrada, Spain.
Ferrand-Prevot claimed a cold-blooded victory in a bizarre finish, beating German Lisa Brennauer and Swede Emma Johansson, who were second and third respectively, in a sprint finish in the Spanish city after a breakaway group of four had failed to collaborate, following a move that had seemed decisive.
No Frenchwoman had won the race since Jeannie Longo's fifth and last title in 1995.
Johansson, Britain's Lizzie Armitstead, Italian Elisa Longo Borghini and Dutch great Marianne Vos, the title holder and Olympic champion, broke away from the pack near the top of the final climb four kilometres from the finish.
But as the line loomed, they played mind games, looked at each other and refused to take turns, allowing a small bunch to catch them within the final kilometre.
Ferrand-Prevot, who is Vos's team mate at Rabobank-Liv, took shelter behind the Dutch favourite when she launched the final sprint.
The 22-year-old then sneaked through and held off Brennauer, who finished stronger. Vos finished 10th.