Watch every event from the 2021 UCI Road Cycling World Championships in Flanders, with coverage on SBS OnDemand and SBS VICELAND from September 19-26.
Italian rising star Elisa Balsamo pipped Dutch superstar Marianne Vos in a powerful sprint finish as Polish rider Katarzyna Niewadoma came home in third.
Australia's challenge never really got going, with Rachel Neylan finishing as their top rider in 24th place, 45 seconds off the pace.
Sarah Roy was 38th, Tiffany Cromwell 41st, Lauretta Hanson 92nd, Amanda Spratt 93rd and Jessica Allen 111th among the 117 finishers. Chloe Hosking was among 45 non-finishers.
Neylan remained in contention until late in the race when she was unable to match it with a rapidly accelerating lead group.
The veteran rider said she gave it everything she could but didn’t have enough to match it with the front runners.
“It was a pretty challenging race. It was long and very technical in sections,” she said.
“I tried to an attack going into the final lap but that move was countered.
“I gave it everything in the final but sometimes you need to make a bit more of a gamble.
“I think we rode well as a team but I was just outnumbered in the end.”
Neylan was happy with her ride but said it was a bittersweet result after being in a strong position towards the end of the race.
“It is mixed feelings for me. I guess I need to be happy with my performance but it is still frustrating when you are so close to the front group at the end.
“I guess I tried to position myself well during the day and go with the right moves but in the end It just didn’t work out for me.”
Aussie teammate Sarah Roy revealed early struggles took their toll on her performance.
The Team Bike Exchange rider was the second Australian home after she finished 38th overall.
“It was a lot harder in the beginning than I expected. There is a lot of road furniture and it was just stop-start with a few early crashes slowing the pace down. It just took the juice out of your legs by the time we got to the first circuit,” she said.
“It was a humid day and I struggled to get enough fluid in the feed zones and I really felt that in my legs towards the end. I couldn’t go with the final split as my legs were cramping a lot.
Although finishing outside the top ten, Roy’s performance was all the more impressive considering her recent injury struggles.
“Coming back from a fractured Scaphoid only four weeks ago I am happy with where I am at but I really tried hard for more,” she said.
“In a way, it kind of feels like it wasn’t worth it to push myself so much today to race with a broken hand.
“This is a race where you have to be feeling just right and unfortunately for me, it just wasn’t my day.“
The UCI Road World Championships wraps up on Sunday, Sept 26 with the Elite Men's Road Race which will be broadcast LIVE, FREE and in HD on SBS On Demand from 6:15PM (AEST) and SBS Viceland from 9:30 pm (AEST)