Annemiek van Vleuten claimed an emotional world road title in the women's individual time trial in Bergen, Norway on Tuesday, beating fellow Dutch rider Anna van der Breggen to the gold medal.

Little more than a year after a horrific accident in the Rio Olympics road race left her with three spinal fractures, the 34-year-old powered round the hilly 21.1 kilometres course in Bergen to win by a comfortable margin.

Despite rain making the course slippery, she averaged 43.8 km/h for a time of 28 minutes 50.35 seconds.

Van Der Breggen, whose road race gold in Rio was overshadowed by the injuries sustained by her teammate who had been leading when she slammed into a deep gutter on a descent, was 12 seconds slower.

Australian Katrin Garfoot was third, 18.93 seconds behind.

Last year's champion Amber Neben of the United States could only manage 11th, while Dutch rider Ellen Van Dijk, who was second last year in Doha, was fifth.

'I can't believe it'

Only five riders got within a minute of van Vleuten's time.

"I can't believe it," a tearful Van Vleuten said. "To be world champion in the TT, I never thought it would be, but this year I've started to believe.

"The downs make the ups more beautiful, makes it really special. It was hard because it started pouring with rain and I lost some seconds on the descents. I thought the weather would disturb my race form, but I focussed on what I do."

Van der Breggen was the second of the 54 riders to start and it looked as though she might take the gold as Van Vleuten was behind on the first two intermediate splits.

However Van Vleuten put together a superb final 4km to go fastest on the scoreboard.

Eighteen riders followed her, including many of the pre-race favourites, but none of them mastered the conditions as well as Van Vleuten who took the rainbow jersey.

Rule change reduces number of riders

Cycling's governing body has decided to reduce the number of riders in major road races in an effort to improve safety.

There will now be a maximum of 176 riders in the peloton in all road events on the International Cycling Union calendar. It means there will be a maximum of seven riders per team instead of nine, except in Grand Tours when eight riders are allowed in each team.

The decision was reached Tuesday at a meeting of the UCI management committee in Bergen.Grand Tour organizers announced in November last year that the number of riders per team would be decreasing to eight from nine for events in 2017.

The move was aimed at improving safety and making it more difficult for a team to dominate the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia or Spanish Vuelta. However, those plans were dropped.

With files from The Associated Press