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Marianne Vos (Netherlands).
Dutchwoman strongest in London
Marianne Vos (Netherlands) finally claimed an Olympic road gold medal after the disappointment of missing out in Beijing four years ago. Arguably the most gifted rider of her generation, Vos now joins an elite group of female cyclists who have won Olympic gold medals on the road and track.
"After Beijing, [taking the Olympic road title] was the only thing on my mind for four years," said Vos, who won the points race on the track in 2008. "Now it's happened, it's incredible. The gold is mine."
Vos and her Dutch team were aggressive throughout the race, with a number of concerted efforts to split the field after the second and final climb of Box Hill. However it was Vos who made the telling difference, bridging to the attack of Olga Zabelinskaya (Russian Federation) with 50 kilometres to go and drawing out her closest opposition, Elizabeth Armitstead (Great Britain), with Shelley Olds (United States of America) latching onto the move.
Once she was in the breakaway, Vos had just one thought on her mind: "I've got to cross the line first. That's what's simple about cycling, but in the end it's very tough. We made it a tough race. There were not so many countries that also attacked, but we did very well to make the race aggressive. When we arrived at Box Hill there was a lot of wind so it was difficult to get into a breakaway. It stayed all together, but after Box Hill there was another small climb, and we knew that."
With the Germans and Italians leading the initial chase - they were later joined by USA after Olds punctured - the leading three riders reinforced their commitment, knowing that a medal was a certainly if they remained ahead of the field. The gap rose and the chase began to fall in on itself as Vos and Armitstead - the two strongest riders - eyed the sprint.
“With three you know you have to keep on pushing until the final because that was our biggest chance for gold or for another medal. And that's what we did and only in the last two kilometres did we start to watch each other and prepare for the sprint,” Vos said. “I knew that Lizzie was really fast on the line so I was not that confident but I knew that I had a chance, a good chance, and I also knew that if I made a little mistake Lizzie would take the gold."
Vos has turned around her season after she broke her collarbone in the build-up to the Games.
"Of course the first and most important thing was to get fit and be in really good shape for the start. And that's what we tried to do. I had some troubles in my preparations with a broken collarbone but I was good after only two weeks and could race again after four."