After a lack of collaboration in a late four-up break caused Lizzie Armitstead’s best chance of taking a medal to date in the world championships to fizzle out almost within sight of the line, the Briton’s disappointment after the finish was obvious.
Armitstead had driven hard over the final climb, ensuring that Emma Johansson of Sweden – who had kick-started the move – Italy’s Elisa Longo Borghini and defending champion Marianne Vos stayed clear.
The move gained over 10 seconds on the first chasing group, but on the flat final kilometres going into Ponferrada they failed to stay away. Armitstead ended up finishing seventh in the small bunch sprint, and frustrated at missing out on a much better result.
Asked if she did not get the collaboration she was looking for in the four rider move, Armistead answered simply: “Yeah. They were just shaking their heads at me.
“I can understand Elisa. She is not going to win from that group so she is better off waiting for [Italian sprinter] Giorgia Bronzini. Marianne? I don't know why she didn't work. And Emma Johansson, for sure I don't know why she didn't work.”
Speaking before she knew that Johansson – the runner-up in 2013 – had in fact taken bronze, Armitstead said, “She has another silver medal. Maybe she likes them. I don't know.”
Armitstead was also unhappy at the way that most of the other teams seemed determined to build the race around culminating a bunch sprint. “It was too easy,” she told BBC TV. “It’s ridiculous to say that when you didn’t win, but it was too easy. It was good when the rain came, I thought it would open some gaps on the descents but I needed it to be harder earlier in the race.
“Everyone played the sprinter card. It was a very negative race. I kept thinking, ‘Come on, let’s go.’”
Instead, as Armitstead said later, “I was choosing to ride but nobody else was. I really feel like everyone was just watching me, and marking me out of it.”
Describing Vos’ less than powerful performance compared with other years, Armitstead said to a small group of reporters, “I could tell the whole race she wasn’t really herself. Every time she got out of the saddle to make a move I could easily follow it. But she wasn't the one I was basing my race on.”
After “putting all her eggs in one basket,” as she put it, when she followed up Johansson’s attack on the final climb, Armitstead then had to reset her strategy for the final sprint.
“I got on Bronzini’s wheel, which I thought was the best option. She was coming back and had teammates but I just lost her in the sprint. Rubbish.”
If Armitstead was unhappy with how her own race worked out, she lavished praise on her British team mates, saying “The girls rode fantastically. Anna Christian rode fantastically. She is [a] first year [elite rider] and she was up there animating the race. I think it was a negative race but she was fantastic.”
“I said to the girls with three laps to go, ‘You need to attack, even if it's the last job from you.’ And she put in about three attacks. A really impressive ride from her.
“They proved their critics wrong. They got further than halfway through the race. I was really pleased with the group. And atmosphere-wise, it's the first time I've gone into the race really feeling relaxed and happy so thanks to them.”
And her overall conclusion of how her own individual race went? “I don't know. I'm gutted. I'm really gutted. I'm sure there will be plenty of people telling me what I could have done better. I just have to keep learning.”
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