Lizzie Deignan (Great Britain) was forced to settle for 11th place in the women’s road race at the Tokyo Olympics, with the British rider often finding herself isolated and marked in a race that saw Anna Kiesenhofer (Austria) pull off a shock win.
Deignan finished the race in a group lead home by Marianne Vos at 1:46 behind Kiesenhofer.
"Unfortunately I was between a rock and a hard place," Deignan told the BBC after her race.
She praised her only teammate in the race, Anna Shackley, but admitted her frustrations with how the race panned out. At one point, with Van Vleuten up the road, Deignan could be seen trying to muster a chase, only for several non-Dutch riders to just sit on her wheel without working.
Throughout the race, there was a lack of cohesion within the bunch, with much of the peloton expecting the Dutch to control the race, while the defending champions rode a confusing strategy that only appeared to make sense once it was confirmed that they thought the break of the day had been entirely caught.
"Anna did a great job while she could - she should be really proud of her effort – but mid-way through I was on my own - but also marked. I didn’t have that freedom of a solo rider. Tactically, I think I did the right thing, it just didn’t go my way," Deignan said.
"It’s a weird race. Although there are small teams, there are weird agendas between teams.
"It’s also because the race was so hot and humid that all the moves were a bit blunted. There wasn’t that same spark. Everyone knew that if they went into the red they’d never come back from it in this kind of weather. It was a defensive race but still really hard."
The former world champion also raised her frustration with the behaviour of the motorbikes in the race.
"It was incredibly frustrating to be in my position. Every time someone made a move off the front, they were literally motor-pacing away from me. The motorbikes… there were too many. There were way too many motorbikes. It is what it is though."
The British leader, who won silver in the women’s road race nine years ago behind Marianne Vos in London, also added that she was still proud of her race and the position that she was in considering that the Games were postponed in 2020 and looked in the balance just a few weeks ago.
Like Van Vleuten, Deignan was also unaware of Kiesenhofer’s position on the road and thought that the Dutch rider had claimed gold.
"I’m old enough to know that that’s the way sport goes sometimes. Obviously I’m really disappointed but I have the perspective that I’ve put myself in a position to be here, I had a great team behind me, and we’ve had a pandemic, and we’ve still had an Olympics. There’s so much to be thankful for, to even race here," Deignan said.
"Honestly, the best person won the bike race, Annemiek was clearly the strongest, so chapeau to her," she added, before she'd learned of the real winner.
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Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.