Kristin Armstrong (USA) took her second successive gold medal in the women's Olympic time trial, beating German Judith Arndt by a full 15 seconds over the 29km distance.
Olga Zabelinskaya (Russia) added another bronze medal to the one she claimed in the road race on Sunday. The home team was denied a medal as Great Britain's Emma Pooley struggled on the flat, fast course.
The day belonged to the veteran Armstrong, however, who recovered from a crash in Sunday's road race to take gold, four years after winning the time trial in Beijing. Today's race was a much different experience than her ride in 2008, where she was the odds on favourite. Before London, she was the underdog behind the reigning world champion Arndt and British favourite Emma Pooley in the bookies' minds.
Even in Armstrong's mind, her win was never a sure thing. "Leading up to Beijing, I had been on the podium at world championships twice, so it was expected I'd be on podium in Beijing. I counted three other riders I had to beat. I was a favourite," Armstrong said. "I didn't have that clear path this time. When I looked at the start list yesterday there were nine women who could win. My mantra throughout the race today was 'I have to live with this result, because as all of us know, you're only as good as your last result.'"
Even during the race, despite leading at every check with an increasing margin - first only a second, then five, then 15 at the finish, Armstrong was never sure she had the race won until she crossed the finish line.
"I heard a time gap of one second, but it was like in the road race, the crowd was so loud, it felt like whenever I wanted to hear anything, the crowd was cheering. The whole time everyone was cheering.
"I kept on pretending I heard I wasn't up. I thought I must be down by a few seconds or something. So I just gave everything I had. I knew the last 10 kilometers it would be hard to gain time. I felt that I needed to keep the pressure on the pedals because the minute I let up, even for a kilometer, I knew gold could go to fourth place pretty quickly because there are a lot of good time triallists right now."
Arndt, the world time trial champion, had to settle for second on this occasion. "I'm absolutely happy today," she said. "The time trial is always complicated. It always depends completely on your physical condition. Today was a good day for me.
"My goal was to win gold, but if you asked me yesterday I would have named Kristin as favorite for today, so I am not surprised."
The German agreed with Armstrong with the assessment that the quality of the field outstripped its quantity.
"Great athletes like Clara [Hughes] and Linda [Villumsen] missed out on the podium," she said. "I had to have a good day today to get on the podium. I felt strong, my material was good ... I thought I could have a good race, if I could stay focused - sometimes my thoughts go somewhere else," she admitted.
Because Arndt decided some time ago to eschew using a radio, she did not know her splits, and wasn't aware she was making up so much ground in the end. "I decided last year I'm actually better without any input from the outside, when I just do my race. Sometimes you get information you don't want to hear, so sometimes it's just better to race and give everything you can."
For Zabelinskaya, adding another bronze to the one she won in the road race was as unexpected as getting one at all.
"This is the greatest achievement in my career. I am a bit disappointed. I felt I could go faster. I started too slow. I could have gained 20 seconds in the beginning.
"Two medals, of course, were something that I was dreaming about. It was a dream and I did not expect it. Tonight I am not going to celebrate because tomorrow morning I have to wake up early to fly home. Maybe I will have a party at home tomorrow."
Quality, not quantity in women's field
In cool conditions and with light sprinkles, the women avoided the worst of the rain. Only 24 women were on the line, and due to the maximum 30km distance under Olympic rules, they faced just 29km against the clock.
Road race bronze medalist Zabelinskaya set the best early time with a 37:57.45, clocking the fastest checks along the way.
Emma Pooley gave the British fans a thrill when she went under the Russian's time at the first check, but she was quickly surpassed by Clara Hughes (Canada) and then Linda Villumsen (New Zealand).
The Kiwi was a full eight seconds faster than Hughes, and once Marianne Vos (Netherlands) and Arndt came through she was still quickest at check 1. Arndt lagged almost nine seconds behind - she was only fourth with one more rider to come, with both Hughes and Pooley going through quicker
When Armstrong came through, she was 1.51 seconds ahead of Villumsen, but had she gone out too hard? The second check would be telling.
Arndt picked up her pace ahead of the second time check, getting time back on Hughes and Pooley to move into second overall behind Villumsen. The German was picking up her pace.
But when Armstrong came through check 2, she had carved another three seconds out of Villumsen's time, and had a strong lead as rain began to come down a bit more steadily.
Villumsen began to crack in the final section, and as she headed up to the line it became clear she had gone out too hard. She faded to second, just a slim second behind the Russian and out of the medal position.
With Vos having dropped anchor early on, being passed by both Arndt and Armstrong, it would be down to the American and the German to unseat Zabelinskaya.
Arndt, staying low in her aero tuck through the final bend and gritting her teeth, pushed hard to the line and managed to climb into the top seat at 37:50.29.
But it was clear that Armstrong would need to seriously implode in the final third of the race in order for Arndt to win gold, and when the American headed so quickly into the final bend that she had to stop pedalling for a moment, it was clear that was not the case.
Armstrong came through the line 15.47 quicker than the German to repeat her Olympic gold medal performance from four years ago in Beijing.
|1||Kristin Armstrong (United States of America)||0:37:34.82|
|2||Judith Arndt (Germany)||0:00:15.47|
|3||Olga Zabelinskaya (Russian Federation)||0:00:22.53|
|4||Linda Melanie Villumsen (New Zealand)||0:00:24.36|
|5||Clara Hughes (Canada)||0:00:54.14|
|6||Emma Pooley (Great Britain)||0:01:02.88|
|7||Amber Neben (United States of America)||0:01:10.35|
|8||Ellen van Dijk (Netherlands)||0:01:18.86|
|9||Trixi Worrack (Germany)||0:01:45.91|
|10||Elizabeth Armitstead (Great Britain)||0:01:51.42|
|11||Pia Sundstedt (Finland)||0:02:26.87|
|12||Tatiana Antoshina (Russian Federation)||0:02:37.67|
|13||Shara Gillow (Australia)||0:02:50.21|
|14||Emma Johansson (Sweden)||0:03:03.74|
|15||Audrey Cordon (France)||0:03:05.69|
|16||Marianne Vos (Netherlands)||0:03:05.97|
|17||Emilia Fahlin (Sweden)||0:03:41.04|
|18||Clemilda Fernandes Silva (Brazil)||0:03:50.57|
|19||Denise Ramsden (Canada)||0:04:09.99|
|20||Elena Tchalykh (Azerbaijan)||0:04:12.24|
|21||Tatiana Guderzo (Italy)||0:04:14.12|
|22||Noemi Cantele (Italy)||0:04:16.36|
|23||Liesbet de Vocht (Belgium)||0:04:33.46|
|24||Ashleigh Moolman (South Africa)||0:04:48.75|
|1||Kristin Armstrong (United States of America)||0:13:56.38|
|2||Linda Melanie Villumsen (New Zealand)||0:00:01.51|
|3||Clara Hughes (Canada)||0:00:08.89|
|4||Emma Pooley (Great Britain)||0:00:09.80|
|5||Judith Arndt (Germany)||0:00:10.29|
|6||Olga Zabelinskaya (Russian Federation)||0:00:17.34|
|7||Amber Neben (United States of America)||0:00:26.31|
|8||Ellen van Dijk (Netherlands)||0:00:31.69|
|9||Elizabeth Armitstead (Great Britain)||0:00:37.56|
|10||Trixi Worrack (Germany)||0:00:42.39|
|11||Pia Sundstedt (Finland)||0:01:00.88|
|12||Tatiana Antoshina (Russian Federation)||0:01:04.10|
|13||Shara Gillow (Australia)||0:01:10.27|
|14||Emma Johansson (Sweden)||0:01:12.33|
|15||Marianne Vos (Netherlands)||0:01:12.82|
|16||Audrey Cordon (France)||0:01:20.95|
|17||Noemi Cantele (Italy)||0:01:26.47|
|18||Tatiana Guderzo (Italy)||0:01:28.58|
|19||Emilia Fahlin (Sweden)||0:01:28.77|
|20||Denise Ramsden (Canada)||0:01:32.80|
|21||Ashleigh Moolman (South Africa)||0:01:33.92|
|22||Elena Tchalykh (Azerbaijan)||0:01:36.08|
|23||Clemilda Fernandes Silva (Brazil)||0:01:42.30|
|24||Liesbet de Vocht (Belgium)||0:01:46.29|
|1||Kristin Armstrong (United States of America)||0:27:13.96|
|2||Linda Melanie Villumsen (New Zealand)||0:00:04.89|
|3||Judith Arndt (Germany)||0:00:07.42|
|4||Olga Zabelinskaya (Russian Federation)||0:00:12.56|
|5||Clara Hughes (Canada)||0:00:29.79|
|6||Emma Pooley (Great Britain)||0:00:33.49|
|7||Amber Neben (United States of America)||0:00:44.28|
|8||Ellen van Dijk (Netherlands)||0:01:02.10|
|9||Trixi Worrack (Germany)||0:01:14.98|
|10||Elizabeth Armitstead (Great Britain)||0:01:16.73|
|11||Pia Sundstedt (Finland)||0:01:37.57|
|12||Tatiana Antoshina (Russian Federation)||0:01:53.01|
|13||Shara Gillow (Australia)||0:02:07.71|
|14||Emma Johansson (Sweden)||0:02:14.58|
|15||Marianne Vos (Netherlands)||0:02:20.99|
|16||Audrey Cordon (France)||0:02:21.55|
|17||Emilia Fahlin (Sweden)||0:02:46.94|
|18||Clemilda Fernandes Silva (Brazil)||0:02:53.73|
|19||Denise Ramsden (Canada)||0:02:54.77|
|20||Tatiana Guderzo (Italy)||0:02:57.31|
|21||Noemi Cantele (Italy)||0:03:00.60|
|22||Elena Tchalykh (Azerbaijan)||0:03:06.78|
|23||Liesbet de Vocht (Belgium)||0:03:17.36|
|24||Ashleigh Moolman (South Africa)||0:03:17.42|
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Laura Weislo has been with Cyclingnews since 2006 after making a switch from a career in science. As Deputy Editor, she coordinates coverage for North American events and global news. As former elite-level road racer who dabbled in cyclo-cross and track, Laura has a passion for all three disciplines. When not working she likes to go camping and explore lesser traveled roads, paths and gravel tracks.
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