Marianne Vos (Netherlands) took gold at the women’s road race at the London 2012 Olympics with a perfectly timed sprint that saw her home ahead of Lizzie Armitstead (Great Britain) and Olga Zabelinskaya (Russia).
The trio had gone clear with over 40 kilometres still to race and fought out a tense, rain-soaked finale on London’s Mall. While Armitstead was best-placed as the sprint began, she was unable to come around Vos, who claimed her second Olympic gold medal after winning the points race on the track in Beijing four years ago.
After coming in second place in five consecutive world championships and finishing outside of the medals, to win in London was a confirmation for the world's number one female road rider.
"I knew this was another chance and you don't have to think about the years before. It was a hard race today with the weather conditions also. I felt good. We made a hard race with the Dutch squad with early attacks from Ellen van Dijk, Loes Gunnewijk, and Annemiek van Vleuten as well."
"That was the plan. During the race, I felt like this might be the day that it comes all together."
Zabelinskaya sparked the winning move over the top of the final ascent of Box Hill, and then was joined by Vos, then Armitstead and Shelley Olds (USA). The quartet quickly built up a lead of 40 seconds, but Olds punctured out of the break on the fast run-in to London, and a general regrouping behind meant that Vos, Zabelinskaya and Armitstead had to continue to collaborate all the way into the final kilometres before contesting the sprint for the medals.
The attack was not the first thrown by Vos, whose Dutch team was the most aggressive throughout the race. Making the race difficult played perfectly into Vos's strengths.
"I knew it was 140 kilometers and you need some energy for the finish, but I also knew that a hard race was good for me, and also the others have to follow and use their energy. For me it was the plan to attack quite early and many times, to tire myself but also to tire the others."
She had no problem continuing to drive the pace, even with the knowledge that Armitstead is a fast sprinter and one who could possibly deny her the gold medal.
"Of course with three you know you have to keep pushing to the finish. It was our biggest chance for a medal. In the last 2km we started to watch and prepare the sprint. Of course I knew Lizzy is really fast on the line, so I was not at all confident. I knew I had a chance, I knew I had a big chance, but I knew if I made a little mistake, Lizzy would take the gold. So I had to choose the right moment in the finish. I think I did."
Although she lost the bid for gold, Armitstead said that she was happy. "Maybe I should have jumped Vos earlier, but she was the stronger rider. I am thrilled," she said. "I am still a bit shell-shocked, to be honest. I cannot really get my head around it. I suppose the disappointment of not winning gold is starting to sink in a little bit, but I am overjoyed with silver.
"To be an Olympic medallist at your home Games and the first one is something I cannot get my head around. I am so happy for the people that have supported me to get to this point."
While Armistead and Vos provided much of the impetus for the breakaway, it was Zabelinskaya who led through the final kilometer only because she knew there was no hope of beating either of her companions in the sprint. The Russian was still was pleased and surprised to win a medal in an event which was not her focus for the Games.
"My goal for this Olympic Games was [a medal in] the time trial, but it happened today," she said. "We worked together until the finish, but I knew they would beat me in the sprint."
When it was still four in the breakaway, Zabelinskaya said, "I thought that I would come in fourth and be out of medal. After Shelley dropped off I tried to stay in the break and work with Vos."
The early exchanges
Although the morning began with warm sunshine, the winds blew up and rain began to fall as at the conclusion of the sign in, and by the time the flag was dropped, the roads were drenched as were the riders.
The peloton set off under control of the British, American and Dutch teams, aiming to keep their favourites in contention and safe from crashes. The first attack came early in the race, just five kilometers in when Janildes Dernandes Silva launched a move that got only 15 seconds. She was caught on a slight rise in Richmond Park a few
The run out from London to the Box Hill circuit was alternately wet and sunny, with riders taking turns gingerly on wet roads to stay upright. The sudden decrease in speed led to a crash at the back of the field by Taipei's Hsiao Mei Yu and Grete Treier (Estonia), though both riders were able to continue.
On the approach to the Box Hill circuit, the Dutch sent off two consecutive attacks through Loes Gunnewijk and Ellen van Dijk, but the peloton wasn't quite ready to let anything go clear. Shara Gillow (Auatralia) attempted to get away on a rise further along, but was quickly marked by the Americans.
Once on the circuit, Van Dijk put in a stinging move, but she was marked, first by the Italian team, and then Kristin Armstrong (USA) closed the final gap. Gunnewijk countered the move, and this time it was more difficult for the peloton to close down the gap. Italy was forced to do much of the work chasing, with world champion Giorgia Bronzini clearly the team's main card for the medal rostrum.
Australia continued the aggression but lacked the punch to get away, but the rapid pace on the approach to Box Hill had the peloton strung out.
As the peloton entered the turn onto the climb, Team USA had control of the front, and as soon as the road kicked up, Evelyn Stevens attacked, quickly marked by Emma Pooley and South African Ashleigh Moolman. Soon Vos, Johansson and the rest of the favourites had come across and so the first of two ascents of the climb ended stalemate – even sprinter Ina Teutenberg (Germany) was present at the front.
Box Hill makes the difference
Clara Hughes set the pace into the feed zone before being swamped by a surge from the Italian and German team as the roads narrowed ahead of the tricky, high speed descent. Ina Teutenberg led the peloton safely down at 57kph, but as the road flattened the Vos put in a move. She was marked by American Shelley Olds, and with such a strong sprinter on her wheel she refused to commit to the attack.
As they were caught, the Dutch aggression continued, with Van Vleuten putting in one unsuccessful move before Van Dijk attacked, gaining a dozen seconds on the reduced peloton. She was soon joined by Audrey Cordon (France), but without sufficient contribution from the Frenchwoman the move was reeled in before the second ascent of Box Hill.
The second climb failed to provide any further opportunity for attacks, although several riders pushed the pace: Clara Hughes (Canada), Pia Sundstedt (Finland), Stevens (USA), Pooley (Great Britain) and Arndt (Germany), but even the world time trial champion couldn't stay away.
Pooley had a go at a counter-attack, and as the pace heated up behind, the Dutch lost Loes Gunnewijk to a crash.
Neben then bridged to Pooley, leaving Vos to close down the move herself. Not satisfied to be caught, Pooley kept the pressure on, but she was countered by Vos on a small rise. At the same time, the defending Olympic champion Nicole Cooke was caught out and chasing hard with Tatiana Antoshina (Russia). As the riders up front neutralized each other, Cooke was able to rejoin, and the race was all back together.
A crash at the back took down Armstrong and Stevens, with the former the worst off. At the same time Van Dijk was back on the attack, forcing the Americans to work hard to chase, but they rejoined in time for Olga Zabelinskaya (Russia) to launch a powerful move with 50km to go, an attack which sparked Vos to go away in hot pursuit.
Armitstead went after Vos, hammering after her on the descent. She was followed by Shelley Olds (USA), and soon all four riders were together off the front, but even with help Vos continued to drive the breakaway through pounding rain. They stretched out a 20-second advantage over the peloton with 31km to go. Olds was dropped soon after, a puncture ruining her chance at a podium, leaving all the medals up the road with a 26-second lead.
Behind, Italy, Germany and Canada were chasing full on for their sprinters but the leaders were too strong.
Zabelinskaya took the lead with one kilometer to go, but the race for gold was always going to be between Vos and Armitstead. When Vos came to the front, there was no chance for the Briton to come around, and the win went to The Netherlands.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Marianne Vos (Netherlands)||3:35:29|
|2||Elizabeth Armitstead (Great Britain)|
|3||Olga Zabelinskaya (Russian Federation)||0:00:02|
|4||Ina Teutenberg (Germany)||0:00:27|
|5||Giorgia Bronzini (Italy)|
|6||Emma Johansson (Sweden)|
|7||Shelley Olds (United States of America)|
|8||Pauline Ferrand Prevot (France)|
|9||Liesbet De Vocht (Belgium)|
|10||Aude Biannic (France)|
|11||Katarzyna Pawlowska (Poland)|
|12||Joelle Numainville (Canada)|
|13||Ahreum Na (Republic of Korea)|
|14||Annemiek Van Vleuten (Netherlands)|
|15||Alena Amialiusik (Belarus)|
|16||Ashleigh Moolman (South Africa)|
|17||Grete Treier (Estonia)|
|18||Linda Melanie Villumsen (New Zealand)|
|19||Emilia Fahlin (Sweden)|
|20||Pia Sundstedt (Finland)|
|21||Christine Majerus (Luxembourg)|
|22||Polona Batagelj (Slovenia)|
|23||Clemilda Fernandes Silva (Brazil)|
|24||Evelyn Stevens (United States of America)|
|25||Tatiana Antoshina (Russian Federation)|
|26||Evelyn Yesenia Garcia Marroquin (El Salvador)|
|27||Denise Ramsden (Canada)|
|28||Joanna Van De Winkel (South Africa)|
|29||Maaike Polspoel (Belgium)||0:00:32|
|30||Tatiana Guderzo (Italy)|
|31||Nicole Cooke (Great Britain)|
|32||Clara Hughes (Canada)|
|33||Trixi Worrack (Germany)||0:00:35|
|34||Noemi Cantele (Italy)|
|35||Kristin Armstrong (United States of America)||0:00:47|
|36||Amber Neben (United States of America)||0:00:51|
|37||Judith Arndt (Germany)||0:00:59|
|38||Larisa Pankova (Russian Federation)||0:01:53|
|39||Shara Gillow (Australia)|
|40||Emma Pooley (Great Britain)||0:01:57|
|HD||Ingrid Drexel (Mexico)|
|HD||Loes Gunnewijk (Netherlands)|
|HD||Charlotte Becker (Germany)|
|HD||Xin Liu (People's Republic of China)|
|HD||Monia Baccaille (Italy)|
|HD||Fernanda Da Silva Souza (Brazil)|
|HD||Ellen Van Dijk (Netherlands)|
|HD||Lucy Martin (Great Britain)|
|HD||Mei Yu Hsiao (Taipei (Chinese Taipei))|
|HD||Alona Andruk (Ukraine)|
|HD||Audrey Cordon (France)|
|HD||Ludivine Henrion (Belgium)|
|HD||Robyn De Groot (South Africa)|
|HD||Amanda Spratt (Australia)|
|HD||Chloe Hosking (Australia)|
|HD||Yumari Gonzalez Valdivieso (Cuba)|
|HD||Emilie Moberg (Norway)|
|HD||Isabelle Soderberg (Sweden)|
|HD||Wan Yiu Jamie Wong (Hong Kong, China)|
|DNF||Mayuko Hagiwara (Japan)|
|DNF||Danielys Garcia (Venezuela)|
|DNF||Paola Andrea Munoz Grandon (Chile)|
|DNF||Aurelie Halbwachs (Mauritius)|
|DNF||Elena Tchalykh (Azerbaijan)|
|DNF||Juthatip Maneephan (Thailand)|
|DNF||Janildes Fernandes Silva (Brazil)|
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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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