Annemiek Van Vleuten (Netherlands) triumphed in the women's individual time trial at the Tokyo Olympic Games to take gold with a blistering performance, totally dominating the race of truth.
Van Vleuten was the fastest at every checkpoint throughout the 22.1km course, as she took her first-ever Olympic gold medal after several near misses in the past. The Dutch rider finished with a blistering time of 30:13 over the undulating course, and unlike in the road race where she finished second in a daze of confusion, there was little doubt this time around.
"I knew after the road race that I was in super, super shape and everyone was talking about everything else and what happened in the road," Van Vleuten said at the finish.
"Almost no one was talking about the performance that I had there in the road. If that performance had won me the gold medal then they would have been saying I’d had an amazing race but I closed myself from social media and we had an evaluation in the team. The message that I kept remembering in my head after the road race was that I was in super shape and that I was better than ever. I didn’t check Twitter, I didn’t check any social media, I just took that message into my preparation."
"I’m not a perfect athlete but I have a gold medal. I always thought that you need to be a freak to win a gold medal but I’m not a freak. That’s not necessary and today is a really nice bonus in my journey. I can’t believe this medal is around my neck and it’s very special to be an Olympic champion,' she added.
Marlen Reusser (Switzerland) came up with a surprise silver with a time of 31:09, while Anna van der Breggen (Netherlands) finished with bronze in 31:15. There would be no return to glory for Chloe Dygert (United States of America) with the former world champion well off the pace and finishing over two minutes down in seventh with a time of 32:29. The American sustained an 80 per cent laceration to her left leg in a horrific crash at the World Championships in Imola, Italy, in September 2020.
The American was well down at the first time check and never really in the race for the medals but for Van Vleuten it was an utter masterclass in time trialing. She was six seconds up at the first time check at 9.7 kilometres with Grace Brown her closest rival in the early stages of the race but that advantage moved out to 28 seconds at the second check at 15 kilometres.
Reusser moved from fifth at the first check to second at the line, with Brown eventually falling to fourth and missing out on a medal by just seven seconds. Amber Neben was the top American finisher in fifth.
How it unfolded
The 22.1 kilometre course started and finished at the Fuji Speedway, beginning with a four-kilometre mostly downhill section out of the Speedway, followed by a long uphill grind to the first time check at 9.7 kilometres. A long descent took the riders back to the entrance of the Speedway, followed by a hard rolling section to the finish line. The race began in sunshine, gusty winds, and 95 per cent humidity, making it feel like a sauna to the riders.
Canada's Karol-Ann Canuel set the first strong time of 33:07, but she was pushed from the top spot by Australian Sarah Gigante. France's Juliette Labous then became the first to go under 33 minutes, but that would only be good enough for 11th, as faster starters began to come in.
Van Vleuten, starting sixth from last, was setting the fastest time at both the 9.7 kilometre and 15 kilometre time splits, finishing with a time of 30:13, but the big question was, what would the final two starters do - American Chloe Dygert and van der Breggen. The answer came at the first time check, with van der Breggen only third fastest and Dygert eighth.
Dygert was a big unknown; the 2019 world champion, she had a horrific crash at the 2020 world championships while leading the race, requiring leg surgery and months of rehab. She wasn't a factor on the leader board all race, but may have been suffering from mechanical problems as well. She was nearly 52 seconds behind van Vleuten at the first split and 1:10 back at the second, and was nearly caught by van der Breggen at the finish line.
While van Vleuten had the gold sewed up, there was a battle going on for silver. Reusser was fourth fastest at the first split and dropped to fifth fastest at the second one, over 13 seconds behind van der Breggen with seven kilometres to go. However, she had a very strong final split while van der Breggen faltered a bit, eventually finishing 56.47 seconds behind van Vleuten, with van der Breggen a further 5.16 seconds back.
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Annemiek van Vleuten (Netherlands)||0:30:13|
|2||Marlen Reusser (Switzerland)||0:00:56|
|3||Anna Van der Breggen (Netherlands)||0:01:01|
|4||Grace Brown (Australia)||0:01:08|
|5||Amber Leone Neben (United States Of America)||0:01:12|
|6||Lisa Brennauer (Germany)||0:01:57|
|7||Chloe Dygert (United States Of America)||0:02:16|
|8||Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (South Africa)||0:02:24|
|9||Juliette Labous (France)||0:02:28|
|10||Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy)||0:02:47|
|11||Sarah Gigante (Australia)||0:02:48|
|12||Leah Kirchmann (Canada)|
|13||Lisa Klein (Germany)|
|14||Karol-ann Canuel (Canada)||0:02:54|
|15||Omer Shapira (Israel)||0:03:02|
|16||Alena Amialiusik (Belarus)||0:03:07|
|17||Emma Cecilie Jørgensen (Denmark)||0:03:36|
|18||Anna Shackley (Great Britain)||0:04:00|
|19||Julie Van de Velde (Belgium)||0:04:10|
|20||Katrine Aalerud (Norway)||0:04:19|
|21||Christine Majerus (Luxembourg)||0:04:20|
|22||Eri Yonamine (Japan)||0:04:21|
|23||Margarita Victo Garcia Cañellas (Spain)||0:04:26|
|24||Anna Plichta (Poland)||0:04:43|
|25||Masomah Ali Zada (Refugee Olympic Team)||0:13:50|
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