Marianne Vos of the Netherlands won gold in the women’s road race in London Sunday, and hosts Great Britain managed to bag its first medal of the Games with Lizzie Armitstead taking silver.
AP - Marianne Vos of the Netherlands won the gold medal in the women's road race Sunday, holding off Britain's Elizabeth Armitstead in a rain-drenched sprint on The Mall.
The former world champion made a daring move past Russia's Olga Zabelinskaya to emerge from the three-rider breakaway. Vos powered past a small group of fans waving the Dutch flag, and then raised her arms in triumph as she crossed the finish line.
Armitstead wound up with silver, Britain's first medal of the London Olympics.
The frantic sprint finish through a driving rain was reminiscent of four years ago in Beijing, when Britain's Nicole Cook pulled away late to win the gold medal.
Nobody could blame Vos for the scream she let loose across the finish line.
The Dutch rider, who won track cycling gold in the points race at the Beijing Olympics, had grown accustomed to finishing just off the top step in major races. Vos has won five straight silver medals at the world championships, and had never stood on the podium in an Olympic road race. Perhaps fittingly, the clouds broke and the sun shined for the medal ceremony.
Armitstead accepted the silver medal to cheers from the British crowd, delivering the podium finish that eluded Mark Cavendish and his teammates on the powerhouse men's team the previous day.
While the crowds that turned out didn't nearly reach the estimated 1 million fans who turned out Saturday, they were still packed deep along the 140-kilometer (87-mile) route.
The riders started off on the Mall during one of one of the many rain showers that plagued the entire race, passing by Buckingham Palace and heading south of London. Janildes Fernandes of Brazil initiated the first breakaway, but nobody jumped the gap and the peloton headed by the American team was content to keep her within easy striking distance.
They had reeled her back after about 30 minutes of racing.
Estonian rider Grete Treier was among several riders who crashed on the narrow, rain-slicked roads of London early in the race. There were also a number of punctures, including one that slowed down reigning time trial silver medalist Emma Pooley of Britain.
Ellen van Dijk, the national time trial champion of the Netherlands, spent the first half of the race trying to open up gaps on the field. Every time she bounced off the front, though, there were a handful of riders positioned right behind with orders to bring her back.
Just as in the men's race, Box Hill is where the race started to take shape. The first of two trips up the punchy climb in the Surrey countryside broke the field into two groups. One of the riders dropped was Cooke, the defending gold medalist, who managed to race back to the peloton but was spent by the time the riders started up the climb again.
Reigning time trial gold medalist Kristin Armstrong of the United States crashed at the bottom of Box Hill, hampering the chances of the American team in the run-in to the finish.
Vos made her first big move on the final climb, and she was quickly joined by Armitstead. They went clear along with Sweden's Emma Johansson and American rider Shelley Olds on the quick downhill, where speeds at times were approaching 70 kph (43 mph).
Their gap was 18 seconds with about 40 kilometers (25 miles) remaining, and working together the trio managed to extend their advantage as another round of rain began to pound the course.
Olds dropped away after puncturing her tire at the most inopportune of times, and the three riders remaining in the break carried on. Vos did most of the work at the front, pushing the gap to more than 30 seconds while a field led by the Italians and Americans frantically gave chase.
The wet roads didn't help their cause.
Every rider who moved to the front had to slow dramatically around the city's tight, narrow corners, and their lost momentum allowed the breakaway to build on its lead.
It reached 53 seconds as crowds choked the run-in to Buckingham Palace, and by that point it was clear that the race would be decided among the three. Vos began her sprint with the finish line in sight, and Armitstead didn't have enough left to chase her down.
Date created : 2012-07-29