Lizzie Armitstead gave Great Britain its first medal of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, claiming silver in the women’s road race on Sunday behind Marianne Vos of the Netherlands.
Armitstead, Vos and Russian Olga Zabelinskaya came to the rain-soaked finish together having been part of an escape group all the way into London from the final ascent of Box Hill.
By the final kilometre, the trio had maintained a 40-second gap over the much reduced chasing peloton. Zabelinskaya – the weaker of the three in fast finishes – led Vos and Armitstead in the last 500 metres. Vos then opened up her sprint, with Armitstead fighting hard to come around her.
Vos held the British rider off in The Mall to claim the Olympic road race title, one of the few wins previously missing from her extensive palmares.
Ina Teutenberg won the field sprint for fourth place after her German team had done much of the chasing into London.
Netherlands and Great Britain lead the way
Unlike the previous day’s men’s road race, the teams that put the work in to the day’s racing were the ones that reaped the rewards.
Both the Netherlands and Great Britain teams rode tactically astute races, forcing escapes, upping the pace and policing breakaways where necessary. The four-rider limit for each team seemed to make little difference in their dominance of the 66-rider field.
Britain’s Emma Pooley played a huge role in decimating the peloton and keeping an eye on escapes on the two loops of Box Hill – much to the delight of the crowd, who endured torrential rain but still managed to chant Pooley’s name as she went past.
Defending Olympic champion Nicole Cooke caught back up to the bunch after drifting off the back on the first ascent of Box Hill. She maintained her place in the peloton to the line, ready with fresh legs should team-mate Armitstead’s group get caught.
The fourth member of the British team – Lucy Martin – fared less well, getting dropped on Box Hill and not making it back up to the front of the race.
Punctures and crashes also played their part in proceedings. American Shelley Olds had been in the escape group with Armitstead, Vos and Zabelinskaya but was forced to drop out after suffering a flat tyre. Olds chased back up to eventually place seventh.
Pooley punctured in the final five kilometres, and came into the finish just under two minutes behind the leaders.
Several riders fell by the wayside as thunderstorms turned formerly dry roads into slick tarmac. No major injuries were reported.
London 2012 Olympic Games, women’s road race: London/Surrey 140km
1. Marianne Vos (Netherlands) in 3-35-29
2. Lizzie Armitstead (Great Britain) at same time
3. Olga Zabelinskaya (Russia) at 2 secs
4. Ina Teutenberg (Germany) at 27 secs
5. Giorgia Bronzini (Italy)
6. Emma Johansson (Sweden)
7. Shelley Olds (USA)
8. Pauline Ferrand Prevot (France)
9. Liesbet De Vocht (Belgium)
10. Aude Biannic (France) at same time
31. Nicole Cooke (Great Britain) at 32 secs
40. Emma Pooley (Great Britain) at 1-57
Emma Pooley on Box Hill
Lizzie Armitstead heads escape group
Emotional win: Marianne Vos
Armitstead, Vos and Zabelinskaya on the podium
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London 2012: Podcasts
Cycling Weekly podcasts on Soundcloud