One of the first major events of the Rio 2016 Olympics was the women’s road race, with drama and excitement right from the word “Go!”
With the Rio road course having some of the riders biting their nails in the lead up, the general consensus was that this would be a true test of skill and stamina. Before the race, reigning gold medallist, Marianne Vos said: “In Rio, the climb in the final section is really difficult – like a mountain stage –so it’s going to be interesting!”
Having had a hellish start to the week, Lizzie Armitstead was the focus of attention. After missing 3 drug tests in 12 months, she was finally cleared to race in the Games just days beforehand. With her reputation being thrown into question, we can only imagine the mental and emotional upset that could have caused.
Rio 2016: Women’s Road Event
With 68 of the world’s best female road cyclists taking to the start line, the women’s road race got underway.
Nearly as soon as they had set off, disaster struck for Lizzie Armitstead who suffered a puncture unknown to her team mate, Emma Pooley who had stormed up the fist mini-climb.
Back on the bike, Lizzie had to play a serious game of catch up to the peloton that was no where in sight.
Throughout the intense and challenging course, multiple attacks were being made in order to gain any advantage in this iconic and World rewarding race. Young Lotte Kopecky (BE) made the first big break of the day, an aggressive push without support with just over 100km to go.
Germany’s Romy Kasper lead the chase and made a break to catch up to Kopecky who had a 2 minute advantage.
After the cobble section where a lot of bottles were lost, Kasper was swallowed up by the peloton who storm after Kopecky.
Ellen van Dijk (NL), Bronzini (IT) and Plichta (PL) lead the chase on Kopecky, while Pooley (GB) lead the peloton up the climbs.
After an impressive lead on the peloton, Pooley and the women closed in on Kopecky and envelop her into the group with just 66km to go.
With 56km remaining, all three British women – Lizzie Armitstead, Nikki Harris and Emma Pooley were in contention in the peloton. There’s everything to play for as the race headed away from the Grumari circuit and those cobbles, and on their way to the dreaded Vista Chinesa climb.
A new break from Vos (NL), Ferrand Prevot (FR), Cecchini (IT), Worrack (DE), Elvin (AUS), Jasinska (PL) and Vekemans (BE) went with 32km to go, the leaders held a gap with over 1 minute on the peloton.
With 20km to go, Armitstead held pace in the third group, about 10 seconds behind the first set of chasers and another 10 behind our leaders Abbott (USA), van der Breggen (NL) and van Vleuten (NL) and Longo Borghini (IT).
Van Vleuten (NL) and Abbott (USA) cleared the group and powered up the switchback climb.
The following descent was steep, fast and very tight. With all eyes on the leading two, Abbott (USA) decided to play it safe while Van Vleuten (NL) tore off ahead of the camera crew, only to be spotted a little later after having a serious crash – we hope she’s ok. Recent reports suggest she was conscious on the way to hospital.
With Mara Abbott (USA) in the lead through the final stretch, she was giving it her all, getting out of the saddle to make sure she got every ounce of strength from her legs. The American had a gap of 35 seconds from the chasing group, and held on as best as she could in the final few kilometres.
But it was Anna van der Breggen (NL) who made the sprint in the final few hundred metres and secured herself the Gold Medal, with Sweden’s Emma Johansson taking silver and Elisa Longo Borghini (IT) taking home the bronze.
Missing out on the medals, British athlete Lizzie Armitstead came in 5th and spoke about the race:
“I did exactly what I wanted to do in the race, I didn’t panic on the climb and limited as much as I could for my losses, I knew I could never follow the best climbers in the world up there so I just never gave up. It’s something I’ve been working on for months now, my climbing and I knew what I was capable of, I knew what I had in my legs and I did as best as I could. I’m just knackered!” – Lizzie Armitstead, 5th place in Rio 2016
Such a difficult and challenging course for the athletes today, but with everything to gain, every cyclist put in their everything.
We’re excited to get stuck into the women’s time trial on August 10th. Don’t miss it!