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Olympic road race – women: Armitstead claims silver behind Vos

Marianne Vos (the Netherlands) has won the women’s Olympic road race.

The 25-year-old triumphed on a 140km circuit that started and finished on The Mall and included two laps of Box Hill in Surrey.

Britian’s Lizzie Armistead took the silver medal, while the Russian, Olga Zabelinskaya, finished third to take the bronze.

Great Britain’s Lizzie Armitstead won the first medal of the home nation’s campaign with silver in the women’s road race. pic: ©Sirotti

Zabelinskaya led the trio on to the famous red tarmac of The Mall, with Vos second and Armitstead resolutely refusing to move from the wheel of her Dutch rival.

The Yorkshire rider responded when Vos sprinted, but was unable to match the pace of the queen of Dutch cycling and had to be content with silver.

London to Box Hill

Clemilda Fernandez Silva (Brazil) broke clear after five kilometres on the greasy, rain dampened surface of central London.

Great Britain’s Emma Pooley and Australia’s Amanda Spratt were just two of the riders to suffer punctures in the early stages.

The rain fell more heavily as the bunch rode through Bushy Park on their way to the Box Hill circuit.

Ellen Van Dijk (Holland) launched the first serious attack as the peloton neared the exit from Walton. She was rapidly dragged back by a bunch headed by defending champion, Nicole Cooke (Great Britain), but soon launched a second, ultimately unsuccessful attack as the bunch headed into Byfleet.

Emma Pooley held a watching brief on the approach to the first Box Hill circuit, and was soon called to action, shutting down an attack from the American rider, Evelyn Stevens.

The descent from Staple Lane created a selection of 20 riders, among them Holland’s Marianne Vos, and three teammates, and Great Britain’s Lizzie Armitstead. As the bunch began to reform on Guildford Road, Van Dyk kicked again, perhaps to soften the group for Vos on Box Hill.

Box Hill

Clara Hughes (Canada) led the riders on to the slopes of Box Hill with Vos riding third wheel, and the ever vigilant Pooley alone on the hard right of the road.

Thousands of people welcomed the field onto the rain-soaked slopes, led through the feed station by Pooley.

Moments later, Germany’s Judith Arndt launched an attack on a short descent, but Vos responded instantly and latched onto her wheel, passing her and driving forward.

Pooley was the next to attack, was caught, and counter-attacked on the descent of Box Hill, and was caught again, and attacked again. A third attack saw her lead the peloton into the next ascent.

Vos was the next to surge, but Pooley put in another superb effort to drag her back, while at the back of the peloton, Nicole Cooke lost contact, perhaps slowed by crashes, and chased hard to return to the bunch.

Many of the pre-race favourites could be seen at the head of the bunch on approach to the second ascent of Box Hill, with Kristin Armstrong (USA), Vos, Armitstead, and, almost inevitably, Pooley, at the front.

But just moments later, at the foot of Box Hill, Armstrong went down and Cooke and Pooley were forced to steer around her. Pooley dug deep to catch and pass Van Dyk on the climb of Box Hill and briefly led.

Vos launched a massive attack as the leaders approached the crest of the hill, but Armitstead responded immediately.

Russia’s Olga Zabelinskaya attacked moments later, gaining a decent advantage, but was soon pegged by Armitstead, Vos, and Shelley Olds (USA) in the key selection of the race.

Box Hill to London

The quartet led by 18 seconds on the run through Leatherhead with Germany and Italy indecisive at the head of the peloton as the rain increased.

But in another twist, Olds dropped out of the group, unseen by the television cameras, reducing those able to work for the breakaway, but adding the incentive of a guaranteed medal for the three remaining leaders.

Armitstead jumped out of the saddle as they crossed the Thames past Hampton Court Palace, while Germany, in the form of Arndt, continued to head an increasingly organised but severely diminished peloton.

The leading trio worked efficiently through abysmal conditions as they headed past thousands of people lining the route in Kingston and into Richmond Park, but were forced to ride without time checks.

Vos looked back anxiously over her shoulder as they crossed the park, earning a furious ‘hurry up’ from Armitstead.

An inspired Armitstead led over Putney bridge, while Zabelinskaya, the least likely to triumph in a sprint finish, continued to work steadily, contributing to a gap that hovered around 40 seconds.

With two kilometres to go, Armitstead dropped to the rear wheel of Vos, while Zabelinskaya gestured the pair through. Vos hit the front, but Armitstead resolutely remained at the back.

Zabelinskaya accelerated with 1.5km to go, but Vos responded while Armitstead held third wheel.

As the trio entered a rain soaked Mall, Zabelinskaya led them out, but the sprint of Vos was simply too strong for Armitstead.

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