Anna van der Breggen wins women’s road race gold at Rio 2016

Lizzie Armitstead fifth as Netherlands claim gold despite Annemiek van Vleuten suffering high-speed crash

Anna van der Breggen won Olympic gold for the Netherlands at Rio 2016 women’s road race, four years on from compatriot Marianne Vos’ London success, as Great Britain’s Lizzie Armitstead finished fifth.

Van der Breggen’s compatriot Annemiek van Vleuten had earlier looked set for gold until a bad crash on the Vista Chinesa descent – the same descent which caught out Vincenzo Nibali and Geraint Thomas in the men’s race.

American Mara Abbott led the way onto the final straight, having taken the final descent at a much steadier pace than Van Vleuten but ran out of steam to miss out on the medals.

Instead Van der Breggen, Emma Johansson (Sweden) and Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy) swept past to take the medals in that order.

Anna van der Breggen outsprinted Emma Johansson to win the Rio 2016 women’s road race (pic: Sirotti)

A quick start to the race, with winds bellowing on the Rio shoreline, made for some frantic early racing.

Armitstead suffered an early mechanical and had to chase back on – with team-mate Emma Pooley not realising initially and continuing to set the pace.

Lotte Kopecky (Belgium) was first to get a gap on the peloton, while a dangerous chase group featuring – among others – Ellen van Dijk (Netherlands), Georgia Bronzini (Italy) and Kristin Armstrong (USA) set off in pursuit.

Pooley was among those to do the chasing, before setting off in pursuit herself – sitting up only when Vos bridged across.

Kopecky’s solo break was ended on the second lap of the Grumari circuit – the catch made on the Grumari climb, with the chasers also swallowed up.

The descent caused some splits to form, but the race came back together – and stayed together despite some counter-attacks – on the run-in to the final climb.

Former world champions Vos and Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (France) were in a seven-strong group which gained an advantage as the climb approached, however, and were more than a minute clear on the steeper Joa ascent.

The Americans came to the fore on the climb, however – Evelyn Stevens’ efforts shattering the peloton before Abbott pushed the pace up too, the latter catching the break with a big dig.

Only eight riders remained up front thanks to the Wiggle-High5 rider’s efforts, and that was down to four on the second part of the climb – Abbott, Van der Breggen, Van Vleuten and Longo Borghini

It looked to be advantage Netherlands, and Van Vleuten looked to make that count by attacking on the climb – only Abbott able to follow.

The descent saw the Dutchwoman stretch her advantage further, but the aggressive intent showed proved to be her downfall – as it was for Nibali 24 hours earlier – as she crashed badly on one of the corners.

Aboott had been more cautious, and that looked to be paying off as she held a 38-second advantage at the bottom of the climb but it was not to be enough.

Van der Breggen, Johansson and bronze medallist Elisa Longo Borghini celebrate on the podium (pic: Sirotti)

Armitstead was in the second group, but the gap to Van der Breggen, Longo Borghini and the resurgent Johansson proved too much.

With Abbott caught and passed in sight of the line, it was left to those three to contest the spring for the line and it was the Dutchwoman who emerged victorious.

Armitstead won the sprint for fifth place, but just like London four years ago it was a Dutchwoman standing atop the final podium.

Rio 2016 Olympic Games: women’s road race – result

1) Anna van der Breggen – Netherlands – 3.51.27hrs
2) Emma Johansson – Sweden – ST
3) Elisa Longo Borghini – Italy
4) Mara Abbott – USA +4”
5) Elizabeth Armitstead – Great Britain +20”
6) Katarzyna Niewiadoma – Poland – ST
7) Flavia Oliveira – Brazil
8) Jolanda Noff – Switzerland
9) Marianne Vos – Netherlands – 1.14
10) Ashleigh Moolman – South Africa – ST

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