A Dutch cyclist, Annemiek van Vleuten threw her arms aloft in celebration of her first Olympic road race title after crossing the finish line but her celebration was short-lived as she was unaware another Cyclist had crossed before her.
Van Vleuten had been part of the main pack chasing a six-rider breakaway in the women’s road race but as they picked the breakers off one by one, Austrian Anna Kiesenhofer was actually ahead and took the advantage to clinch gold.
Kiesenhofer had gone solo with 40km to go and by that point the only ones who knew where she was were her fellow early escapees who had been sucked back into the peloton and back out the other side.
A combination of no race radio and small squads were responsible for the chaos on the foothills of Mount Fuji, as Van Vleuten came in more than a minute behind Kiesenhofer.
While Italy’s Elisa Longo Borghini won bronze, said she was fully aware of her third-place finish, but Van Vleuten admitted she had no idea. “I didn’t know,” the 38-year-old said afterwards. “I was wrong.”
“There was a huge lack of information,” Britain’s Lizzie Deignan who finished 11th, said. “Probably the Dutch dominance before the race worked against me in the end. Nobody committed. In my position as a sole rider, there was nothing I could do and I was surprised by the lack of collaboration.”
Kiesenhofer’s gold is Austria’s first at a summer Olympics since 2004, and first in cycling since Adolf Schmal’s victory in the 12-hour race at the first modern Games in 1896.
“It feels incredible,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it. Even when I crossed the line, it was like, ‘Is it done now? Do I have to continue riding?’ Incredible…
“I was just trying to get to the line. My legs were completely empty. I have never emptied myself so much in my whole life. I could hardly pedal any more. It felt like there was zero energy in my legs.”
Annemiek van Vleuten have since the incident won a gold medal in the women individual time trial.