Marianne Vos won a pulsating women’s road race on Sunday, outsprinting Britain’s Lizzie Armitstead in the last 100 metres to clinch the Netherlands’ first gold medal at the London Games.
Olga Zabelinskaya of Russia took the bronze after a 140-kilometre race which finished in heavy rain with Vos edging out Armitstead by a bike length.
The trio had joined forces to break away from the other cyclists with around 40 kilometres to go and Vos won the sprint to finally win road race gold, having finished second in the world championships on five occasions.
Vos was embraced by Dutch crown prince and IOC member Willem-Alexander after victory, her second Olympic gold after her win in the points race in Beijing.
“I knew Lizzie was really fast in the finish so I was not that confident at all,” Vos told reporters.
“I knew I had a chance, a big chance but I also knew that if I made even a little mistake then Lizzie would win the gold.
“I had to choose the right time to go at the finish and I think I did that.” Armitstead gave Britain their first medal of the Games, a lift for the hosts after the disappointment of Saturday’s men’s race, when Mark Cavendish was unable to pick up a medal.
“It feels incredible, I’m really, really happy,” Armitstead told reporters just seconds after crossing the line.
“It means four years of hard work has paid off. “I am just so happy I went with the breakaway. The only regret is that I didn’t try to jump earlier but Marianne Vos is the strongest woman in cycling so I am very happy with my silver medal.” The race began in sunshine but heavy showers made conditions treacherous in places and there were several crashes along the 140-kilometre route out into Surrey and back into London.
After a quiet first 20 kilometres, the race saw a number of breakaway attempts, with Vos and her Dutch team-mates particularly prominent.
Vos had missed a road-race medal in Beijing when she was left behind by a breakaway so she was determined not to suffer a second disappointment.
With about 40 kilometres to go, Zabelinskaya went for it but was quickly joined by Vos the 23-year-old Armitstead and American Shelly Olds.
The peloton had enough time to pull them back but, as in the men’s race, did not work well enough together and after Olds dropped back, the front three pulled away to a lead of around 50 seconds at one stage.
With 200 metres to go, Zabelinskaya was beaten, leaving Vos and Armitstead to fight it out for gold and the Dutchwoman had just enough to clinch a well-earned victory.
“After Beijing, that was the only thing that was on my mind for four years,” Vos said. “Now that it’s happened, it’s incredible. Now the gold is mine.” Team GB head coach Shane Sutton was delighted with Armitstead’s performance but also praised Vos’s strength.
“Hats off to Vos, it was a brilliant ride,” he said. “For someone who“s done what she’s done in this sport we can’t deny her the gold.
“She showed today who she really was. Having five seconds at the worlds, obviously we were hoping and hoping (for another) but we are over the moon for Lizzie.”