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OLYMPICS’21 Women’s Road Race: Surprise Gold for Kiesenhofer!

Big win for Anna Kiesenhofer and Austria

Olympic Race Report: Anna Kiesenhofer of Austria took the Olympic gold medal after being away for the whole day. The Dutch team let the early break take too much time and Kiesenhofer soloed from the break to hold off the peloton. Annemiek van Vleuten (Netherlands) took silver and Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy) the bronze.

The big win for Anna Kiesenhofer

Who would have predicted that Anna Kiesenhofer would win the Tokyo Olympic women’s road race? Not many. The Austrian surprised everyone, but mostly the Dutch team, to take gold. She was the best of an early escape of five women to take a big lead. The chase didn’t get going soon enough, and the Austrian was able to stay ahead and win solo.

olympic21 wrr

olympics21 wrr

Course Overview: The 136km course starts in the outskirts of Tokyo but quickly heads into the countryside to finish on the Fuji Speedway circuit in the shadow of Mt. Fuji after taking on two fairly difficult climbs through the foothills.

Another hot and humid day in Japan

The women’s road race covered 137 kilometres with 2,692 metres of climbing. As with the men, the start was at Musashinonomori Park and the finish was in the Fuji International Speedway. The women had to face two very tough climbs, the Doushi Road was the toughest, only 5.9 kilometres long, but the road started to climb much earlier. It then keeps going up and down until the finish. Unlike the men, there was no Mikuni Pass.

The Dutch team were expected to dominate

Out past the lake

The biggest favourites? These were mainly the women in orange with title defender Anna van der Breggen, Annemiek van Vleuten, Marianne Vos and the next big thing Demi Vollering. The Netherlands had four contenders for gold, and that was also the disadvantage. There were no domestiques, which meant that a surprise was possible. Names such as Lizzie Deignan, Lotte Kopecky, Elisa Longo Borgini, Maví García, Katarzyna Niewiadoma and Marta Cavalli were possible winners. But Anna Kiesenhofer?

The early break

The leading group was formed early. Anna Plichta, Carla Oberholzer, Anna Kiesenhofer, Vera Looser and Omer Shapira made the first selection. A few riders tried to cross, but it remained with five attackers. They managed to take a gap of 10 minutes. On the long climb of Doushi Road the leading group thinned out; at first it was too fast for many who were tailed off.

Only in Japan

The peloton would split on the climbs

The chase got off to a slow start, and the remaining three escapees, Kiesenhofer, Plichta and Shapira, had 9 minutes with 70 kilometres to go. At 64 kilometres from the finish there was also a crash of some big names. Emma Norsgaard, winner of a stage in the Giro Donne, fell badly and Annemiek van Vleuten rode into the Danish rider. After the bikes were untangled, both women were able to continue.

Annemiek van Vleuten of the Netherlands tried to bridge the gap to the breakaway

The regrouped peloton chased Van Vleuten down

With 61 kilometres to go, Demi Vollering opened the race in the peloton. The winner of Liège-Bastogne-Liège and La Course made a gap, but the American Leah Thomas brought the others back. Then it was Van Vleuten, who had fallen just before, and Ruth Winder who gave it a go. Due to the attacks, the difference to the three leaders was reduced to 8:30.

Lizzie Deignan only had one teammate

At 57.7 kilometres from the finish, Anna van der Breggen also made a move, causing more and more women to go out the back of the peloton. After Van der Breggen, Van Vleuten gave it another go. Three kilometres later, the Movistar rider tried again, this time taking a serious gap. Behind, her attack is covered by Marianne Vos. In 10 kilometres she had 1 minute, but 5 minutes ahead of her the leading group were looking at medal places.

Anna Kiesenhofer of Austria led the break before going solo

Kiesenhofer dropped the others over 40K to go

The escapees had a numerical majority over Van Vleuten, but with 41 kilometres to go, Kiesenhofer dropped Plichta and Shapira, so that it was no longer a three against one but a woman against woman fight. Despite this, Van Vleuten didn’t seem strong enough today to close the gap to the front, as she got stuck 5 minutes from the lone Kiesenhofer. The Austrian has three national time trial titles to her name, so is quite used to riding on her own.

The Austrian just wouldn’t give up

A very brave effort from Kiesenhofer

After Lotte Kopecky, Katarzyna Niewiadoma, Christine Majerus and Olga Zabelinskaya tried to counterattack together, Van Vleuten was caught by Kopecky at 25 kilometres from the finish, with the strongest of the peloton close to her wheel. Kiesenhofer started the final 17.7 kilometre loop around the Fuji Speedway with 2 minutes on her former breakaway companions Plichta and Shapira and more than 4 minutes ahead of the pack. Plichta and Shapira were caught with 4 kilometres to go.

A very well deserved win for Anna Kiesenhofer

Annemiek van Vleuten of the Netherlands was second, but thought she had won

This was all happening far behind Kiesenhofer, who caused a huge surprise taking the gold medal after a 137 kilometres long attack. For the 30-year-old Austrian it was by far the highlight of her cycling career. Annemiek van Vleuten seized the silver after a late attack, Elisa Longo Borghini took the bronze. Lotte Kopecky was fourth.

Elisa Longo Borghini was happy with third

Gold medalist, Anna Kiesenhofer (Austria): “It feels incredible. 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.”

It was all too much for the Austrian at the finish

Silver medalist, Annemiek van Vleuten (Netherlands): “Ruud, I was wrong, I didn’t realise it. I have mixed feelings: First of all I am very proud of my first Olympic medal. It might also be a silver medal with brilliance, because I felt really good today. My goal was to be at my best possible level and I think I succeeded. It may not be the result we hoped for, we hoped for gold, but personally I think I rode a good race, just like the whole Dutch team. Everyone looked at us, we knew it was going to be tough. If you then have three such leaders who ride for Marianne in the final to close the gap, all three of whom can also win the race… those sacrifices are really something to be proud of.”

The women’s road podium

Olympic Games – Women’s Road Race Result:
1. Anna Kiesenhofer (Austria) in 3:52:45
2. Annemiek van Vleuten (Netherlands) at 1:15
3. Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy) at 1:29
4. Lotte Kopecky (Belgium) at 1:39
5. Marianne Vos (Netherlands) at 1:46
6. Lisa Brennauer (Germany)
7. Coryn Rivera (USA)
8. Marta Cavalli (Italy)
9. Olga Zabelinskaya (Uzbekistan)
10. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Denmark)
11. Elizabeth Deignan (Great Britain)
12. Mavi Garcia (Spain)
13. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (South Africa)
14. Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Poland)
15. Anna van der Breggen (Netherlands)
16. Karol-Ann Canuel (Canada) at 2:20
17. Alena Amialiusik (Belarus)
18. Marta Lach (Poland) at 2:28
19. Eugenia Bujak (Slovakia)
20. Christine Majerus (Luxembourg)
21. Eri Yonamine (Japan)
22. Paula Andrea Patino Bedoya (Colombia) at 2:30
23. Liane Lippert (Germany) at 2:32
24. Omer Shapira (Israel) at 2:38
25. Demi Vollering (Netherlands) at 2:56
# 48 riders finished

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