Holland’s Vos Wins Women’s Cycling Gold

By Chris Jasurek
Epoch Times Staff
Created: July 29, 2012 Last Updated: August 2, 2012
Related articles: Sports » Cycling
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Marianne Vos of The Netherlands (L) wins the women's cycling road race event, ahead of Britain's Elizabeth Armitstead (R) and Russia’s Olga Zabelinskaya (C) during the London 2012 Olympic Games. (Carl De Souza/AFP/GettyImages)

Marianne Vos of The Netherlands (L) wins the women's cycling road race event, ahead of Britain's Elizabeth Armitstead (R) and Russia’s Olga Zabelinskaya (C) during the London 2012 Olympic Games. (Carl De Souza/AFP/GettyImages)

Holland’s Marianne Vos overcame driving rain, slick roads, and a field determined not to let a breakaway escape to win gold in the women’s cycling road race Sunday.

The Dutch rider benefited from a team which attacked incessantly through the first half of the rainy race. When Russian time trial expert Olga Zabelinskaya finally got free with only 44 kilometers left in the 140-km race, the rest of the field was tired enough to let her go.

Vos, with British sprinter Liz Armistead and American sprinter Shelley Olds, chased down the Russian and the quartet slowly opened the gap to 40 seconds.

USA’s Olds punctured shortly after the rain restarted. She managed to finish seventh nonetheless, but she was probably the strongest sprinter in the break; had she not flatted, she likely would have won. As it was she finished fourth among the sprinters competing for fourth place.

Vis is tremendously experienced in road racing and cyclocross; she wasn’t put off by the wet roads or the speed of her breakaway partners. She let the Russian lead into the final 500 meters, with the Armistead behind. When Vos started her sprint with 200 meters to go, she caught Zabelinskaya off-guard, and simply out-powered the British rider. Armistead stayed on Vos’s wheel, and tried to pull out and pass, but couldn’t get by.

Armistead at least got Great Britain its first medal of the race, though not the gold she hoped for. For Vos, Olympic gold adds to a long list of major wins—including world championships in road, track and cyclocross, two overall wins in the ladies’ Giro d’Italia, and four wins in the Ladies’ Flêche-Wallone,.

No Breaks Allowed

From the start of the race it was clear the women’s field had adjusted its strategy based on the men’s race the day before. After seeing the frustrating fate of the German and British teams the day before, the Italian and German women were determined not to let a breakaway escape.

The Dutch team was equally determined not to let the race end in a sprint finish. After a solo attack at the very start by Brazil’s Janildes Fernandes Silva (likely she expected others to follow her; when this didn’t happen, she let herself be caught) the Dutch launched a series of attacks. Ellen van Dijk started at least half-a-dozen herself; teammate Loes Gunnewijk attacked a few times, and Vos attacked a couple of times before the breakaway formed.

The Brits launched their share: Emma Pooley attacked a few times and joined every attack she didn’t initiate. Nicole Cooke also attacked once.

The Americans had planned a multi-pronged strategy: they had Shelly Olds for a sprint finish, Kristine Armstrong to attack and Evelyn Stevens and Amber Neben to get into a breakaway or lead out Olds. None of this worked out; Armstrong and Stevens got caught up in one of the half-dozen crashes and Olds flatted in the last 40 km.

The peloton shut down every attempt through the first 95 kilometers; Germany wanted Ina Teutenberg to get a chance to sprint, and Italy wanted to unleash two-time world champion Georgia Bronzini.

Box Hill Decisive

The women’s route mirrored them men’s but only covered the Box Hill loop twice.  The Box Hill climb was only 1.5 miles at five percent grade, but it was enough, with the smaller climb ahead of it, to tire out riders.

The climb, coupled with the need to accelerate to catch the constant attacks, finally wore out the three dozen riders still left in the leading peloton when Zabelinskaya attacked at the crest of the climb the second time around.

The Russian’s timing was perfect. No one had the extra energy at the top of the climb to accelerate again, so Zabelinskaya opened a gap of ten or twelve seconds. No one was much worried about a solo attack, and when Vos exploded out of the peloton with Olds and Armistead in tow, no one was prepared to respond.

The leading quartet didn’t fade; they opened a gap of more than 20 seconds when the rain returned harder than ever. The breakaway riders worked together as Italy and Germany took turns leading the chase, but with four-rider teams, there just wasn’t enough firepower.

Just as the British squad had burnt itself out in the men’s race, the Germans and Italians spent themselves stifling breakaways in the women’s race, and just like the day before, the sprinters’ teams were too tired to force a sprint.

The men’s and women’s time trials will be run Wednesday, August 1.

2012 Olympics Women’s Cycling Road Race






Marianne Vos




Elizabeth Armitstead

Great Britain



Olga Zabelinskaya

Russian Federation



Ina Teutenberg




Giorgia Bronzini




Emma Johansson




Shelley Olds

United States of America



Pauline Ferrand Prevot




Liesbet De Vocht




Aude Biannic






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