Sunday’s women’s road race delivered drama, confusion and cyclocrosser success.
A total of 67 riders from 40 countries lined up for the race, with several current and former cyclocross stars in attendance.
After a season of Dutch dominance, all eyes were on the four-strong squad from The Netherlands. The team featured four favorites, with living legend and seven-time cyclocross world champ Marianne Vos, Annemiek van Vleuten, Anna van der Breggen, and Demi Vollering. Current Cyclocross World Champ Lucinda Brand was not on the team.
The USA team consisted of Ruth Winder, fast finisher and former Cyclocross National Champ Coryn Rivera, Leah Thomas, Amber Neben, and Chloe Dygert.
Perpetual Luxembourg Cyclocross National Champ Christine Majerus also took the start.
The Olympic Course
The women’s road race course was 137 kilometers, with some overlap with the men’s course that delivered a thriller and a medal for a cyclocrosser a day earlier.
The course featured Doushi road, Kagosaka Pass, and then finally Fuji International Speedway. Though it looked like flat terrain at the start, it really wasn’t. There was a stair-step-like climb before Sagamihara and then the elevation drastically increased all the way up to Doushi Road. After Kagosaka Pass, the riders descended all the way down to Fuji International Speedway for a lumpy finish to the line.
Making History, Causing Confusion
Anna Kiesenhofer of Austria escaped in a breakaway as soon as the race started, and rode away from her companions with 40k to go.
The Olympics do not allow race radios among riders, and as each breakaway member came back to the peloton, some of the favorites lost count of the numbers that matter.
Kiesenhofer didn’t. She was counting the kilometers down even though her legs were empty. On the line was a chance to make history as the first-ever female Austrian cyclist to medal in an Olympics.
🗣 "Please don't cramp, please don't crampppp! "
Anna Kiesenhofer is 5km away from a historic @Olympics gold! #Tokyo2020 | #CyclingRoad | #Olympics pic.twitter.com/sF1xK244GD
— UCI (@UCI_cycling) July 25, 2021
Behind her, Van Vleuten attacked the chase group several times, and on the Fuji Speedway, after catching two of the three final breakaway members, took off in solo pursuit.
She thought it was in pursuit of Olympic gold, but in reality, it was a chase in vain of the Austrian.
Kiesenhofer kept her lead, and crossed the line in disbelief.
🥇 INCREDIBLE ANNA 🥇@Tokyo2020 @Olympics Champion!#Tokyo2020 | #Olympics | #CyclingRoad pic.twitter.com/VLsuCV1AE3
— UCI (@UCI_cycling) July 25, 2021
Van Vleuten celebrated the end of her pursuit, in what initially looked like elation over her silver medal.
To the World, she is a gold & Silver medal winner. [Gold for biggest Joy.]#VanVleuten pic.twitter.com/V25AbDXRVK
— Rose (@RoseofArlVA) July 25, 2021
Only she didn’t realize her pursuit of gold had failed.
Kiesenhofer had finished over a minute earlier.
Van Vleuten cited the lack of race radios and clear motorcycle chalkboard information for her mistake.
Cyclocrossers in the Top Ten
Two multi-time champs in cyclocross, Vos and Rivera sprinted for top-ten finishes. Vos won the small chase group sprint for fifth, with Rivera finishing the grueling day in 7th.
Christine Majerus finished in 20th.
Full results are below.
2021 Tokyo Olympics Cycling Women's Road Race Results
|Rank||BIB||Last Name||First Name||Country||Age||Result|
|12||33||GARCIA CAÑELLAS||Margarita Victo||ESP||37||+1:46|
|15||1||VAN DER BREGGEN||Anna||NED||31||+1:46|
|22||49||PATIÑO BEDOYA||Paula Andrea||COL||24||+2:30|
|42||21||VAN DE VELDE||Julie||BEL||28||+8:23|
|53||ESPINOLA SALINAS||Agua Marina||PAR||25||DNF|
|55||SALAZAR VAZQUEZ||Lizbeth Yareli||MEX||25||DNF|
|60||VARGAS BARRIENTOS||Maria Jose||CRC||25||DNF|
|65||SOTO CAMPOS||Catalina Anais||CHI||20||DNF|