The Women’s Olympic Road Race was this past Sunday and, for those of you who missed it, what a race you missed. The rainy 140km circuit included only two loops of Box Hill for the 66 riders representing 35 countries (Stokes). As the peloton left London the pace visibly increased and when Box Hill approached attacks were fast, furious and relentless.
There were countless attacks from the bunch but Emma Pooley (Great Britain) and Ellen Van Dijk (Netherlands) were both persistent, attacking several times each, putting huge pressure on the bunch. The winning break was started by an attack from Olga Zabelinskaya (Russia) who was quickly followed by Marianne Vos (Netherlands) and then Lizzie Armistead (Great Britain) and Shelley Olds (USA). As the rain poured, the break quickly found a rhythm while it appeared a dead wheel on the front of the bunch caused a slow reaction. The bunch seemed disorganized at first and the gap went to almost 40 seconds immediately.
Give the world’s number one an inch and she’ll make it a winning break away, and that is exactly what she did. Vos drove the pace of the break, doing much of the work, and, while Armistead managed to hold her own, Olds and Zabelinskaya seemed to be just hanging on. As the rain came down even harder and women continued to slide all over road, Germany and Italy, the two most prevalent teams that had missed the break, moved forward to set a high tempo. Canada’s Ramsden and South Africa’s Van de Winkel were among the other countries contributing to the chase. Unfortunately, Olds suffered a puncture and was forced to rejoin the main peloton.
The bunch was never able to close the gap and the three riders in the break were the first across the line. Vos initiated the sprint and managed to stay away from chasing Armistead while Zabelinskaya rode across the line for third. Vos crossed the line in 3:35.29 with an average speed of just over 39km/hr (Robinson). The bunch finished 27 seconds behind and saw Ina-Yoko Teutenberg (Germany) winning the bunch sprint.
Team Canada raced well with their strategy to react to moves since they went in with a weaker team of only three instead of four like most of the stronger teams. Clara Hughes sat comfortably at the front in the beginning of the race and was climbing strong. Unfortunately, timing was all wrong for Canada on the day. When the winning break went Hughes, as she told Canadian Cyclist, was stuck behind a small crash and was unable to respond. When the Canadian women decided to put all their efforts towards ensuring Numainville had an advantageous spot in the sprint, Numainville was also held up behind a crash and forced to chased back to the peloton with less than 15km to go (Canadian Cyclist). Numainville finished in 12th, Ramsden was 27th, and Hughes took 32nd.
Team South Africa was also only three strong and, like Canada, planned to follow attacks. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio made her presence known, riding at the front and climbing easily in the top six wheels on every climb but was caught in the bunch when the winning break “slipped off the front” (Moolman-Pasio). According to an interview on Cape Talk Radio, Moolman-Pasio said the attack was actually almost reeled in but a surge on the downhill and a dead wheel in the bunch let the break away find a gap. Moolman-Pasio crossed the line with the main peloton in 16th, followed by Joanna van de Winkel in 28th. Robyn de Groot finished outside the time cut off.
To hear Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio’s interview on Cape Talk Radio click here.
Canadian Cyclist. “Women’s Road Race Report.” <http://www.canadiancyclist.com/dailynews.php?id=24668>. 29 July 2012.
Robinson, Laura. “London 2012 Olympic Games Women’s Road Race Report.” Pedal.
Stokes, Shane. “Olympic Road Race Start Lists and Preview.” Velo Nation. <http://www.velonation.com/News/ID/12518/Olympic-road-race-start-lists-and-preview.aspx>. 28 July 2012.