Annemiek van Vleuten raised her hands in celebration as she crossed the finish line in second place, believing she had won gold in the Olympic women’s road race; however, Anna Kiesenhofer had finished 75 seconds ahead of her and had already earned victory.
Before second-placed Annemiek van Vleuten crossed the line and thought she had won gold, Austrian Anna Kiesenhofer grabbed a surprise solo victory in the women’s Olympic cycling road race.
Kiesenhofer, who has been without a professional contract since 2017, led from the start of the 137-kilometre race to Fuji International Speedway on Sunday and was rewarded with a surprising victory after driving solo for the final 40 kilometres.
A combination of no race radio and small squads (only five nations had four riders) created mayhem behind her, leading to Dutch racer Van Vleuten’s bewilderment when she crossed the line 75 seconds later than Kiesenhofer.
Turns out that Van Vleuten thought she’d won when crossing the line! When the peleton swept up the remaining two riders from the breakaway they didn’t realise Kiesenhofer was further up the road. That’s a pretty big fail at this level 🤦🏼♂️🤦🏼♂️ #Olympics #Tokyo2020 https://t.co/tRdxP6pSfl
— Ben Ransom (@BenRansomSky) July 25, 2021
The Austrian and her fellow escapees had been given more than a 10-minute lead – almost unheard of in women’s cycling’s shorter stages – and their lead was still five minutes when Kiesenhofer rode away from Anna Plichta and Omer Shapiro to race alone to the finish.
Van Vleuten was attacking from behind the pack at the moment, so it appeared too soon to go clear, but Kiesenhofer had done her homework to build up this victory.
The 30-year-old reigning Austrian time trial champion studied maths at Cambridge before earning a PhD from the University of Catalonia. More recently, he has been researching the effects of heat on the body, which is great preparation for racing in Japan’s humid conditions.
When the peloton snatched Plichta and Shapiro as they entered the racetrack for the second and final time, many in the chasing group thought they were fighting for gold.
Van Vleuten, who suffered three cracks in her spine in a horrific incident at the 2016 Rio Olympics, raised her arms in delight as she crossed the finish line.
“I had no idea,” the 38-year-old admitted later. “I made a mistake.”
The confusion was so great that Lizzie Deignan, who finished 11th for Great Britain, praised Van Vleuten in her first post-race interview before realising who the true winner was.
Deignan remarked of Kiesenhofer, “I don’t know anything about her.” “She’s obviously a winner who came as a shock.”
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