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Austria’s Anna Kiesenhofer launched a remarkable solo breakaway to win road race gold in her Olympic debut, while Britain’s Lizzie Deignan finished 11th.
Kiesenhofer, 30, who is not part of a professional cycling team, is the first Austrian to win an Olympic road medal and the first to win an Olympic medal in any cycling discipline in 125 years.
She was in the lead from the start, part of an early breakaway, before going it alone 40 km from the finish.
Dutchwoman Annemiek van Vleuten won silver, 75 seconds behind Kiesenhofer, and Italy’s Elisa Longo Borghini third.
Kiesenhofer’s advantage was so great that Van Vleuten didn’t realize she was only second, celebrating as if she had won by crossing the line, before exclaiming: “J was wrong.
Away from cycling, Kiesenhofer is a mathematician, graduated from the universities of Vienna and Cambridge and also has a doctorate.
Kiesenhofer amazes the cycling world
Kiesenhofer was one of a group of five runners who eluded the rest of the peloton moments after the start of the 137km race.
That group was reduced to three – Kiesenhofer, Anna Plichta from Poland and Israeli Omer Shapira – with around 70 km remaining, before the Austrian time trial champion went solo on the first approach to the Fuji International circuit. Speedway, where the race would end.
Van Vleuten broke away from the field on her own initiative, seeking to redeem herself for the horrific crash that ended her road race at Rio 2016 when she looked ready for the title.
The 2019 road racing world champion, who crashed earlier in the race, was brought back with around 25km to go, before she and her Dutch teammates launched another chase with around 10km to go , absorbing Plichta and Shapira in the peloton.
Van Vleuten then attacked again in the finals, believing she was escaping for the win.
But Kiesenhofer, clearly in trouble because she wanted her body not to suffer from cramps, continued to make her way onto the speedway circuit ahead, glancing over her shoulder but finding no opposition in sight. .
After crossing the line, she collapsed on the tarmac in tears, while desperately seeking oxygen, stunned in the aftermath of the biggest victory of her career.
Kiesenhofer, without a professional team since 2017, is her country’s first gold medalist at the Summer Olympics since Athens 2004.
“Strange day” for GB’s Deignan
Deignan of the GB team, who won silver in London 2012, finished safely inside the peloton, but her teammate Anna Shackley did not finish the race.
“It was a strange old time – I was really between a rock and a hard place,” Deignan told BBC Sport.
“Halfway through, I was alone, but unfortunately alone, but also scored, so I didn’t have the freedom to ride solo. Tactically, I think I did the right thing – it just didn’t work out.
“It was a strange race. Although there are small teams, there are agendas within the teams. Because the race is so hot and so humid, all the moves were a bit dull, there wasn’t that kind of spark. It was a defensive race but still very tough. “
Deignan moved away from cycling in 2018 to have her daughter, Orla, but returned to win the Women’s Tour and the overall World Tour 2020 title.
She finished fifth at the Rio Olympics in 2016, with preparations for the Games overshadowed by the prospect of a cycling ban after being accused of failing three drug tests in a year, before be cleared by the Court of Arbitration for Sport a few days before the race.
She previously explained to the BBC how Orla’s arrival made her “Fall in love with sport again”.
“I’m obviously very disappointed but I have the prospect of putting myself in the position of being here. I had a great team behind me, ”she said.
“We’ve had a pandemic and we’ve always had the Olympics and there’s so much to be thankful for. “