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Summer Olympics 2012: Marianne Vos Wins Thrilling Cycling Women's Road Race

Marianne Vos (centre) of Netherlands stands proud on the Olympic podium having won gold in the cycling women's road race. She is flanked by Lizzie Armitstead of Great Britain and Olga Zabelinskaya of Russia.
Marianne Vos (centre) of Netherlands stands proud on the Olympic podium having won gold in the cycling women's road race. She is flanked by Lizzie Armitstead of Great Britain and Olga Zabelinskaya of Russia.Bryn Lennon/Getty Images
Thomas CooperFeatured ColumnistJuly 29, 2012

In conditions very similar to Beijing in 2008, an equally enthralling women's road race saw thousands line the streets of London and Surrey for a second day of cycling in a row as Netherlands' Marianne Vos took her country's first gold medal of these Olympic Games.

Saturday's sun gave way to rain in scenes that will have been familiar to several of the competitors who returned from Beijing four years ago, though the race itself was a different proposition entirely.

Vos was part of a three-woman breakaway (it had been four prior to American Shelley Olds's puncture) that included initial escapee Olga Zabelinskaya of Russia and Great Britain's Lizzie Armitstead.

Zabelinskaya instigated the attempted escape after back and forth battles had been fought on the circuits of Box Hill, but this time with 25km to go it worked thanks to the assistance of those who rode with her.

It was a remarkable shared effort from the trio to maintain the distance between them and the peloton, who like in the men's road race a day earlier were unable to work together successfully in bridging a gap that this time extended up to around 50 seconds at its furthest.

Back in London and with The Mall in sight, the mind games begun in earnest as the realisation their escape had worked kicked in.

After a shift by Zabelinskaya, Vos returned to the lead as Armitstead hovered in the third position, eager to spring a surprise on the Dutchwoman.

As it was, Vos timed her final attack to perfection within the last 500 meters, getting the split-second kick she needed to make the most of her superior speed over her British rival who sprinted into second.

Zabelinskaya followed into third to secure a well-earned bronze medal.

Vos' victory is the latest accomplishment in an already superb career for the 25-year-old. She counts a World Championship road race victory among her previous successes.

Armitstead and her teammates can reflect on a job well done after the disappointment suffered by their male counterparts a day earlier. Her silver medal is the first of London 2012 for the host nation.

Nicole Cooke, Olympic champion from 2008, and Emma Pooley both played their part in a team performance that was less rigid in its reactions to the race as it unfolded, something perfectly demonstrated by Armitstead chancing her luck in joining the escape.

"I'm so glad I committed to that break," the 23-year-old told the BBC after the race. "I was umming and aahing but I'm really happy I went with it. I should've jumped earlier in the sprint, but never mind."

Armitstead admitted she had earmarked Vos as one to watch, a judgment that proved accurate with the latter's victorious attack.

The race was as good as advertisement as could be hoped for the sport of women's cycling, which does not receive anywhere near the same amount of attention and funding as the male version.

That is unlikely to change a great deal anytime soon, but at least in Olympic competition they can claim to have matched (and maybe even bettered) the men in putting on a thrilling show on the streets of London.

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