By Alex Ballinger published
Annemiek van Vleuten and Anna Kiesenhofer have both reacted to the confusion in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics road race.
Austrian rider Kiesenhofer took a phenomenal victory in the 137km race on the slopes of Mount Fuji on Sunday (July 25), winning solo from the breakaway.
During the race, fans and cycling experts were left baffled by the tactics in the chasing group, as the Dutch team failed to close down Kiesenhofer, despite having three riders present.
After the finish, it emerged that the Dutch squad hadn’t been aware there was a lone leader in front, instead believing they were racing for the gold medal in their group.
Annemiek van Vleuten, who broke away in the final kilometres to take the silver medal, celebrating as if she had won gold as she crossed the line, has now shared more insight into the race on her blog.
As the race unfolded, three riders from the original breakaway remained in front - Omer Shapira (Israel), Anna Plichta (Poland) and Kiesenhofer - when Van Vleuten decided to attack from the peloton and bridge across to the break.
But the former world champion struggled without the race radio, as she was unaware of the gap to the break, or to the chasers behind her.
Van Vleuten was then caught by surprise when riders behind her bridged across to her on a climb.
She said: “I did get some of the time towards the leading group, but not a lot.
“On the short climb, Kasia Niewiadoma suddenly rushed past me, while I had not had any communication that my lead had declined. There I also missed Demi [Vollering] and Anna [van der Breggen], so I thought; what happened? Marianne [Vos] then also asked me what the situation was at the front, but I couldn't tell you that, because I hadn't been given that either.”
That group then caught Plichta and Shapira, but by that point Kiesenhofer had already attacked solo, so the Dutch team thought their group was the first on the road.
Van Vleuten said: “The miscommunication, where I thought we were going for gold, arose because we had been told that only Anna Plichta was ahead. So when we caught her, I thought we were going for gold.”
She added that her team-mate Marianne Vos did eventually realise that Kiesenhofer was leading the race with 3km to go, but by that point Annemiek van Vleuten had already hit out on her own, so didn’t get the message.
Van Vleuten said: “Then I was out solo, on my way to the gold medal, or so I thought. That turned out not to be the case later, but in the situation that was there I really won silver. It's my first Olympic medal. I'm proud of how I rode and at least I can't blame myself. The legs are good and with those good legs I will ride the time trial on Wednesday.”
With Van Vleuten celebrating at the line, thinking she’d won gold, there was confusion at the finish as riders gradually realised what had happened.
But Kiesenhofer, commenting on Van Vleuten’s Instagram page after the race, commended her rival for her reaction as she realised what had happened.
She said: “I had no clue of the confusion when we went to the podium.
“Your reaction was exemplary, so composed, professional and just friendly despite the huge disappointment. Chapeau.”
Alex is the digital news editor for CyclingWeekly.com. After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter and now as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output.
Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) and joining CW in 2018, Alex has covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers.
Away from journalism, Alex is a national level time triallist, avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.
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