Annemiek van Vleuten (Netherlands) was untouchable in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games women's time trial, finishing 56 seconds ahead of Marlen Reusser (Switzerland) to take the gold medal.
The gold will come as sweet relief after Sunday's road race, where Van Vleuten took silver but thought she had won the race.
From the off, it looked as though the 38-year-old would dominate the 22.1km time trial, powering through the intermediate time checks as the fastest rider in a brilliant performance against the clock.
Her team-mate, Anna van der Breggen, claimed third place and the bronze medal after finishing over a minute down.
How it happened
The women would face a race against the clock over a 22.1km course out and back from the Fuji International Speedway in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games individual time trial. With a climb midway through the course, as well as some tough ups and downs through the motor circuit, it would be a difficult test of the world’s best time triallists.
Exactly 25 riders took to the course in increments of 1-30, with Masomah Ali Zada, from Afghanistan but riding for the Olympic Refugee Team, setting off first. World champion Anna van der Breggen (Netherlands) would set off last.
The early runners never looked to be in possible contention for the victory, with benchmark times from the likes of Karol-Ann Canuel (Canada), Lisa Klein (Germany), and Sarah Gigante (Australia) around the 40kmh average mark the first signs of times that might be in contention for a top-10 placing.
Juliette Labous (France) and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (South Africa) were the next riders to push the standard, setting times at the finish of under 33 minutes for the first time.
It was clear none of those times would stand as soon as Annemiek van Vleuten hit the course though. The Dutchwoman set off sixth from last, but absolutely flew through the 9.7km intermediate check as the fastest rider. That trend continued as she did the same at the second, and the contenders behind her did not look like they were able to threaten.
Grace Brown (Australia) was only six seconds off Van Vleuten at the first split but was unable to maintain the pace, while one of the pre-race favourites Chloe Dygert (USA) looked miles off the pace as she struggled through 51 seconds down at the first time check.
Van der Breggen at this point was riding much better, only 18 seconds down on Van Vleuten through the first time check, but struggled to hold that as she dropped to 29 seconds back at the 15km check.
Switzerland’s Marlen Reusser (starting third from last) was also struggling to maintain the pace through both time checks, going 28 and then 42 seconds slower than Van Vleuten through the respective intermediate time checks.
That meant before the riders had even finished it was quite clear Van Vleuten was cruising her way to victory, though the silver and bronze would be a much closer affair.
Van Vleuten crossed the line just behind the rider who had started 1-30 ahead of her, Amber Neben (USA), setting a new fastest time of 30-13 (43.871kmh).
Reusser was able to just about hold off Van der Breggen, riding into the finish at 56 seconds down while Van der Breggen slipped to 1-02.
The gold medal is Van Vleuten’s second medal of the games, having claimed a silver at the road race on Sunday.
Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, women's individual time trial: Fuji International Speedway to Fuji International Speedway (22.1km)
1. Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned), in 30-13.49
2. Marlen Reusser (Sui), at 56 seconds
3. Anna van der Breggen (Ned), at 1-01
4. Grace Brown (Aus), at 1-08
5. Amber Neben (USA), at 1-12
6. Lisa Brennauer (Ger), at 1-57
7. Chloe Dygert (USA), at 2-16
8. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (RSA), at 2-24
9. Juliette Labous (Fra), at 2-28
10. Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita), at 2-47
Richard is digital editor of Cycling Weekly. Joining the team in 2013, Richard became editor of the website in 2014 and coordinates site content and strategy, leading the news team in coverage of the world's biggest races and working with the tech editor to deliver comprehensive buying guides, reviews, and the latest product news.
An occasional racer, Richard spends most of his time preparing for long-distance touring rides these days, or getting out to the Surrey Hills on the weekend on his Specialized Tarmac SL7 (with an obligatory pub stop of course).
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