Tokyo Olympics: Anna Kiesenhofer wins shock road race gold with GB’s Lizzie Deignan 11th

Tokyo Olympics: Anna Kiesenhofer wins shock road race gold
Dates: 23 July-8 August Time in Tokyo: BST +8
Coverage: Watch live on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer, BBC Red Button and online; Listen on BBC Radio 5 Live, Sports Extra and Sounds; live text and video clips on BBC Sport website and app.

Austria’s Anna Kiesenhofer launched a remarkable solo breakaway to win road race gold on her Olympic debut, as Britain’s Lizzie Deignan finished 11th.

Thirty-year-old Kiesenhofer, who is not part of a professional cycling team, is the first Austrian to win an Olympic road race medal and the first to win an Olympic medal in any cycling discipline in 125 years.

She was at the front of the race from the start, one of an early breakaway pack, before going it alone with 40km to go.

The Netherlands’ Annemiek van Vleuten won silver, 75 seconds behind Kiesenhofer, with Italy’s Elisa Longo Borghini third.

So great was Kiesenhofer’s advantage that Van Vleuten did not realise she was only in second place, celebrating as though she had won as she crossed the line, before exclaiming: “I was wrong.”

Away from cycling, Kiesenhofer is a mathematician, a graduate of Vienna and Cambridge universities and also has a PhD.

Kiesenhofer stuns cycling world

Anna Kiesenhofer, Annemiek van Vleuten and Elisa Longo Borghini on the podium
Kiesenhofer’s victory marked Austria’s first gold medal at a summer Olympics since 2004

Kiesenhofer was one of a five-rider group that escaped the rest of the field within moments of the 137km race getting under way.

That group was cut to three – Kiesenhofer, Anna Plichta of Poland and Israel’s Omer Shapira – with around 70km remaining, before the Austrian time trial champion went solo on the first approach to the Fuji International Speedway circuit, where the race would conclude.

Van Vleuten broke away from the peloton on a charge of her own, looking to make amends for the horror crash that ended her road race at Rio 2016 when she had looked set for the title.

The 2019 road race world champion, who had crashed earlier in the race, was reeled back in with around 25km to go, before she and her Dutch team-mates launched another chase with around 10km left, absorbing Plichta and Shapira back into the peloton.

Van Vleuten then attacked again in the closing stages, thinking she was breaking away for the win.

But Kiesenhofer, clearly struggling as she willed her body not to cramp, continued to power her way around the speedway circuit up ahead, glancing over her shoulder but finding no opposition in sight.

After crossing the line, she collapsed on to the tarmac in tears, while desperately gasping for oxygen, stunned in the aftermath of the biggest win of her career.

Kiesenhofer, without a professional team since 2017, is her nation’s first gold medallist at a summer Olympics since Athens 2004.

‘Weird day’ for GB’s Deignan

Team GB’s Deignan, who won silver at London 2012, finished safely inside the peloton, but team-mate Anna Shackley did not complete the race.

“It was a weird old day – I was between a rock and hard place really,” Deignan told BBC Sport.

“From midway through I was on my own but unfortunately on my own but also marked so I didn’t have the freedom to ride as a solo rider. Tactically I think I did the right thing – it just didn’t go my way.

“It was a weird race. Although there are small teams there are agendas within teams. Because the race is so hot and so humid all of the moves were a bit blunted, there wasn’t that kind of spark. It was a defensive race but still really hard.”

Deignan stepped away from cycling in 2018 to have her daughter, Orla, but returned to win the Women’s Tour and the overall 2020 World Tour title.

She finished fifth at the Rio Olympics in 2016, with the build-up to the Games overshadowed by the prospect of a ban from cycling after she was accused of missing three drugs tests in a year, before she was cleared by the Court of Arbitration for Sport just days before the race.

She has previously told the BBC how Orla’s arrival made her “fall back in love with the sport”.

“I’m obviously really disappointed but I have the perspective that I put myself in the position to be here. I have had a great team behind me,” she said.

“We have had a pandemic and we have still had an Olympics and there is so much to be thankful for.”

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