LONDON (AFP) — Marianne Vos ended years of frustration on the world stage by winning the Olympic road race on Sunday.
Four years after finishing sixth in Beijing and having collected an amazing five consecutive runner-up places at the world road race championships, Olympic gold had become Vos’s obsession.
“After Beijing, that was the only thing that was on my mind for four years,” said the Dutchwoman, who owns an impressive collection of titles in several cycling disciplines.
“Now that it’s happened, it’s incredible. Now the gold is mine.”
Vos, a world road champion at the age of 19, came into the Games as the woman to beat after shaking off the setback of a broken collarbone to win five stages and the overall title at the women’s Giro d’Italia.
“I knew it was 140km and you need some energy for the finish,” she said. “But I also knew that a hard race was good for me and also the others had to follow and use their energy. For me, it was a plan to attack early, many times, to tire myself and also to tire out the others.”
With earlier rain making roads slippery, leading to several crashes, and early attacks taking their toll, most of the peloton was caught napping when Russia’s Olga Zabelinskaya launched the decisive move with 45km left.
Vos, Great Britain’s Lizzie Armitstead and American Shelley Olds joined the Russian and together the quartet went on to build a lead of around 45 seconds, never coming under serious threat from the peloton.
Olds eventually flatted out of the lead group, leaving the trio to go on and race for the gold.
In the final few kilometers Vos was sandwiched in between her rivals, with Russian time trial champion Zabelinskaya happily driving them to the line.
“I am not as fast a sprinter than them. For me it was just as good to get the bronze medal,” Zabelinskaya said.
The final decisive move didn’t come until 200 meters from the line. And given Armitstead’s reputed finishing power, it was no surprise that it came from Vos.
“I knew Lizzie is really fast on the line, so I was not at all confident,” said Vos. “I knew I had a chance, I knew I had a big chance. But I also knew that if I made even a little mistake, Lizzie would take the gold.
“So I had to choose the right moment in the finish, and I think I did.”