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Austrian Anna Kiesenhofer wins surprise road race gold in Tokyo

Silver medalist van Vleuten thought she had won

Photo by: Sirotti

Anna Kiesenhofer of Austria was the surprise gold medalist in Sunday’s road race at the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games. The day after Richard Carapaz earned Ecuador’s first road race medal with a gold, Kiesenhofer matched him with Austria’s first ever road race medal. Kiesenhofer was the lone survivor of a small breakaway that the peloton underestimated. She went solo on the final climb and stayed clear on the speedway finishing laps. The favoured Dutch settled for Annemiek van Vleuten’s silver medal, five years after van Vleuten’s terrible crash in Rio, although for a couple of minutes she thought she was victorious. The top Canadian was Karol-Ann Canuel in 16th.

The Course

Without Mount Fuji and Mikuni Pass of the previous day’s race, the elite women’s 137 km road route seemed a little tame. It started in Musashinonomori Park and ended with two circuits at the Fuji International Speedway. The women’s field began with a 10-km neutral zone followed by roughly 30 km of flat terrain before reaching the mid-race section of climbing featuring Donushi Road and Kagosaka Pass. The peloton then embarked on a 14-km descent toward the Fuji International Speedway, where the women’s field contested one and a half laps of the undulating track. It was another sweltering day.

The Contestants

The peloton was small at 67. The Dutch brought four riders including the last two winners, Anna van der Breggen and Marianne Vos, and there were quartets representing the U.S.A., Italy, Germany and Australia as well. Like the Belgians and Poles, Canada had three racers: Canuel, Leah Kirchmann and Alison Jackson.

The first breakaway consisted of Kiesenhofer, a South African, a Namibian, a Pole and an Israeli. When the pavement started to kick up on the way to Donushi Road, the quintet had an 11:00 gap.

Van der Breggen was at the back of the peloton when the Germans started to drive the peloton.

Kirchmann and Jackson at the front of the peloton with 90 km remaining.

The grades wore down the number of escapees to three, and the Polish-Austrian-Israeli trio stayed 9:00 ahead of the peloton for a long time. The Netherlands’ odd start continued when van Vleuten crashed with Dane Emma Norsgaard, but the 2019 world champion was soon pulling the field. Her pressure on Donushi Road whittled down the group, momentarily dropping the Canadians.

Van Vleuten then attacked near Donushi’s top, taking a big gap.

On Kagosaka Pass Kiesenhofer pulled away from her breakmates and then descended towards the speedway. Van Vleuten was brought back by a streamlined peloton. Jackson was still with the favourites.

Kiesenhofer entered the first circuit with a 5:00 lead over the peloton. Her breakmates, Omer Shapira and Anna Plitcha, were still in between.

Kiesenhofer entered the speedway with a five minute lead over the peloton.

Canuel was still in the Dutch chase group. With 11 km to go, it was clear that the Austrian was taking the gold. The Pole and Israeli worked together to have a chance at the other medals, but they were nabbed with 5 km to ride.

The Poles and Dutch put in big digs on the climb of the final lap. Van Vleuten flew away again to take silver–celebrating over the line as she thought she had won–and Elisa Longo Borghini claimed her second consecutive bronze medal.

Tokyo 2021 Summer Olympic Games Women’s Road Race

Gold: Anna Kiesenhofer (Austria) 3:52:45
Silver: Annemiek van Vleuten (The Netherlands) +1:15
Bronze: Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy) +1:29
16) Karol-Ann Canuel (Canada) +2:20
32) Alison Jackson (Canada) +7:02
36) Leah Kirchmann (Canada) s.t.