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The top 4 most unexpected moments of the Olympic women’s road race

A race result no one saw coming

Photo by: Twitter/UCI

Although the Olympic women’s road race happened late Saturday night for most Canadians, the internet hasn’t stopped talking about the race since. Here are four of the most surprising moments in the Tokyo Olympics women’s road race.

RELATED: Austrian Anna Kiesenhofer wins surprise road race gold in Tokyo

1. Anna Kiesenhofer’s surprise win

Anna Kiesenhofer, an Austrian time trial specialist, was virtually unheard of until she won gold in the Olympics this weekend. The 30-year-old rider is not signed to a professional team and works full-time as a mathematics post-doctoral candidate at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland. Her win is Austria’s only Olympic medal in cycling since the first Games in 1896, when Adolf Schmal won a gold and two bronze medals.

2. van Vleuten’s confusion

The peloton was small—only 67 riders competed in the race. A group of five cyclists, including Kiesenhofer, went off the front at the start. The breakaway held off the bunch for most of the race and, on the final climb with 41km to go Kiesenhofer attacked, going solo for the rest of the race. After the other four riders of the breakaway were absorbed back into the peloton, Annemiek van Vleuten finished the race ahead of the peloton, sitting up and celebrating what she thought was an Olympic gold medal.

There were an awkward few moments as viewers around the world realized that she didn’t know she had crossed the line 1 minute and 15 seconds after Kiesenhofer. While the situation seems strange, unlike in WorldTour racing, Olympic events prohibit race radios so riders don’t have consistent updates on the race situation from the team. Cyclists who aren’t counting could lose track of who is positioned where, which is exactly what happened to van Vleuten, who said: “I was wrong, I thought I had won, but we didn’t get it.”

3. Her own coach

According to an interview with the UCI, Kiensenhofer does not have a coach or equipment sponsor. Her groupset is an unconventional mix of Shimano with SRAM chainrings, not often seen as most pros are sponsored by only one brand. “I made my race plan myself,” she said. “How many gels, what kind of gels, what kind of carbs, how much water.”

“I’m proud about that because I’m not the kind of cyclist who is only pushing pedals, I’m also the mastermind behind my performance.”

She said the last year and a half have been focused on preparing for the Olympic race.

4. The radio controversy

Elisa Longo Borghini of Italy said she knew she was finishing third when she crossed the line, but van Vleuten did not. Following what seemed to be a bit of confusion for some riders about what was happening at the head of the race, many have called for the IOC to permit race radios for the Olympic road race. Some argued that van Vluten could have won if she had known there was another rider ahead, while others said that knowledge wouldn’t have changed the result.