Olympic Cycling: Lizzie Armitstead misses out on medal
The Netherlands' Anna van der Breggen sprints to gold
By Matt Westby
Last Updated: 08/08/16 10:50am
Britain's Lizzie Armitstead had to settle for fifth place as the Netherlands' Anna van der Breggen won gold in the women's Olympic Games road race in Rio.
Armitstead was distanced on the last of the day's five climbs and crossed the finish line beside Copacabana beach 20 seconds down after failing to regain contact with the head of the race.
Van der Breggen sprinted to victory ahead of runner-up Emma Johansson (Sweden) and third-placed Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy) after the trio had caught solo leader Mara Abbott (United States) inside the last 400m.
A dejected Abbott finished four seconds later in fourth and Armitstead won the subsequent sprint for fifth.
The closing stages were marred by a horror crash to Annemiek van Vleuten (Netherlands) that raised yet more questions about the safety of the descent from the final climb.
She had been leading the race solo when she overshot a corner, vaulted over her handlebars and landed back-first on a small wall behind a deep roadside gutter.
The Royal Dutch Cycling Federation later confirmed that Van Vleuten was conscious and communicating but was in intensive care with concussion and three fractures to her spine.
The incident came 24 hours after Vincenzo Nibali suffered two collarbone breaks, Richie Porte fractured his shoulder blade and Sergio Henao broke his pelvis in crashes on the same descent during the men's road race.
Van der Breggen told BBC Sport: "The chase started after I saw Annemiek and I was pretty shocked about it because I think she crashed hard. We didn't see, of course.
"I realised I am the first one of the team, so I have to chase. I did it for Annemiek. The teamwork between the three of us was really good because we knew we had to do it."
The race covered 136.9km and all of the favourites were together at the foot of the 8.9km final climb to Vista Chinesa, which was followed by a 5km descent and then 9.5km of flat to the finish.
However, riders quickly began to be dropped out of the peloton as the gradient reared up to almost 20 per cent and after a desperate struggle to stay in touch, Armitstead was finally distanced about of the third of the way up.
Ahead of her, Van Vleuten attacked out of what was left of the peloton with 18km to go and only Abbott could follow. The pair took a healthy lead over nearest chasers Van der Breggen, Longo Borghini and Johansson over the summit, but after dropping Abbott on the descent, Van Vleuten then crashed to leave the American with a 38-second lead at the bottom of the descent.
Van der Breggen, Longo Borghini and Johansson worked together brilliantly to reel her back in just in the nick of time, and the Dutch rider then won the resulting sprint with ease.
Armitstead joined a chase group on the descent and closed to within eight seconds of the Van der Breggen group with 6km to go, but they couldn't make contact and eventually fell back out of contention.
1 Anna van der Breggen (Netherlands), 3:51:27
2 Emma Johansson (Sweden), same time
3 Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy), st
4 Mara Abbott (United States), +4sec
5 Lizzie Armitstead (Great Britain), +20
6 Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Poland), st
7 Flavia Oliveira (Brazil), st
8 Jolanda Neff (Switzerland), st
9 Marianne Vos (Netherlands), +1:14
10 Ashleigh Moolman (South Africa), st