OYAMA, Japan – Annemiek van Vleuten experienced a wide range of emotions following her silver medal in the Olympic road race.
Embarrassment. Disappointment. Just a little bit of joy.
There was only exhilaration after his dominant performance on Wednesday in the time trial at the Summer Games.
Well, maybe a little justification too.
The Dutch rider took revenge for the misunderstanding that possibly cost her the gold medal last weekend, storming the course in the hills southwest of Tokyo. She finished in 30 minutes 13.49 seconds, almost a full minute ahead of Switzerland’s Marlen Reusser, second and a full minute ahead of Anna van der Breggen, third.
“If I came home with a silver medal in road racing I would still have been a happy person,” said van Vleuten after singing the Dutch national anthem on the podium. “To the people around me, now they’re going to say I have it all.”
It was sweet redemption for a snake from the Dutch cycling team so far at the Tokyo Games.
Van Vleuten, the 2020 time trial world champion, was part of a dream team of heavily favored world champions to win gold in the road race. But they lost track of the number of runners in the breakaway and failed to pull off the winning Austrian, leaving van Vleuten briefly to think she had won gold before realizing it was was the money.
On the men’s side, MTB favorite Mathieu van der Poel crashed in the first lap and was never a factor. On the BMX track, medal favorite Niek Kimmann was injured in training when he collided with an official wandering the course.
“I’m so happy for Annemiek,” said van der Breggen, who won the road race in Rio. It was a great day for us. ”
After the cycling program moved south to Izu for two days of mountain biking, the teams and fans – yes, the fans – were back on the old Formula 1 circuit carved out of the rugged countryside. and trees near Mt. Fuji.
For the fifth day in a row, locals attended one of the few events allowing fans due to COVID-19 protocols. The long grandstand welcoming the runners at the end of the difficult 21.7 kilometer loop was filled to 50% of its capacity, with fans waving cardboard to cool down, stooping under umbrellas when it rained and wearing floppy hats to protect yourself from the sun.
Indeed, a week of weather seemed to be packed into a race.
The first runners were greeted with raindrops. Then the sun came out and turned the water into sweltering humidity, only for the clouds to return with a brisk breeze that pushed the riders’ aero bikes all the way.
The best hope for an American medal in the first week of cycling lay with Chloe Dygert, the former world time trial champion. She was seriously injured when she overcooked a corner of the worlds last year, sending it over a railing and into a deep ravine, leaving her with a horrific scar visible on her left thigh.
Dygert dominated the US Championships in her first competition since the injury, but struggled in Sunday’s road race and got off to such a poor start on Wednesday – she lost 51.82 seconds in the first time check – she has never been in contention.
Now the question is whether Dygert will be able to help his world champion pursuit team on the track.
Dygert was seventh and her 46-year-old teammate Amber Neben was fifth, ending America’s stranglehold on the time trial. Kristin Armstrong won the last three gold medals before retiring after the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, and the United States had placed a podium runner in every Summer Games since the start of the race. in 1996.
Now dominance in the race for truth belongs to the Dutch.
Van Vleuten’s gold medal was the first for the Netherlands in the time trial since Leontien van Moorsel won back-to-back titles in Sydney and Athens. Van der Breggen also won the bronze medal in Rio, meaning the Dutch have now won five of the 18 medals at stake in the last six Summer Games.
“I knew that after the road race I was in great shape,” said van Vleuten. “Everyone was talking about everything else. No one was talking about my performance. I shut down social media. I didn’t listen to anything. I just understood that my coach and I were in the best shape possible. ‘ ‘