Anna Kiesenhofer caused one of the biggest shocks in Olympic road racing history with an audacious solo victory in the women’s race, as a quartet of Dutch champions paid for an apparent communications meltdown on Sunday.
You can rewatch Tokyo Olympics Women’s Road race HERE
The 30-year-old Kiesenhofer was allowed to build up a lead of around 10 minutes in a five-rider group that escaped right at the start of the 137-kilometre route into the hills west of Tokyo.
She then went solo on the approaches to the Fuji International Speedway circuit with around 40km remaining as the favorites, including reigning world and Olympic champion Anna Van der Breggen, failed to organize a proper chase, seemingly unaware of exactly what was happening ahead.
In searing heat, Austrian time trial champion Kiesenhofer, an Olympic debutante who does not even ride for a pro team, kept her head down and her legs spinning as she powered around the undulating track to protect her advantage in tenacious fashion.
As she ground out the final agonizing kilometres, Kiesenhofer was clearly suffering and the only fear was that she might cramp up after such a monumental effort.Her earlier escape partners Anna Plitcha of Poland and Israel’s Omer Shapira were caught in the final five kilometres by the chasing pack who belatedly put the hammer down.
Kiesenhofer was straining every sinew and often glancing over her shoulder, no doubt expecting to see an orange armada closing in.
She held firm to claim a completely unexpected gold medal in three hours 52 minutes, one minute and 15 seconds, clear of Dutch rider Annemiek Van Vleuten who was celebrating like she had won the race as she crossed the line with arms held aloft.
“I thought I was one,” Van Vleuten was heard saying to her team masseur Ruud Ziljmans on Dutch TV. “Ruud have I got that wrong?”
Italian Elisa Longho Borghini was third for the second successive Olympics.