Anna Kiesenhofer upset the pecking order with a surprise solo victory at the Olympic road race Sunday.
The Dutch team started as the overwhelming favorites for the medals, but was left wondering what happened after allowing a Kiesenhofer-powered breakaway too much room in the opening hours of the race.
Kiesenhofer attacked her way into the break of the day and worked with her escapees to build out a huge 10-minute advantage.
The Austrian didn’t let her foot off the accelerator through the 137km of racing, attacking her two fellow breakaway riders at 41km to go before soloing to an against-the-odds victory.
— UCI (@UCI_cycling) July 25, 2021
The podium slots were decided by a flurry of attacks from the lead group after the Dutch only reeled in the remains of the break with just 4km remaining. Annemiek van Vleuten (Netherlands) punched away to grab silver while Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy) took bronze.
Coryn Rivera led the U.S. challenge, finishing in the group of favorites to take seventh.
Kiesenhofer’s win came almost from nowhere after starting the race without teammates or expectations.
“It feels incredible. I couldn’t believe it,” Keisenhofer said after the race. “Even when I crossed the line, it was like, ‘Is it done now? Do I have to continue riding?’ Incredible.”
Keisenhofer – who also holds a mathematics PhD – had ridden one season with Lotto Soudal in 2017, and has only raced for her national team in the years since. The 30-year-old’s victories at the Austrian time trial championship in 2019 and 2020 were a portent of her 41km solo to Olympic glory in Tokyo.
“I planned to attack at kilometer zero and I was happy I could get in front. That is something I could not take for granted because I am not good at riding in the peloton,” she said.
“I attacked and with the group we worked more or less together – it was helpful to have a group. I saw I was the strongest and I knew I had the climb before the long descent.
“I’m pretty good at descending so I got some more time and then it was just like a time trial to the finish.”
Kiesenhofer goes early, Dutch squad dawdles
Kiesenhofer was the first to attack at the very start of the race, creating a break of five.
The escape worked seamlessly and built out a lead of over 10 minutes as the bunch lingered back, waiting for the final.
The lead trio of Kiesenhofer, Anna Plichta (Poland) and Omer Shapira (Israel) made it to the base of the grinding Doshi Road climb at the front of the race as the Dutch squad seemed content to leave the chase late.
Dutchwomen leave it late
The all-powerful Dutch team only sparked off the attacking at around 60km to go as the break maintained its huge lead.
Demi Vollering, Anna van der Breggen and Marianne Vos all took turns to punch out, with the Americans Ruth Winder and Leah Thomas also making moves.
Van Vleuten made a trademark all-or-nothing move at 54km to go. The veteran Dutchwoman punched off the front and wrestled her bike over the Doshi summit as her teammates neutralized counter-attacks from Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig and Lizzie Deignan.
The Dutch team looked to be putting all its chips on van Vleuten’s move only to see the 38-year-old reeled in by a U.S., Germany and Australian-led pursuit.
Kiesenhofer hits out
Kiesenhofer attacked her breakaway rivals over the Kagosaka Pass at around 40km to go. She time trialed away and looked imperious as she maintained a five-minute lead over the bunch heading into the Speedway circuit.
Uttrup Ludwig, Deignan, Kasia Nieuwiadoma and Chloe Dygert were all aggressive as the peloton hit the motor track, but no one team took control as Kiesenhofer kept motoring at the front.
Sensing the medals slipping away from them, the four Dutch riders massed at the front in an effort to catch final escapees Shapira and Plitcha, pulling them back at just 4km to go to set up the final flurries for the podium places.
The U.S. challenge
Thomas and Winder traded attacks with the Dutch squad through the Doshi climb before dangling on and off the bunch through the final.
Dygert came to the fore in the final hour of racing as she looked to drive the chase behind Kiesenhofer. She will be going all-in for the time trial Wednesday and later on the track with team pursuit.
Rivera hung tough through the Doshi road attacks in the hopes of seeing a fast finish and was the best-placed U.S. rider, finishing seventh.
Olympic Games WE - Road Race Results
|2||VAN VLEUTEN Annemiek||Netherlands||1:15|
|3||LONGO BORGHINI Elisa||Italy||1:29|
|7||RIVERA Coryn||United States||1:46|
|10||LUDWIG Cecilie Uttrup||Denmark||1:46|
|11||DEIGNAN Elizabeth||Great Britain||1:46|
|13||MOOLMAN Ashleigh||South Africa||1:46|
|15||VAN DER BREGGEN Anna||Netherlands||1:46|
|22||PATIÑO Paula Andrea||Colombia||2:30|
|29||THOMAS Leah||United States||3:22|
|31||DYGERT Chloe||United States||6:06|
|33||NEUMANOVA Tereza||Czech Republic||7:02|
|38||NA Ahreum||South Korea||8:23|
|42||VAN DE VELDE Julie||Belgium||8:23|
|45||WINDER Ruth||United States||9:31|
Results provided by ProCyclingStats.