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After missing out on gold in the road race, van Vleuten set out on a mission right from the start ramp. She stormed through the course, smashing the best times at each of the intermediate checks before clocking a time of 30:13.49.
“Sometimes, I can’t believe it. I knew the journey to here was optimally prepared, but I still had a lot of fun. It was not that I really needed to get it as a reward, but it makes it extra beautiful,” van Vleuten said after her victory. “With my whole story, which started in Rio, more for the people around me that really believed in me, this is really a gold that shines extra bright because it started in 2016.
“In the national championships in June, I didn’t race too much, but I didn’t have a really good feeling. I knew that after I went to a training camp and I had a really good time there. For the road race, it was the first race situation that I felt awesome good and everyone around me was talking about the miscommunication and the other stuff and nobody was talking about my performance in the road race.
“I closed myself from social media, and I didn’t check it. I knew I was in a really good shape, so it gave me extra confidence for today.”
Van Vleuten’s ride into gold closes a chapter on what has been a turbulent relationship with the Games. She crashed hard when battling for the medals in Rio in 2016, suffering a list of injuries and missing the time trial. She was then denied what she thought was a gold medal in this weekend’s road race when Anna Kiesenhofer outlasted a late Dutch surge.
“I’ve sacrificed so much for this, this is the ultimate reward,” van Vleuten said. “The realization may come tonight. My story started in Rio, and although it doesn’t end here, because I’m not going to stop, it is now complete.”
Marlen Reusser (Switzerland) rode a very well-timed effort, speeding up in the second half of the course to ride into the silver medal position some 56 seconds behind van Vleuten.
World time trial champion Anna van der Breggen (Netherlands) claimed the bronze medal after doing the same in the Rio time trial in 2016.
Amber Neben was the best finisher for the United States in fifth place at 1:12 behind van Vleuten while Chloé Dygert struggled into seventh more than a minute behind her national teammate.
Dygert was competing in only her third event since returning from a career-threatening leg injury at the 2020 world championships and never looked comfortable out on the 22.1km course.
Inch-perfect from van Vleuten
The conditions were hot and heavy once again with the heat only rising as the time trial progressed. Canada’s Karol-Ann Canuel set the early benchmark of 33:07 but the times would tumble as the big favorites began coming through.
Van Vleuten descended the start ramp 90 seconds after Neben and she had the American set in her sights by the time she reached the finish straight in the Fuji International Speedway.
It was clear very quickly that van Vleuten was on a tear as she took nearly 30 seconds out of the quickest time at the first intermediate check. Where others faded in the Tokyo heat, the 38-year-old maintained her blistering pace throughout.
Van Vleuten slashed more than a minute from the top time of Neben, who had just cut the fastest finish by a similar margin a few seconds earlier.
Van Vleuten eschewed her summer racing schedule to prepare fully for the Olympic Games and it has paid off with a silver medal in the road race and gold in the time trial.
Behind van Vleuten, the other riders could only fight for the remaining medal places. Dygert was already more than 50 seconds off the pace set by van Vleuten at the first time check and she never looked in contention for a podium finish.
Australian Grace Brown appeared to be on course for a medal, but she faded in the final section after going second at the first two intermediate checks. Meanwhile, Reusser rode a consistent effort over the entire course and jumped from fourth to second in the run to the line.
Van der Breggen set out quickly but could do nothing to bring back her teammate and claimed a solid third place.
Olympic Games WE - ITT Results
|1||VAN VLEUTEN Annemiek||Netherlands||30:13|
|3||VAN DER BREGGEN Anna||Netherlands||1:02|
|5||NEBEN Amber||United States||1:13|
|7||DYGERT Chloe||United States||2:16|
|8||MOOLMAN Ashleigh||South Africa||2:24|
|10||LONGO BORGHINI Elisa||Italy||2:47|
|18||SHACKLEY Anna||Great Britain||4:00|
|19||VAN DE VELDE Julie||Belgium||4:10|
|25||ALIZADA Masomah||Refugee Olympic Team||13:51|
Results provided by ProCyclingStats.