Armitstead: ‘It was a victory to be here’

Lizzie Armitstead content with fifth-place finish in Rio

RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) — Great Britain’s Lizzie Armitstead defended her participation at the Olympics on Sunday despite missing drug tests, saying it was a victory for her.

The 27-year-old Briton rolled to a fifth-place finish in the women’s road race around Rio, but the fact that she made the start at all was controversial.

Armitstead missed three drug tests over a 12-month period, which normally would have seen her disqualified from the Games. UK Anti-Doping provisionally banned her, but Armitstead appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and won.

Asked if she should have raced, Armitstead was unapologetic.

“Yes, of course. I feel good. It was a victory to be here for me,” she said. “It’s been a very difficult couple of weeks, but I’m happy I was here to represent my country, definitely.”

Armitstead struggled on the final climb and lost too much time to be able to catch the leaders in the final 15 kilometers to the finish on the world-renowned Copacabana beach.

“I couldn’t have climbed any faster. I’m happy with the tactic I had, I just simply wasn’t good enough at climbing, so I can be proud of the effort I did,” she said.

Dutch rider Anna van der Breggen won gold after her countrywoman Annemiek van Vleuten crashed on the treacherous descent off the final climb.

Armitstead said she took things carefully.

“It was particularly difficult, but I went into this thinking I’m not going to take extraordinary risks. I wanted to get down safely at a speed I was comfortable with.”

Armitstead came home fifth, 20 seconds behind the winner, whom she said she had tipped for gold.

“I would’ve put some money on Anna to win this race. She’s a phenomenal athlete and this course was designed for her,” said Armitstead.

Van der Breggen succeeded another compatriot in Marianne Vos as Olympic champion.