Villumsen survives road race in 18th; Vos wins

21:47, Jul 29 2012
Marianne Vos
GOLDEN GLOW: Dutchwoman Marianne Vos denied Great Britain their first gold medal, relegating Lizzie Armistead to silver in the women's road race.

Pure survival was New Zealand cyclist Linda Villumsen's success after she emerged from a crash to finish 18th in the Olympic women's road race today.

There was regular carnage as the world's top female road exponents slipped and slid their way around the London circuit in torrential rain before pre-race favourite Marianne Vos of the Netherlands capped a brilliant race with the gold medal.

Thankfully for Villumsen, a genuine medal hope in Thursday's (NZT) individual road time trial, all she had to show for hitting the tarmac were scrapes to her left elbow and leg.

"It happened on the first climb; I was behind [Kristin] Armstrong and she stood up and her bike went back half a metre. I hit it, then I was allright, and then I hit the next bike and I was down. It could have been bad. Lucky it was an uphill and not a downhill," Villumsen said after finishing the 140km race on The Mall in the 25-strong second bunch, 27sec behind Vos.

There were sob stories everywhere. Of the leading contenders, Italy's Giorgia Bronzini, Sweden's Emma Johansson and local favourite Emma Pooley all suffered crashes or punctures to ruin their chances. Another Briton, Lizzie Armistead, carried the hopes of the big, flag-waving crowd lining the Box Hill loop but was pipped by Vos on the final sprint. Russia's Olga Zabelinskaya, who initiated the telling four-rider break about 50km from the finish, got the bronze.

Villumsen's confidence was knocked early on, and she didn't try to go with any breaks in order to get through safely. Numerous riders came down, either on tight corners or bottlenecks on the narrow circuit.

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"I'm not really too happy. It was hard; it was not the safest race. Everyone was nervous and there were a lot of crashes. I didn't have the good legs either so it was hard to move up in the bunch and I tried to save a little bit."

Villumsen, fifth in the 2008 Beijing road race when riding for Denmark, was prominent in the peloton throughout but didn't accompany fellow time trial specialists Armstrong and German Judith Arndt when they tried to initiate a chase group in the final 30km. "I just tried to stay safe but you freak out every time you come to a corner."

A jubilant Vos dominated the race from the front, adding another gold to her Olympic points race title on the track in 2008.

"After Beijing that was the thing that was on my mind for four years. Now that it's happened, it's incredible. Now the gold is mine."

Villumsen now has two days to rest up before she and compatriot Jack Bauer contest the respective time trials at Hampton Court Palace.  She has finished top-three at the past three world championships, marking her down a leading contender.

Fairfax Media