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Otley's Lizzie Armitstead wins silver medal to get Great Britain off the mark
4:23pm Sunday 29th July 2012 in Sport
Lizzie Armitstead won silver to claim Great Britain’s first medal of London 2012 in the women’s road race as Holland’s Marianne Vos took gold on The Mall.
Armitstead was beaten to victory at the end of a pulsating 140-kilometre race, which featured two climbs of Surrey’s Box Hill.
With the peloton cast adrift, the 23-year-old from Otley near Leeds, was in line for Britain’s first medal of the home Games, but the question remained which colour.
Armitstead positioned herself behind the Dutchwoman entering the finishing straight but Vos was strong enough to hold off the Briton, who had to settle for second.
Russia’s Olga Zabelinskaya was third.
Nicole Cooke won Britain’s first gold medal of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing in the event and Armitstead was seeking to emulate the success to ensure the title remained in British hands.
Cooke’s victory came in teeming rain by the Great Wall of China four years ago and Armitstead’s bid for victory was played out in similarly treacherous and wet conditions.
In a frantic race, with attack after attack, Armitstead was part of the late escape on the final descent after Box Hill, but prolific winner Vos was too strong.
After Mark Cavendish finished 29th on The Mall on day one, Britain’s cyclists were seeking to move on from the disappointment.
While Cavendish was the leader for Britain in the men’s race, the women’s squad had options, with Cooke and Armitstead the team leaders and Emma Pooley and Lucy Martin having the potential to surprise.
Cooke and Armitstead had a public fall-out after last September’s World Championships, when Armitstead was nominated team leader but accused Cooke of riding “for herself” after a disappointing result.
In the lead-up to London 2012, the duo insisted the incident and comments were behind them and that they were united in the goal of Britain retaining the Olympic title.
Cooke has struggled for form since 2008, when she also won the world title, when Armitstead was among those riding in support, but struggled as the pace increased on the first ascent of Surrey’s Box Hill.
Treacherous conditions on wet roads led to vigilance, with Pooley prominent, and the pace was kept high to try to keep attacks to a minimum and to reduce the contenders.
Pooley was positioned to mark every potential move as the bunch arrived at the foot of Box Hill, while riders began to lose contact as the road ramped up and the tempo increased.
Martin lost contact and Cooke fell back too.
On the second climb of Box Hill, Vos made her move, with Armitstead on her wheel.
The main bunch followed the move before Zabelinskaya forged forward alone with 45km to go.
Vos, Armitstead and Shelley Olds of the United States bridged the gap and the quartet forged on.
Olds, though, fell back as the trio established a lead of around 20 seconds.
Germany, without a presence in the leading group, attempted to chase.
The United States and Sweden also shared the workload in pursuit of Armitstead, Vos and Zabelinskaya.
The trio shared the workload and had an advantage of 40 seconds as they entered Richmond Park in the rain for the second time.
Anxious to maintain the gap, Armitstead urged her companions on.
A tight right-hand turn on wet tarmac troubled the peloton and slowed their pace as the leading trio’s advantage increased with 13km to go.
The peloton’s deficit narrowed and last-ditch attacks began, while Pooley fell back.
Armitstead was content to sit behind Vos, marking her arch rival ahead of the sprint.
But Vos had too much strength after a gruelling race and Armitstead had to be content with silver.