Van Vleuten gets revenge for Dutch, wins Olympic time trial

Jul 27, 2021, 9:08 AM | Updated: 10:20 pm

OYAMA, Japan (AP) — Annemiek van Vleuten roared to an emphatic victory in the women’s time trial at the Tokyo Olympics on Wednesday, exacting a measure of revenge for some miscommunication that may have cost her gold in the road race last weekend.

The Dutch rider led by more than six seconds at the first time check, then pushed it to an astonishing 28 seconds, before van Vleuten put the hammer down to finish in 30 minutes, 13.49 seconds at Fuji International Speedway.

The sixth-from-last rider on the course, van Vleuten was forced to sit on the hot seat for several minutes while those who started after her finished. None of them really had a chance. Marlen Reusser of Switzerland finished more than 56 seconds back to earn the silver medal and van Vleuten’s teammate Anna van der Breggen earned bronze.

It was sweet redemption for a Dutch cycling squad snakebit so fa r during the Tokyo Games.

Van Vleuten, the world time trial champion in 2020, was part of a dream team of world champions heavily favored to win gold in the road race. But they lost track of the number of riders in the breakaway and failed to pull back the Austrian who won, leaving van Vleuten to briefly think she’d captured gold before realizing it was only silver.

On the men’s side, mountain bike favorite Mathieu van der Poehl crashed on the opening lap and was never a factor. On the BMX track, medal favorite Niek Kimmann was hurt in practice when he crashed into an official wandering on the course.

After the cycling program shifted south to Izu for two days of mountain biking, the teams and fans — yes, the fans — were back at the old Formula One circuit carved into the wildly sloping, tree-filled countryside near Mt. Fuji.

For the fifth straight day, locals turned out for one of the few events allowing fans due to COVID-19 protocols. The long grandstand greeting riders at the end of the challenging 21.7-kilometer loop was filled to 50% of capacity, with fans waving cardboard to cool themselves, ducking under umbrellas when it rained and wearing floppy hats as protection from the sun.

Indeed, a week’s worth of weather seemed to be packed into one race.

Riders who set off first were greeted by drops of rain. Then the sun came out and turned the water to stifling humidity, only for clouds to come back with a brisk breeze that pushed the riders’ aerodynamic bikes all over the road.

The best hope of an American medal over the first week of cycling rested with Chloe Dygert, the former time trial world champion. She was seriously injured when she overcooked a corner at last year’s worlds, sending her over a guardrail and down a deep ravine, leaving her with a gruesome scar visible on her left thigh.

Dygert dominated the U.S. championships in her first competition since the injury, but she struggled in Sunday’s road race and got off to such a poor start Wednesday — she lost 51.82 seconds by the first time check — she was never in contention.

Now, the question is whether Dygert will be able to help her world champion pursuit team on the track.

Dygert finished seventh, and 46-year-old teammate Amber Neben was fifth, ending an American stranglehold on the race against the clock. Kristin Armstrong won the past three gold medals before retiring after the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, and the U.S. had placed a rider on the podium at every Summer Games since the race was introduced in 1996.

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Van Vleuten gets revenge for Dutch, wins Olympic time trial