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Olympic Games, Beijing, 2008



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Road Race

Road Race 126.4km


Race Writeup

Nicole Cooke, the reigning British Champion, won the most incredible race of her life to secure the Gold medal.

The Olympic women's road race started with 66 riders including 22 of the participants from Athens, in particular, the top 2 from Greece; Sara Carrigan (Australia) and Judith Arndt (Germany). It was always going to be a tough race with a number of riders in contention for the gold.

The race started in extreme conditions - 24 degrees and 97% humidity. The precipitation made the mist very thick. Thankfully early rain dried up as the riders departed the North Square of Yongdingmen in Beijing's Chongwen District, before it moved its way north to finish at Juyong Pass, high up along the Great Wall of China. As the race rolled out it was reported that the rain had started at the foot of the climb.

It was a tough, aggressive and very tactical race with the more competitive countries represented by a maximum three riders having a distinct advantage over the countries that only secured one place in the race. 

The run out to the 23.8km circuit, which the riders lapped twice when they reached it, was led by Kate Bates (Australia) and Vera Carrara (Italy). The pace was relatively steady and a good tempo. After the first 4 km there had been little change at the front except for the entry and depart of Jeannie Longo Ciprelli who moved in her  traditional style from the back to the front of the field. At the back, she joined some of the race favourites, Arndt, Kristin Armstrong (USA) and Marianne Vos (Netherlands).  

The 78km route out to the circuit on the Great Wall comprised city streets and then a section on the relatively flat open freeway. The route passed a number of China’s greatest monuments both old and new,  and included going around the outskirts of a number of the temples of the Forbidden Palace, it also included going across Tian’anmen Square and past the Great Hall of the People-Tian'anmen, the Lama Temple and the south gate of Temple of Earth. The race then passed the Olympic stadium and gymnasium before heading north and out towards the Badaling section of the great Wall.  As the race passed the Olympic stadium Carrara pointed it out to the rest of her team.

With 98km remaining Longo moved to the front as the road raised slightly.  The rain started to fall lightly but not so much that it was affecting the race.  The Italians were very prominent on the front of the race and made sure that they covered any move. Carrara tried to attack but it was covered by the Austrian Monika Schachl.

With 82km to go the Russian Yulia Martisova attacked from mid field but she was immediately covered by Carrara and Schachl. Oenone Wood (Australia) suffered a minor mechanical when her chain came off but she managed to get it back on herself and rejoined the peloton.  Soon afterwards, Chantal Beltman (Netherlands) moved to the front briefly before the rain became heavier and Longo moved to the front again, presumably to keep out of trouble.

The rain came down really heavily at this point and a number of the top riders moved forwards in the bunch. The peloton was 20km away from the start of the circuit with 72km to go and 1 hour 33 of racing completed.  Hanka Kupfernagel (Germany) attacked but Kristin Armstrong covered the move, immediately Martisova attacked again and this time Carrara closed the gap. With 58km to go the Russian Alexandra Burchenkova one of the youngest riders in the race at 19, attacked. She quickly gained a 50m gap before Christine Thorburn (USA) moved to the front to close the gap. 

There was a touch of wheels by the Korean rider Heejung Son which took a number of riders down, including Stephanie Hohl (Switzerland), Grete Treier (Estonia), Catherine Cheatley (New Zealand), Okasana Kaschyshyna (Ukraine) and Sarah Mustonen (Sweden).

Kupfernagel and Trixi Worrack (Germany) moved to front and they were joined by Thorburn and Armstrong (USA) and the British team of Emma Pooley, Sharon Laws and Nicole Cooke.

With 47km to go Russian rider Natallia Boyarskaya attacked and quickly gained 100m and a 45 second gap. On the climb the Russian stretched out her head to 1 minute 14 seconds. In the chasing peloton, Ljungskog and Trixi Worrack and Arndt (Germany) moved to the front to try to close the gap. Amber Neben (USA) and Pooley moved to help the chase and Pooley attacked the group and managed to gain a gap. The Austrian, Schachl moved to close the gap to Pooley and bring the rest of the remaining peloton with her.

With 38km to go, at the Badaling section of the Great Wall, the gap to the leader was 1 minute 4 seconds and Beltman (Netherlands) moved to the front to close the gap. She was supported by the Ukrainian Kaschyshyna and they managed to bring the gap down to 59 seconds. The gap gradually came down with the work of the American Thorburn, Jolanta Polikevicute (Lithuanian) and Vos managed to close the gap to 52 seconds.

On the approach to the start/finish area the rain was really heavy and the road conditions poor. This caused a number of minor crashes and great caution in the bunch. Alex Wrubleski (Canada) who was one of the more favoured riders and she crashed and had to fight back but it was too hard as the pace on the front of the race had exploded.

Emma Pooley (GBR) had attacked the front of the Peloton in pursuit of the lone escapee and managed to gain a 35 second on the peloton. The Italian Guderzo bridged the gap to Pooley and the pair worked well together to close the gap to the leader.

With 20km to go, the work done by Arndt on the front of the peloton ensured that the peloton were together.  Neben experienced problems with her chain that ended her campaign.

Zulfia Zabirova (Kazakhstan) attacked the bunch and again it was Arndt who closed the gap.

With 15km to go Zabirova attacked again, Longo, Arndt, Naomi Cantele (Italy) and Cooke closed the gap again.

At 9km to go the Italians counter attacked again, this time it was Guderzo who attacked. She quickly gained a 200m, 7 second gap. The only riders to react in the bunch were Christiane Soeder (Austria), Cooke, Linda Villumsen (Denmark) and Emma Johansson (Sweden). The five leaders worked well together, a concentrated chase by the bunch meant that it looked like they might get caught but they cooperated worked together to stay away. They held a 15 second gap right to the 600m to go point. Cooke looked like she misjudged a corner, or slipped her chain and had to work hard to get back to the group. She held the rear wheel of Villumsen until the 200m to go mark and attacked. She powered forwards, crossing the line just ahead of Johansson and Guderzo. As she crossed the line, Cooke shouted “yes, yes, yes” and banged her handlebars in delight.


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Results - Top 10 - click here to see full result

1   Nicole Cooke (Great Britain) 

2   Emma Johansson (Sweden) 

3   Tatiana Guderzo (Italy) 

4   Christiane Soeder (Austria) 

5   Linda Melanie Villumsen (Denmark)


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Photos   Click on any image to enlarge >>

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