How’s that for a finish?
In Sunday’s women’s cycling road race, Annemiek van Vleuten crossed the finish line with no other cyclist in her sight. As she pedaled across, van Vleuten began to celebrate what she believed to be her first career gold medal.
Only van Vleuten hadn’t been remotely close to winning the race. Rather, she finished a distant second – 75 seconds behind first place finisher Anna Kiesenhofer, who was so far ahead for so long that she had gone out of sight.
“When I crossed the line, I thought I had won,” Van Vleuten said after the race. “I’m gutted.”
Kiesenhofer broke away from the peloton with more than 40 kilometers to go in the race. She cycled the rest of the course so far ahead of the other cyclists that they forgot about her altogether.
Van Vleuten, who entered the race as one of the favorites, lamented the lack of earpieces for her premature celebration.
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“This is an example (of what happens) if you ride an important race like this without communication,” Van Vleuten said. “All World Tour races have communication and now it’s the three of us standing here and wondering who has actually won.”
Van Vleuten’s two Dutch teammates were also initially led to believe that she had won gold. British cyclist Elizabeth Deignan, who finished 11th, even congratulated Van Vleuten in a post-race interview with the BBC.
Though Van Vleuten insisted that she is “really proud” of her silver medal, her realization is made all the more disheartening considering her recent Olympic fate. At the 2016 Summer Games in Rio, Van Vleuten was in line to win gold at the same event before suffering a horrific crash in which she fell face-first and suffered several spinal fractures.