Annemiek van Vleuten celebrated crossing the Fuji International Speedway finish line, waving her arms in the air. Dutch cyclist Annemiek van Vleuten, who suffered heartbreak in the previous Olympic games, when she was injured while attempting to win gold, crossed the finish line at Fuji International Speedway, raising her arms to celebrate.
Finally, gold. The only problem was that she had not actually been the first to cross the line. Austria’s Anna Kiesenhofer waited over 30 minutes before van Vleuten came to claim the silver.
Van Vleuten realized that they had made a mistake and thought she was the winner of gold after she reached the finish line. Van Vleuten was caught on camera talking to an employee of the Netherlands about her mistake.
She said, “Oh Ruud! I was wrong!” We got nothing!
What had actually happened?
Van Vleuten was one of the favourites for the race, but he lost his place in the pack as soon as the race began. Kiesenhofer was part of that group, and she later took off solo to complete the final 41 km of the 137-kilometer race. Van Vleuten, who was behind her in the race, couldn’t bridge the gap when she tried to attack. (An attack which came just after an earlier crash brought back fond memories from the 2016 games.
The rest of the peloton eventually returned her, and later caught up with Kiesenhofer’s breakaway companions. It seemed as though everyone in the group lost track of who had passed and who had not. The Austrian, who was riding alone for more than 2 minutes at the front of the group, had been forgotten about.
Kiesenhofer was able to pull off one the greatest upsets in road racing history.
Austria’s sole representative was the 30-year old, who isn’t even part of any pro tour teams (unlike van Vleuten). She is instead a mathematician. After completing her Master’s at Cambridge, she received her PhD from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia. She is currently working in Switzerland as a postdoctoral researcher at Lausanne.
She is a skilled rider, however. Four-time champion at the national level, she also won minor races before focusing on her academics. She was outstanding on Sunday.
She needed to win more than just gold. Kiesenhofer required a perfect storm, and it came.
Kiesenhofer was able to benefit from an inactive peloton after initiating an early breakaway. The rule book partially explains this confusion: While “normal” races permit radio communication between riders, their staffs and the race officials, the Olympics ban the use of such technology.
Van Vleuten stated in the aftermath that “No one knew” if everybody was back. This shows how important it is to race with comms. All World Tour races use comms. It is all a mystery who the winner was. It was really stupid. Then I noticed the other people being indecisive. It’s so frustrating. It was my mistake.
Anna van der Breggen van Vleuten, van Vleuten’s teammate said, “I tried counting who they had caught, and they had every one.” The tactics were not wrong. We just didn’t have the correct information. We did everything correctly with our information.”
The Dutch team was able to catch up with Kiesenhofer’s old friends, Anna Plichta from Poland and Omer Sharifo, Israel. However, they should have known that one of their riders had been missing. The mistake was fatal and allowed van Vleuten to finish 75 seconds faster than Elisa Longo Boghini from Italy.
What’s the lesson? Do not try to win a contest of counting against a mathematician.
Publited at Sun, 25 July 2021 17:05.50 +0000