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All good things must come to an end.
With the conclusion of the men’s and women’s time trials Wednesday, the road cycling program at the Tokyo Olympic Games came to a close. The three days of action, featuring four events, delivered more action and drama than an episode of “24.”
The medal table doesn’t tell the whole story, so here are five of the biggest moments from the Tokyo 2020 road program.
Anna Kiesenhofer steals the march on the favorites
Anna Kiesenhofer was not on the radar of any of her rivals heading into Sunday’s women’s road race, but they won’t forget her name in a hurry after she beat them in dramatic style.
Kiesenhofer held off the baying pack — some of whom seemed unaware she was up the road — to win by more than a minute. The drama of her win was added to when Annemiek van Vleuten mistakenly celebrated thinking she had won.
All the talk about miscommunications due to a lack of race radios forgets the fact that Kiesenhofer had to get rid of her breakaway companions and that, for a large portion of the finale, she lost very little time to those behind her.
Kiesenhofer’s underdog victory has made worldwide headlines due to the way she claimed the win and the fact she is an amateur who hasn’t had a pro contract for four years.
Her tale of triumph is what the Olympics are all about and made for a brilliant opening weekend of competition.
Tom Dumoulin is back
The 2021 season has been a challenging one for Tom Dumoulin as he tried to figure out what the future held for him. After taking unpaid leave from the sport for the first half of the season, Dumoulin returned to racing at the Tour de Suisse in June.
The Olympic Games would form the key focus for Dumoulin as he made his way back to elite-level competition.
After months away, nobody knew how the Dutchman would go and if he could duke it out at the highest level. The signs looked good with his victory at the national championships shortly after the Tour de Suisse, but the Olympic Games would be a different ask.
He rode a relatively anonymous road race Saturday as he bided his time for his main event, the time trial.
Nobody could get anywhere near Primož Roglič, but Dumoulin proved to be the best of the rest. It might have been a silver, but it meant as much as a gold medal for him after the year he had been through.
Ecuador gets its second Olympic gold, first in cycling
Richard Carapaz has already etched his name in the history books of his nation with his overall win at the Giro d’Italia in 2019 and a Tour de France podium place this year. However, the Ecuadorian added another line to his roll of honor by taking his country’s second-ever gold medal in the history of the Olympic Games.
Until last Saturday, Jefferson Pérez was Ecuador’s only gold medalist after he won the 20km race walk back in 1996. If Carapaz wasn’t already a national hero at home, this will certainly cement him as one.
Carapaz came into the Olympic Games slightly disappointed after missing out on victory at the Tour de France to Tadej Pogačar. A podium placing was some salve, but gold at the Olympic Games may more than make up for any lingering frustration.
A hot and humid day made for very difficult racing between Musashinonomori Park and the Fuji International Speedway. Carapaz bided his time before breaking away with Brandon McNulty in the final 20 kilometers of the race.
The Ecuadorian then ditched a fading McNulty before going it alone and riding solo to the line.
First Afghan woman to contest road race event
Civil engineering student Masomah Ali Zada may not have troubled the medals during Wednesday’s time trial, but the 25-year-old made history as the first woman from Afghanistan to contest one of the road race events.
Riding for the Refugee Olympic Team, Ali Zada took on the 22.1km course on a road bike with clip-on time trial bars.
Born in Afghanistan, Ali Zada and her family became exiled in Iran when the Taliban took over the country. They eventually returned to the country, and she began cycling with her sister Zahra and some other women.
Ali Zada and her cycling companions continued to ride, despite harassment, threats, and a driver deliberately trying to run her over. She now lives in France after fleeing to the country with her family in 2017 and studies civil engineering in Lille.
“By taking part in the Olympic Games, I want to convince those who think a woman on a bicycle is inappropriate or find it strange that a Muslim woman wearing a headscarf is a cyclist that no, it’s normal,” she told the Paris Match magazine.
Raised in a country where females practising sport is seen as inappropriate, Masomah Ali Zada decided to flee to France in order to pursue her cycling dreams. She now hopes to inspire young girls around the world at #Tokyo2020. 🚴🏿#RefugeeOlympicTeam #StrongerTogether@refugees pic.twitter.com/VZc3O1Ks4L
— Refugee Olympic Team (@RefugeesOlympic) July 10, 2021
Primož Roglič and Annemiek van Vleuten destroy the opposition
There was little room for doubt about who won the two Olympic time trial events with Annemiek van Vleuten and Primož Roglič obliterating their respective rivals.
Van Vleuten won by a whopping 56 seconds over Switzerland’s Marlen Reusser, while Roglič added a few more seconds for good measure to better his trade teammate Tom Dumoulin by 1:01.
Both riders came into this race trying to put to bed disappointments: Roglič crashed out of his Tour de France bid in the first week, and van Vleuten endured the ignominy of celebrating a second-place in the road race when she thought was first.
Both riders put in pitch-perfect performances, digging deep into their pain thresholds on another hot day in Japan.
For van Vleuten, it also rounded off a five-year journey of discovery that began at the Rio Olympic Games.