Armitstead fifth as Van Vleuten crash mars road race

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Dutch rider Anna van der Breggen wins race after late crash

Great Britain’s Lizzie Armitstead was unable to put a difficult summer behind her by winning an Olympic medal in the women’s road race at Rio 2016.

The world champion, who faced being banned for the Games after missing three drugs tests, finished fifth.

London 2012 silver medallist Armitstead, 27, was cleared to compete after a successful appeal and was in contention until the final stages.

But she fell away as Dutch rider Anna van der Breggen won gold.

Van der Breggen won the 141km race in a time of three hours 51 minutes and 27 seconds, ahead of Sweden’s silver medallist Emma Johansson and Italy’s Elisa Longo Borghini, who took bronze.

However, the race was marred by Van der Breggen’s team-mate Annemiek van Vleuten suffering a serious-looking accident as she led the race.

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Rider escapes serious injury after crash

Van Vleuten, 33, had sped off from the pack when she suffered a nasty fall on the descent of the steep Vista Chinesa, where several men – including Britain’s Geraint Thomas – crashed on Saturday.

Van Vleuten was taken to hospital where Dutch cycling officials and the International Cycling Union (UCI) – cycling’s governing body – said she was conscious and talking.

It later released a statement saying the rider “continues to be under examination but apparently no serious medical problem”.

Former British Olympic champion Chris Boardman, working as an expert analyst for BBC Sport, believes the Rio course was “too dangerous”.

“I’m actually quite angry because I looked at the road furniture and thought nobody can crash here and get up. This was way past technical, this was dangerous.”

Van der Breggen, 26, said Van Vleuten’s crash made her more determined to win gold for the Dutch.

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The road race course was decribed as “brutal” by Armitstead

She won the sprint to the line along the Copacabana, holding off Johansson and Longo Borghini as the trio overtook American Mara Abbott on the straight.

“I was pretty shocked about it, I think she crashed hard,” said Van der Breggen. “I realised I was first in the team and had to chase. We knew we had to do it.”

Armitstead proud despite missing medal

Armitstead, the reigning world and Commonwealth champion, was one of the pre-race favourites to triumph in Rio.

But the Yorkshire rider’s preparations were hampered by the possibility of a ban for missing the three drugs tests – and the increased scrutiny she faced when the news emerged last month.

She avoided a suspension of up to two years after winning a Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas) appeal.

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Van der Breggan’s gold follows compatriot Marianne Vos’ win in the same event at London 2012

Not only did Armitstead face questions about her mental focus as she lined up on the start line, many wondered whether she had the physical capability to cope with the mountainous course in Rio.

She responded with a gutsy performance on a course she had described as “brutal”, despite ultimately missing out on a second Olympic medal.

Armitstead was part of a group which wiped out a gap of over a minute between themselves and the breakaway as they climbed Vista Chinesa.

“I did exactly what I wanted to do on the climb; I didn’t panic and knew I couldn’t follow the best climbers up there,” she said.

“I didn’t give up. It’s something I’ve been working on for months now and I knew what I had in the legs – I did as best as I could.”

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The race finished on Copacabana beach after winding through steep sections of nearby jungle…
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The testing terrain also included difficult cobbled sections and ran along steep cliff edges
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The low countries have enjoyed great success in the Olympic cycling, with Belgium’s Greg van Avermaet winning the men’s race
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Brazilian Clemilda Fernandes Silva tries to hide her disappointment after the race
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Armitstead is currently the reigning world, Commonwealth and national road champion

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