London, England – Marianne Vos of the Netherlands won gold at the end of a rainy women's Olympic road race Sunday, outsprinting Great Britain's Elizabeth Armitstead for the victory.
Armitstead's silver was the host country's first medal of these London Games.
The two had been in a breakaway with Russian Olga Zabelinskaya, pedaling through rain -- and, at times, hail -- for more than 25 kilometers. The trio managed to keep their distance from the chasing group and ensure it would decide the medals.
Zabelinskaya led as they came onto the finishing straight, and Vos jumped into her sprint first. Armitstead was in good position, behind Vos, but the Dutch superstar held on for the win.
"Maybe I should have jumped Vos earlier, but she was the stronger rider," Armitstead said. "I am thrilled. I am still a bit shell-shocked, to be honest. I cannot really get my head around it."
It was the second Olympic gold medal for Vos, who won the women's points race on the track four years ago in Beijing. She finished sixth in the women's road race that year.
"After Beijing, that was the only thing that was on my mind for four years," Vos said. "Now that it's happened, it's incredible. Now the gold is mine."
Zabelinskaya wasn't competitive in the sprint and earned bronze.
American Shelley Olds had been in the decisive move, but flatted and never caught back up despite the efforts of her team. She finished seventh.
Sunday's race featured just 67 riders and two ascents of Box Hill during its 140 kilometers, but the small field made it more open. With countries being limited to a maximum of four riders, no team could take over completely.
The entire race was filled with attacks, a series of potential breakaways and catches. It's the typical style of racing in the women's professional ranks, and Sunday featured many of the best riders jumping off the front -- Vos, Great Britain's Emma Pooley, American Evelyn Stevens, and Ellen van Dijk and Annemiek van Vleuten of the Netherlands, among others.
But more than halfway through Sunday's event, nothing had stuck. Then, Zabelinskaya jumped during the second time over Box Hill. Olds and Armitstead bridged up, while Vos joined them to make a strong quartet.
Vos was favored in the race for a reason. At just 25 years old, she has earned world championships in multiple cycling disciplines and recorded victory after victory. Earlier this year, she won her second title at the Giro Donne, a prestigious stage race for women.
But the rest of the break's riders were also strong. Olds and Armitstead are fast sprinters who come from track backgrounds. Armitstead won several notable races during the spring, while Olds overcame an early-season broken wrist to make the Olympic team. Wins at a world cup event and a stage at the Giro Donne told the rest of the women's peloton she had good form.
Zabelinskaya is her country's time trial champion.
So when they got away, they had the potential to make it work. With about 30km to go, Olds had a tire puncture and fell out of the break, her medal hopes all but gone.
But the three remaining riders continued to build their lead, which was at 45 seconds with 10km remaining, despite torrential downpours. At that point, all that was left to decide was the medal order.