Austria's Anna Kiesenhofer wins shock cycling gold in women's road race

OYAMA, JAPAN - JULY 25: Anna Kiesenhofer of Team Austria celebrates winning the gold medal on day two of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Fuji International Speedway on July 25, 2021 in Oyama, Shizuoka, Japan. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
OYAMA, JAPAN - JULY 25: Anna Kiesenhofer of Team Austria celebrates winning the gold medal on day two of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Fuji International Speedway on July 25, 2021 in Oyama, Shizuoka, Japan. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Netherlands' Annemiek van Vleuten wins silver with Elisa Borghini of Italy taking bronze. 

Anna Kiesenhofer of Austria produced the performance of a lifetime to win the women's cycling individual road race. The 30-year-old cyclist was in a race of her own, going it alone for the final 40km before coming home first in a time of 3:52:45.

By the final stretch of a gruelling 147km race, Kiesenhofer was ahead by over two minutes, with the chasing pack seemingly unaware she was out in front. Her face was filled with emotion as she crossed the line, a minute and 15 seconds ahead of silver medallist Van Vleuten, with Italy's Borghini a further 14 seconds back.

The Dutch rider Van Vleuten - winner of the UCI Women's World Tour in 2018 and the Women's Road World Cup in 2011 - broke into tears of joy as she finished the race in 3:54.00, before realising that Kiesenhofer had won gold. However, the day belonged to Kiesenhofer who can now call herself Olympic champion.

It feels incredible. I couldn't believe it. Even when I crossed the line, it was like, 'Is it done now?

Kiesenhofer has had an unconventional journey to the top echelons of the cycling world, having previously competed in triathlon and duathlon until injuries forced her to stop running. She also completed a Master's degree in Mathematics at the University of Cambridge in England, and a PhD in applied mathematics at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia in Barcelona, Spain. However, her decision to concentrate on cycling has now paid dividends as she took home one of the ultimate prizes in sport at Tokyo 2020.

"I planned to attack at kilometre zero and I was happy I could get in front. That is something I could not take for granted because I am not good at riding in the peloton, said Kiesenhofer.

"I am happy that I was not too scared and I just went for it. I attacked and with the group we worked more or less together - it was helpful to have a group. I saw I was the strongest and I knew I had the climb before the long descent.

"I'm pretty good at descending so I got some more time and then it was just like a time trial to the finish.

"It feels incredible. I couldn't believe it. Even when I crossed the line, it was like, 'Is it done now? Do I have to continue riding?' Incredible."

A disappointed Van Klueten admitted she had failed to realise that Kiesenhofer had passed the line before her, saying: "Yes, I thought I had won. I'm gutted about this, of course. At first I felt really stupid, but then the others (her teammates) also did not know who had won."

Third-place Borghini of Italy, who also won bronze at Rio 2016, said: "I had no plan, I just went with the feeling. I felt in the gap it was the right moment to go and I went and didn't look back anymore."