Olympics cycling: Lizzie Armitstead praises GB fans

Britain's Lizzie Armitstead lavished praise on the rousing support she was given on her way to a silver medal in Sunday's Olympic women's road race.

Like the men's race on Saturday, thousands gathered all along the 140km course to roar Armitstead, 23, on to Team GB's first medal at London 2012.

Dutch star Marianne Vos beat Armitstead in the sprint finish on The Mall.

But the Yorkshirewoman said of the backing: "It's the most special thing I've experienced, it was amazing."

The key to Armitstead's success was breaking away in a group of four riders, with three-quarters of the race completed.

Armitstead delighted with road race silver

Russian Olga Zabelinskaya went first, but Armitstead, Vos and American Shelley Olds leapt clear of a tiring field to forge a multi-national dash to the finish.

The quartet became a trio, however, when Olds had to drop back with a puncture.

This left Armitstead, Vos and Zabelinskaya to work together to hold off the chasing pack, a feat they managed with some panache.

"We saw in the men's race that once a committed group goes, it's hard to chase from behind," said the former track world champion. "Vos was the one to watch, I was following her around.

"I'm a bit shocked, really, but I'm happy. I didn't even feel my legs, it was just so special."

Armitstead was also quick to praise her British team-mate Emma Pooley, who rode tirelessly for almost 100km, covering every break made during the frantic middle section of the race.

Analysis

"That was fantastic. Marianne Vos has wanted that result for so long. Lizzie Armitstead has done everything right and rode a superb race but in the end she just didn't have the speed to take gold."

The Leeds-born star did voice a brief "what if", however, when she wondered if she should have attacked Vos earlier in the run-in to the finish line, but deep down she will know that Vos was the stronger rider.

"She is a machine right now and the rest of us are not yet at this high level," was bronze medallist Zabelinskaya's assessment of Vos, who has all too often had to settle for silver on the big occassion.

"Of course, I was a little nervous," said the 25-year-old Vos, who finished sixth in the road race at the 2008 Olympics.

"After Beijing, that was the thing on my mind for four years. Now it's happened, it's incredible. The gold is mine."

Vos, the world number one and reigning cyclo-cross champion, was also amazed by the level of support, especially as the fans had to endure three separate soakings from a sky that could not make up its mind.

"It was like a wall of sound, there were so many people," she said.

After five straight silver medals in the road race at the World Championships, nobody should begrudge Vos her moment now, particularly as Armitstead's time will come again, as will a British team now finally on the board at its home Olympics.

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