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Cycling in review: BMX freestyle debuts, Van Vleuten gets redemption

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SEE MORE: The story of road cycling at the Tokyo Olympic Games

Road Cycling

Cycling’s road events took the riders into the shadow of one of Japan’s most iconic locations: Mt. Fuji. The 234-kilometer course tested riders to their limits with a demanding, six-kilometer climb through the Mikuni Pass.

In the men’s race, it proved to be a triumph and a glorious year for the Ecuadorian rider Richard Carapaz. The man who weeks before had finished third in the world’s most famous race, the Tour de France, became only the second rider to win the Olympic road race and finish on the Tour podium in the same year. Ecuador had previously only had one Olympic gold medalist in its history, but Carapaz matched the feat of 20km walk winner Jefferson Perez 25 years earlier.

“It’s amazing for me because after the qualifying on the third place I was super concentrated to come here, do everything well, and now look at this, a gold medal,” Carapaz said, translated. “I’m so excited, I still can’t believe it.”

The women’s road race would be a chance to cement the place of the Dutch riders Anna van der Breggen and Annemiek van Vleuten as the leading riders of their time. Van der Breggen was reigning world champion and Van Vleuten, nearly 39 years old, was looking to become the oldest Olympic gold medalist in the race’s history. But when she finished she celebrated, unaware there was a runner in front of her. Austrian Anna Kiesenhofer surprised everyone by taking the title. Van Vleuten had to be content with a silver medal.

But redemption would come a few days later in the individual time trial. One lap of a 22-kilometer course with another steep climb. The Dutch veteran was hurting after a near miss in the road race and was desperate to go one better. The competition was tough. The exhaustion of South Africa’s Ashleigh Moolman Pasio captioned why this was one of cycling’s most grueling events.

When Van Vleuten finished with the fastest time of 30 minutes, 13 seconds while several riders were still out on the course, she could only watch, wait and hope. The Swiss Marlen Reusser and Van der Breggen both came home well outside the winning time, and Van Vleuten could finally celebrate the greatest moment of her cycling career — Olympic champion at 38 years old.

“The story does not end yet, because I will not stop, but this is really beautiful,” Van Vleuten said. “It makes it extra beautiful.”

The men’s time trial brought an equally emphatic victory in a race twice the women’s distance. Tom Dumoulin of the Netherlands, silver medalist in Rio, had high hopes of going one better at the Tokyo 2020 Games, and after completing a first lap more than 40 seconds faster than the riders before him looked the man to beat. But behind him was Slovenia’s Primoz Roglic, man on a mission who no one else in the field could live with. Roglic’s time of 55 minutes, 4 seconds was more than a minute clear of Dumoulin, in a league of his own. The Slovenian, who started his athletics career as a ski jumper before switching to cycling was Olympic time trial champion at the age of 31.

 

Medal Summary

Men's Road Race

🥇 Richard Carapaz, ECU, 6:05:26
🥈 Wout van Aert, BEL, 6:06:33
🥉 Tadej Pogacar, SLO, 6:06:33

RECAP: Carapaz outlasts Pogacar, U.S. rider McNulty to win road race

Women's Road Race

🥇 Anna Kiesenhofer, AUT, 3:52:45
🥈 Annemiek Van Vleuten, NED, 3:54:00
🥉 Elisa Longo Borghini, ITA, 3:54:14

RECAP: Kiesenhofer stuns with gold, Austria's 1st cycling medal since 1896

Women's Time Trial

🥇 Annemiek van Vleuten, NED, 30:13.49
🥈 Marlen Reusser, SUI, 31:09.96
🥉 Anna van der Breggen, NED, 31:15.12

RECAP: Van Vleuten finally finds Games victory with time trial gold

Men's Time Trial

🥇 Primoz Roglic, SLO, 55:04.19
🥈 Tom Dumoulin, NED, 56:05.58
🥉 Rohan Dennis, AUS, 56:08.09

RECAP: Roglic ravages time trial, gives Slovenia first cycling gold

Mountain Biking

Tom Pidcock delivered Great Britain its first Olympic medal in mountain biking, a gold, breaking midway at Shizuoka's Izu MTB Course to win the men's event by 20 seconds.

Team GB, historically known for its numerous medals and dominance in Olympic track cycling, was until Tokyo missing hardware in the sport's relatively new Games discipline, which debuted at the 1996 Atlanta Games. Eighty-five total medals and 32 golds between the track and road – No. 2 among nations in the all-time standings – with none in mountain biking or BMX.

But a 21-year-old from Leeds, England, attained the absent decoration with a brilliant victory, leading the final two circuits of the seven-lap race to beat 37 riders and finish in 1:25:14.

"It's nothing like any other race," Pidcock said. "The Olympics just transcends any sport. You compete and represent your country and everyone in your country is behind you, no matter in what sports they like. It's just national pride, it's unbelievable."

Jolanda Neff of Switzerland took the lead on the first lap of the women's race and never looked back, capturing her nation’s first gold in the women’s event by more than a minute to front a first-ever Olympic podium sweep by one country in the discipline's history.

Neff's compatriots Sina Frei and Linda Indergand earned silver and bronze, beating the next pack of riders by about a minute themselves, in what was among the most dominant performances by a team at the Tokyo Games.

"I just hope that I don't wake up one moment and it's just a dream," Neff said. "It was my goal for today to enjoy it and have fun out there and I did have fun out there."

 

Medal Summary

Men's Event

🥇 Tom Pidcock, GBR, 1:25:14
🥈 Mathias Fluckiger, SUI, 1:25:34
🥉 David Valero, ESP, 1:25:48

RECAP: Pidcock unseats Schurter for gold, 1st GBR mountain bike medal

Women's Event

🥇 Jolanda Neff, SUI, 1:15:46
🥈 Sina Frei, SUI, 1:16:57
🥉 Linda Indergand, SUI, 1:17:05 

RECAP: Neff leads Olympic-first Swiss sweep of mountain bike podium

SEE MORE: The story of BMX cycling at the Tokyo Olympic Games

BMX Racing

In BMX racing, drama and danger go hand in hand. That’s how it panned out at this year’s Olympic Games. The day of the final began with a downfall which slickened the track and increased the potential for both. With defending champion Connor Fields injured in his semifinal race, it left the Netherlands’ Niek Kimmann as the favorite for gold. It turned into a two-rider race, Kimmann against Great Britain’s Kye Whyte. Whyte gave it his best shot but Kimmann held on for gold.

"I still don’t believe I have it," he said. "You know, I’m from the Netherlands, and it’s a small country but I know other friends that won gold medals, so I always felt like I was the one missing … I’m just so happy I got it."

The rain had a similar effect on the women’s race, as Alise Willoughby, the world champion from the U.S., and Laura Smulders from the Netherlands both crashed out in the semifinals. That seemed to leave the way clear for Colombia’s Mariana Pajon, the double Olympic champion, up against newcomer Bethany Shriever of Great Britain. Pajon is known as queen of the track while Shriever had to crowdfund and work part time to pay for her BMX career. It went down to the final meters – Shriever just beat Pajon on the line in an amazing upset. Glorious scenes from the new Olympic champion. 

“It was a dream to just be here and compete in the first place,” she said. “To win a medal let alone a gold medal, it’s unbelievable. I’m literally in shock, it’s crazy.”

 

Medal Summary

Men's Event

🥇 Niek Kimmann, NED, 39.053
🥈 Kye Whyte, GBR, 39.167
🥉 Carlos Ramirez, COL, 40.572

RECAP: Pajon de-throned as BMX queen, Fields suffers horror crash

Women's Event

🥇 Beth Shriever, GBR, 44.358
🥈 Mariana Pajon, COL, 44.448
🥉 Merel Smulders, NED, 44.721

RECAP: Pajon de-throned as BMX queen, Fields suffers horror crash

SEE MORE: The story of BMX cycling at the Tokyo Olympic Games

BMX Freestyle

More adrenaline with the Olympic debutante BMX freestyle finals. To get a medal, riders must take a chance, and that’s what Great Britain’s Charlotte Worthington did, attempting a first-ever 360 backflip in the women’s competition. She fell, but showed amazing courage to try her brand new backflip again on her second run. This time, she landed it. Judges rewarded her bravery, and the first-ever freestyle BMX gold went Worthington. 

"I just tried to take it one trick at a time," she said. "It was tough to get up after that first run, you start to think, 'Uh, what if this isn’t it? What if I’ve not it?' But you just have to keep reminding yourself that you do and keep going back stronger."

In the men’s competition, the man to beat was Logan Martin, and the Australian went into the lead on his first run. No one could come close to catching him, which meant Martin was guaranteed gold, so his second race was just for fun, a chance to entertain the crowd – and the Aussie did just that, as he picked up the inaugural gold medal in the men’s freestyle BMX.

"It means everything," he said. "Four years ago I set out on this journey to get to the Olympics. I was super stoked to qualify for the Olympics after winning the world championship last month. I’m so grateful to just be here and to take home the gold medal is– you know, my career’s been amazing and this just tops it. It puts the cherry on top, and man, it’s such a good feeling."

 

Medal Summary

Women's Event

🥇 Charlotte Worthington, GBR, 97.50
🥈 Hannah Roberts, USA, 96.10
🥉 Nikita Ducarroz, SUI, 89.20

RECAP: Worthington puts together dream run to claim first gold in BMX freestyle

Men's Event

🥇 Logan Martin, AUS, 93.30
🥈 Daniel Dhers, VEN, 92.05
🥉 Declan Brooks, GBR, 90.80

RECAP: Australian Logan Martin snags gold medal in men's BMX freestyle

Defending Olympic champion Jason Kenny won Great Britain's fourth straight title in the men's Keirin, giving him nine Olympic medals and seven golds. He broke ties with Bradley Wiggins for Great Britain's most decorated Olympian ever and Chris Hoy for most golds. He won his eight medal with a silver in the team sprint after being eliminated in the individual sprint.

His wife, Laura Kenny, won silver in the team pursuit and gold in the Madison, the latter her fifth career Olympic title. She's the winningest female British Olympian in history and is tied for most decorated British Olympian with dressage rider Charlotte Dujardin.

Italy – with four-time world individual pursuit champion Filippo "La Bestia" Ganna – broke its own world record from prelims in the men's team pursuit final, clocking 3:42.032, to win its first gold medal in the event since 1960.

American Jennifer Valente captured omnium gold, winning two of the event's four races to become the first-ever U.S. woman to win a track cycling title at the Olympics. The 26-year-old from San Diego, California, followed up a win in the scratch race with third place in the tempo race before taking fourth in the elimination race.

Track Cycling

 

 

Medal Summary

Women's Team Sprint

🥇 CHN (Bao/Zhong), 31.895
🥈 GER (Friedrich/Hinze), 31.980
🥉 ROC (Shmeleva/Voynova), 32.252
4th NED (Van Riessen/Braspennincx), 32.504

Women's Team Pursuit

🥇 GER (Brausse/Brennauer/Klein/Kroger), 4:04.242 WR
🥈 GBR (Archibald/Kenny/Evans/Knight), 4:10.607
🥉 USA (Jastrab/Valente/Dygert/White), 4:08.040
4th CAN (Beveridge/Bonhomme/Foreman-Mackey/Simmerling), 4:10.552

Men's Team Sprint

🥇 NED (Van den Berg/Lavreysen/Hoogland), 41.369 OR
🥈 GBR (Owens/Carlin/Kenny), 44.589
🥉 FRA (Grengbo/Vigier/Helal), 42.331
4th AUS (Richardson/Hart/Glaetzer), 44.013

Men's Team Pursuit

🥇 ITA (Consonni/Ganna/Lamon/Milan), 3:42.032 WR
🥈 DEN (Hansen/Larsen/Madsen/Pedersen), 3:42.198
🥉 AUS (O'Brien/Welsford/Plapp/Porter)
4th NZL (Gate/Stewart/Gough/Kerby), overlapped

Women's Keirin

🥇 Shanne Braspennincx, NED, 10.622
🥈 Ellesse Andrews, NZL, +0.061
🥉 Lauriane Genest, CAN, +0.148

Men's Omnium

🥇 Matthew Walls, GBR, 153
🥈 Campbell Stewart, NZL, 129
🥉 Elia Viviani, ITA, 124

Women's Madison

🥇 GBR (Archibald/Kenny), 78
🥈 DEN (Dideriksen/Leth), 35
🥉 ROC (Khatuntseva/Novolodskaya), 26

Men's Sprint

🥇 Harrie Lavreysen, NED
🥈 Jeffrey Hoogland, NED
🥉 Jack Carlin, GBR
4th Denis Dmitriev, ROC

Men's Madison

🥇 DEN (Hansen/Morkov), 43
🥈 GBR (Hayter/Walls), 40
🥉 FRA (Thomas/Grondin), 40

Women's Sprint

🥇 Kelsey Mitchell, CAN
🥈 Olena Starikova, UKR
🥉 Lee Wai Sze, HKG
4th Emma Hinze, GER

Men's Keirin

🥇 Jason Kenny, GBR, 10.481
🥈 Azizulhasni Awang, MAS, +0.763
🥉 Harrie Lavreysen, NED, +0.773

Women's Omnium

🥇 Jennifer Valente, USA, 124
🥈 Kajihara Yumi, JPN, 110
🥉 Kirsten Wild, NED, 108

RECAP: Jennifer Valente wins U.S. its first women's Olympic track cycling gold