Published: 29 July 2012
Report: Eddie Allen
Image: Mike Egerton/PA Wire
Lizzie Armitstead spoke of her shock and elation after winning Great Britain’s, and cycling’s, first medal of London 2012, taking silver in the Women's Road Race in a thrilling rain-soaked sprint on the Mall behind Dutch rider Marianne Vos.
"It's just really strange I am a bit shocked,” said the 23 year old from Otley. “Emma Pooley did exactly what was asked on Box Hill, I am so glad I committed to that race. I am so happy.”
Armistead got into a break with Vos after the Box Hill section of the race, joining up with Russian rider Olga Zabelinskaya, who had previously escaped. The riders built their lead on the run back to London, holding off the closing pack to make it a three up sprint on the Mall, with Vos’ finally getting the better of Armitstead.
"I'm really, really happy. Maybe later I'll start thinking about that gold, but I'm happy with silver at the moment.
"I was thinking about trying to play poker in the final and I sat on with about 3k (kilometres) to go and I thought that was my best chance and it came off.
“I should have tried to jump her but I just went with it and so happy it came off,” contiuned Armitstead, clearly overjoyed with a career best result. “Marianne Vos was the one to watch and I knew that before the race, I played my tactics and thankfully it came off."
The response of the massive crowds, who had braved torrential rain on the Mall to welcome the British Cycling Podium Programme rider home, inspired Armitstead to give it her all on the line. “It's the most special thing I have ever experienced, it was absolutely amazing. I didn't even feel my legs, it was just so special."
Armitstead paid tribute to her teammates, with Emma Pooley particularly active on the Box Hill section of the race, her climbing ability making the race the aggressive environment in which Lizzie thrives: "Lucy was fantastic in the beginning. I didn't have to worry about being in the right position or anything.
"She did an incredible job. Pooley as always was smashing it over the climbs, which is perfect for me, an aggressive race.
"Nicole was there for the back-up plan, so it was good."
Gold medal winner Vos paid tribute to Armitstead’s challenge: “Lizzie did a really good job on the break and did a really good sprint but I am just so happy to win. After Beijing this is what I wanted for four years and now it has happened it's incredible."
2008 Olympic champion and teammate Nicole Cooke won in Beijing in similar conditions and from a late break, the 29 year old from Swansea delighted with what was a strong team performance from the GB squad and an impressive singular show of strength from Armitstead: ”It feels great, we came in here with a serious chance and we did it. Lizzie did a fantastic ride, we were there backing her up but she didn't need it because she was superb."
Following yesterday’s bitter blow in the Men’s Road Race, Performance Director Dave Brailsford praised Armitstead's silver medal performance: "She rode the perfect race just in the end she didn't quite have the legs to finish. She was so strong and it was a magic performance. She deserves it though because she has worked so hard and I am delighted for her.
"We wanted to start off well yesterday in the men's race and it didn't work out but we bounced back today which was just what we wanted. Lizzie took a risk and it paid off so credit to her.
"I don't think anyone can begrudge Vos winning, they did it in torrential rain and really tough circumstances so credit to all of them."
British Cycling President Brian Cookson OBE voiced his delight at Armistead's performance: "Congratulations to Lizzie Armitstead on her silver medal in the women's road race. As a fellow member of British Cycling, I am proud to see Lizzie in the vanguard of a generation of women cyclists with world-class ability.
"Lizzie is a product of cycling in Great Britain and her medal is testament to the hard work done by volunteers across the country who are the lifeblood of the sport."