Dutch cycling sensation Marianne Vos ended years of frustration on the world stage by dominating Britain's Lizzie Armitstead in a two-up sprint to win Olympic road race gold on Saturday. Armitstead finished second at over a bike's length behind to take the silver - Britain's first medal of the Games - with Olga Zabelinskaya of Russia winning the bronze after 140km of road racing.
Four years after finishing sixth in Beijing and having collected an amazing five consecutive runner-up places at the world road race championships, Olympic gold had become Vos's obsession.
"After Beijing, that was the only thing that was on my mind for four years," said the Dutchwoman, who owns an impressive collection of titles in several cycling disciplines. "Now that it's happened, it's incredible. Now the gold is mine."
With the pressure on Britain to claim a medal after the men's road race whitewash on Saturday, the British women made sure there would be no repeat with both Emma Pooley and Armitstead among the main protagonists. And despite missing out on gold, an emotional Armitstead was delighted to hand the hosts their first medal of the Games.
"I am very, very happy. To be an Olympic medallist at your home Games and the first one is something I cannot get my head around," she said.
Vos, a world road champion at the age of 19, came into the Games as the woman to beat after shaking off the setback of a broken collarbone to win five stages and the overall title at the women's Giro d'Italia.
After some early attacks by her Dutch teammates, the 25-year-old showed aggressive Briton Pooley, a constant threat on the undulating Box Hill circuit, that she could give as good as she got.
"I knew it was 140km and you need some energy for the finish," she said. "But I also knew that a hard race was good for me and also the others had to follow and use their energy. For me, it was a plan to attack early, many times, to tire myself and also to tire out the others."
With earlier rain making roads slippery, leading to several crashes, and early attacks taking their toll, most of the peloton was caught napping when Zabelinskaya launched the decisive move with 45km left.
Italy's former world champion Tatiana Guderzo said: "It was the downhill, not the climb, that really made the difference. "Most of the riders had to slow down because of the slippery conditions, while the breakaway escaped."
Vos, Armitstead and, soon after, American Shelley Olds joined the Russian and together the quartet went on to build a lead of around 45 seconds which would never come under threat.
Canadian Clara Hughes was one of many hopefuls who missed out. "I was there when it went, and took a gamble to wait when Zabelinskaya went," she said. "Then when Armitstead went I was caught behind the Americans. I don't know whether I could have gone with them."
Olds eventually dropped out of the lead group, leaving the trio to go on and race for the gold. In the final few kilometers Vos was sandwiched in between her rivals, with Russian time trial champion Zabelinskaya happily driving them to the line.
"I am not as fast a sprinter than them, for me it was just as good to get the bronze medal," she later explained.
It took until the final 200 meters for the race's second decisive move to come, and, given Armitstead's reputed finishing power, it was no surprise it came from Vos.
"I knew Lizzie is really fast on the line, so I was not at all confident," said Vos. "I knew I had a chance, I knew I had a big chance. But I also knew that if I made even a little mistake, Lizzie would take the gold. So I had to choose the right moment in the finish, and I think I did."
RESULTS: Olympic women's cycling road race
1. Marianne Vos (NED) 3h35:29.
(Average speed 43.4 km/h)
2. Elizabeth Armitstead (GBR) s.t
3. Olga Zabelinskaya (RUS) at0:02.
4. Ina Teutenberg (GER) 0:27.
5. Giorgia Bronzini (ITA) 0:27.
6. Emma Johansson (SWE) 0:27.
7. Shelley Olds (USA) 0:27.
8. Pauline Ferrand Prevot (FRA) 0:27.
9. Liesbet De Vocht (BEL) 0:27.
10. Aude Biannic (FRA) 0:27.
11. Katarzyna Pawlowska (POL) 0:27.
12. Joelle Numainville (CAN) 0:27.
13. Na Ah Reum (KOR) 0:27.
14. Annemiek Van Vleuten (NE 0:27.
15. Alena Amialiusik (BLR) 0:27.
16. Ashleigh Moolman (RSA) 0:27.
17. Grete Treier (EST) 0:27.
18. Linda Melanie Villumsen (NZL 0:27.
19. Emilia Fahlin (SWE) 0:27.
20. Pia Sundstedt (FIN) 0:27.
21. Christine Majerus (LUX) 0:27.
22. Polona Batagelj (SLO) 0:27.
23. Clemilda Fernandes Silva (BRA) 0:27.
24. Evelyn Stevens (USA) 0:27.
25. Tatiana Antoshina (RUS) 0:27.
26. Evelyn Garcia (ESA) 0:27.
27. Denise Ramsden (CAN) 0:27.
28. Joanna Hotchkiss (RSA) 0:27.
29. Maaike Polspoel (BEL) 0:32.
30. Tatiana Guderzo (ITA) 0:32.
31. Nicole Cooke (GBR) 0:32.
32. Clara Hughes (CAN) 0:32.
33. Trixi Worrack (GER) 0:35.
34. Noemi Cantele (ITA) 0:35.
35. Kristin Armstrong (USA) 0:47.
36. Amber Neben (USA) 0:51.
37. Judith Arndt (GER) 0:59.
38. Larisa Pankova (RUS) 1:53.
39. Shara Gillow (AUS) 1:53.
40. Emma Pooley (GBR) 1:57.
Abandons: Elena Tchalykh (AZE), Janildes Fernandes Silva (BRA), Paola Munoz (CHI), Mayuko Hagiwara (JPN), Aurelie Halbwachs (MRI), Jutatip Maneephan (THA), Danielys Garcia (VEN)