Ar­mit­stead: I felt like a zom­bie but have no ex­cuses

Bri­ton out of the medals af­ter missed tests furore Crash puts Dutch rider in hospi­tal

The Daily Telegraph - Total Football - - RIO 2016 - Tom Cary

‘No­body can crash here and get up. This was way past tech­ni­cal, this was dan­ger­ous’

Lizzie Ar­mit­stead ad­mit­ted she was look­ing for­ward to putting her Olympic ex­pe­ri­ence be­hind her and re­turn­ing to the “peo­ple that care about me and love me” af­ter fin­ish­ing fifth in a dra­matic women’s road race yes­ter­day, won by Anna van der Breggen but over­shad­owed by a row over the safety of the route fol­low­ing a spec­tac­u­lar crash suf­fered by her fel­low Dutch­woman An­ne­miek van Vleuten.

Ar­mit­stead, who has been un­der huge scru­tiny this week af­ter it emerged last Mon­day that she had been through a Court of Ar­bi­tra­tion for Sport hear­ing to over­turn a pos­si­ble ban for miss­ing three out of com­pe­ti­tion dop­ing tests, in­sisted that she re­ceived sup­port from her fel­low pro­fes­sion­als in the pelo­ton dur­ing yes­ter­day’s race.

But she ad­mit­ted that she had ar­rived at the race “a bit of a zom­bie” ow­ing to a lack of sleep in re­cent weeks.

“I’d be ly­ing if I said I wasn’t look­ing for­ward to putting this be­hind me,” Ar­mit­stead said, “but it’s the Olympic Games and at the end of the day I’m a sports fan. I think Team GB are go­ing to have some ex­tra­or­di­nary per­for­mances and I hope that the na­tion doesn’t lose faith and they get be­hind the team be­cause it’s go­ing to be a good two weeks of sport.”

Asked whether there was any­thing she could do to re­store her stand­ing in the eyes of the pub­lic, many of whom felt she should not have been al­lowed to com­pete, she replied: “I have to come to terms with it. I can’t pick up the phone to ev­ery­body that doubts me and ex­plain my­self, the only thing that I can do – and the only thing that I’ve al­ways done – is to ride my bike fast and get my head down and con­trol the things I can con­trol.”

Ar­mit­stead had said be­fore the race that she would be dis­ap­pointed with any­thing but gold here, but given her prepa­ra­tions, she said she was sat­is­fied with fifth.

“It wasn’t en­tirely un­ex­pected to be hon­est,” she said. “I knew I was go­ing to need a mir­a­cle to come away with the gold medal on this course.

“I felt a bit like a zom­bie com­ing into it. I haven’t had a lot of sleep these last few weeks but when I am on my bike I am do­ing what I know, it’s what I am in con­trol of and my brain switches into auto-pilot mode – so there are no ex­cuses at all.”

For the sec­ond time in two days, fol­low­ing the crashes suf­fered by lead­ers Vin­cenzo Nibali and Ser­gio He­nao in the men’s road race, the fi­nale was marred by a se­ri­ous ac­ci­dent on the de­scent of the Vista Chi­nesa, this time to Van Vleuten, who had es­caped solo off the front with 11km re­main­ing.

The Dutch­woman was sent som­er­sault­ing over her han­dle­bars and landed on her back in the same con­crete storm drain that Geraint Thomas ended up in 24hrs previ- ously. Van Vleuten was seen ly­ing mo­tion­less, up­side down, be­fore the cam­eras cut away and it was not un­til af­ter Van der Breggen had caught the new lone leader Mara Ab­bot (USA) and out­sprinted Emma Jo­hans­son (Swe­den) and Elisa Longo-Borgh­ini (Italy) that the Nether­lands’ chef de mis­sion con­firmed that she was con­scious and in an am­bu­lance.

The ac­ci­dent led Chris Board­man, analysing the race for the BBC, to de­scribe the route as “too dan­ger­ous”.

“I’m ac­tu­ally quite an­gry be­cause I looked at the road fur­ni­ture and thought no­body can crash here and get up,” he said. “This was way past tech­ni­cal, this was dan­ger­ous.”

Mick Ben­nett, the Tour of Bri­tain’s race di­rec­tor, agreed, say­ing the UCI, cycling’s world gov­ern­ing body, should never have signed off the route, de­scrib­ing it as a “stag­ger­ingly bad” de­ci­sion.

“To­tally agree should not have been cleared by the UCI. I don’t know who agrees these things or even both­ers to look at them. Stag­ger­ingly bad de­ci­sions. What hap­pens now?”

The race it­self was a slow burner. Ar­mit­stead got off to a dis­as­trous start, suf­fer­ing a punc­ture in the open­ing miles just as her team-mate Emma Poo­ley at­tacked off the front of the bunch with what was pre­sum­ably a pre­ar­ranged move.

With no race ra­dio, Poo­ley had no inkling that she was mak­ing life dif­fi­cult for her team leader, who then had to chase back on on her own with Nikki Har­ris in­ex­pli­ca­bly de­cid­ing not to drop back to help. Af­ter fi­nally catch­ing back up to the bunch Ar­mit­stead ap­peared to ex­change a few curt words with her Boels Dol­mans team mate.

How much that cost her in terms of ef­fort was un­clear, but she was un­able to hang on to the lead­ers up the Vista Chi­nesa, with Ab­bot and Van Vleuten es­cap­ing to­gether over the top. Af­ter Van Vleuten’s crash, Ab­bot man­aged to hang on un­til the fi­nal 100m when she was caught, ag­o­nis­ingly, by the trio of chasers who even­tu­ally formed the podium.

Ar­mit­stead, in a group a fur­ther 10 sec­onds back, sprinted to fifth.

“I’m very thank­ful to the girls,” she said of her team-mates Poo­ley and Har­ris. “They did a great job to­day, they re­ally gave me their all. Nikki in par­tic­u­lar was a bit of a psy­chol­o­gist on the way.

“The im­me­di­ate fu­ture is about get­ting to see my fam­ily and be­ing around peo­ple that care about me and love me and I’m very much look­ing for­ward to that.”

Scenic route: The pelo­ton rides away from Rio in yes­ter­day’s road race

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