Armitstead and Pooley take gold and silver for England in the Commonwealth Games road race
Lizzie Armitstead (England) has won gold in the women’s road race at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, attacking with roughly 8km to go and taking victory ahead of her teammate Emma Pooley. Ashleigh Moolman (South Africa) won bronze ahead of Tiffany Cromwell (Australia) in a photo finish.
The first of seven laps was a very pedestrian affair as the riders got a feel for the tight and technical 14km Glasgow city circuit. Even with the sedate pace it didn’t take long for riders from the smaller cycling nations to fall off the back, their race over as soon as it had begun.
Early in the the second lap Katrin Garfoot (Australia) was the first to attack, before being quickly marked by the teams of England and New Zealand. And so the tone of the first half of the race was set.
Shara Gillow was the next Australian to attack, before being caught, and then it was Mel Hoskins’ turn. Hoskins was joined by England’s Emma Barnes and the two opened up a small lead but they were brought back into the fold with 77km to go.
The attacks continued from the ever-aggressive Australians. Gillow tried her luck again, then Garfoot, then Gillow again. And then it was Chloe Hosking, Australia’s designated sprinter, who got clear momentarily. But she was soon caught as well.
With 72km to go Shara Gillow was off the front for Australia again, being joined this time by England’s Laura Trott. The pair managed to get a gap of 12 seconds with 66km to go, but with Trott refusing to help with the pacemaking, the break’s days were numbered.
Mel Hoskins attacked again when the two leaders were caught, and again she was brought back into the peloton, the big teams of England and New Zealand not keen to let the track specialist get away.
With roughly 60km to go a group of four riders got clear, thanks to the efforts of Emma Pooley (England) on the front of the bunch. They were joined by another four riders before Pooley and Tiffany Cromwell (Australia) took to the front together.
The pair was soon caught but their exertions at the head of the field had started to shape the first of the day’s major selections. As the peloton came together after unsuccessful attacks from ITT champion Linda Villumsen (New Zealand), Mel Hoskins and Shara Gillow, only about 20 riders remained in contention.
With a little more than three laps remaining (42km), Shara Gillow tried yet another move at the front of the race, but she was soon marked by Emma Pooley.
A touch inside 40km to go Emma Pooley turned aggressor again, increasing the tempo at the front of the main field and forcing another split. She was joined by Linda Villumsen, Tiffany Cromwell, Ashleigh Moolman (South Africa) and Lizzie Armitstead (England), and when local hero Katie Archibald (Scotland) and Gracie Elvin (Australia) joined them, just seven riders were left with a chance at Commonwealth gold.
Emma Pooley tried a number of attacks in the next 10km, stringing out the lead group each time, but each time she was brought back. Tiff Cromwell tried her luck but was shut down by her training partner and pre-race favourite Lizzie Armitstead.
Cromwell attacked again just as the penultimate lap began but wasn’t given any latitude. Again it was Emma Pooley at the front, closing down the moves, controlling the pace and riding in support of Lizzie Armitstead, just as she’d done at the Delhi Commonwealth Games four years ago.
With 18km remaining the rain started falling in Glasgow, the narrow and technical city circuit becoming even more treacherous than it was before.
Emma Pooley tried a handful of attacks as the final, 14km lap approached, but she was caught each time. It was Pooley who also marked the move of two-time Australian national champion Gracie Elvin a short time later.
Inside the final lap, the pace was off in the lead group. The seven riders looked at one another, waiting for the attacks to come, as the rain continued to fall. Again, it was Emma Pooley on the front, controlling proceedings, the 31-year-old having an impact in just about every move in the second half of the race.
With 11.4km to go Emma Pooley put in yet another attack and this time she managed to get a gap. A few kilometres later, with her teammate up the road and looking strong, Lizzie Armitstead put in her race-winning move, attacking on one of the six short climbs on the circuit. She reached Pooley in no time, and rather than opting to work with Pooley, Armitstead flew straight past, heading off in search of a solo victory.
Armitstead, who hadn’t had to do much work in the main field at all until that point, quickly built up an advantage while Pooley was able to stay clear as well. Behind her it was Cromwell, Moolman and Villumsen chasing — the trio effectively racing for bronze.
An attack from Cromwell on one of the final climbs saw Villumsen dropped but when South Africa’s Ashleigh Moolman wouldn’t work with Cromwell to chase, the pace dropped and Villumsen was able to catch back on.
Up ahead Lizzie Armitstead was racing away to a gold medal, being joined 26 seconds later by silver medallist Emma Pooley in her final race before retirement, the latter in tears.
A short time later, a sprint between Ashleigh Moolman and Tiff Cromwell went to a photo finish, the South African taking the bronze with a bike throw on the line. Villumsen crossed the line fifth with Gracie Elvin sixth and Scotland’s Katie Archibald seventh.
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