A horrendous crash has marred the finale of the women’s cycling road race.
Dutch rider Annemiek van Vleuten, a member of Australian professional team Orica-AIS, lay motionless with her body sickeningly contorted after losing control after she had gained a marginal solo lead with 12 kilometres to go to the finish.
Rain had just started falling in Rio when the 33-year-old flew off her bike head first, hit a gutter on the course and did not move.
Van Vleuten was taken from the course in an ambulance, but the international cycling federation, UCI, later confirmed she was conscious.
“Ms van Vleuten is conscious, able to communicate. Further medical checks currently being made at the hospital,” the oragnisation said.
Olympic organisers said she was in a stable condition in hospital.
The Dutch chef de mission, Maurits Hendriks, also reportedly said she was conscious.
Quote Chef de Mission Maurits Hendriks: ‘Van Vleuten in ambulance, full consciousness’ #official
— Renaat Schotte (@wielerman)
August 7, 2016
Van Vleuten was part of a victorious ride for the Netherlands in the same event at the 2012 Olympics, helping to deliver champion Marianne Vos to the gold medal.
Winner of the women’s road World Cup in 2011, van Vleuten was riding as a teammate to Vos, Anna van der Breggen and Ellen van Dijk on Sunday.
All of Australia’s entries in the Olympic event are professional teammates of Van Vleute at Orica-AIS.
Remarkably, Van Vleuten’s teammate Anna Vanderbreggen proceeded to win the gold medal.
“I was really shocked when I saw the crash and it didn’t look good but I had to focus and keep on with the race,” Vanderbreggen said afterwards.
Emma Johannson (SWE) claimed silver and Elisa Longo Borghini (ITA) took bronze.
Johannson said it “was a horrendous crash”.
“The peloton is so small and we all know each other very well. We just hope she’s OK,” she said.
The descent to the Copacabana was considered tricky and treacherous, with several men crashing on it in their race Saturday.
Former cycling gold medalist Chris Boardman told the BBC he was “actually quite angry” because, after looking at the course, he believed that “nobody can crash here and get up”.
“This was way past technical; this was dangerous,” he said.
Australia’s best finisher in the race was Amanda Spratt in 15th, four minutes behind the winner.
Rachel Neylan placed 22nd, at five minutes back, and Gracie Elvin was 49th, 11 minutes back.
Katrin Garfoot withdrew early in proceedings as expected, given she has the individual time trial on Wednesday.
British rider Lizzie Amitstead finished fifth after her contentious entry in the race.
– with Megan Levy