London 2012: Pooley helps Britain to first medal
PUBLISHED: 15:54 29 July 2012
Great Britain grab their first medal of the Games and Wansdworth rider plays a vital part
Great Britain won their first medal of the Olympic Games in a drama-drenched, rain-drenched women’s road race.
Lizzie Armitsead sprinted to a stunning silver medal after going clear in a small breakaway and she will have Wandsworth rider Emma Pooley to thank for helping her along the way.
After the disappointment of Saturday’s race for Mark Cavendish, Bradley Wiggins and the rest of the British men’s team, it was the women who rose to the occasion in superb style in a 140km race.
Pooley, 29, recovered from an early puncture to play a vital part in the road race as she avoided crashes and wet roads to spearhead the British challenge at the front of the pack.
The south London rider, who was second behind Marianne Vos in the Tour of Italy earlier in the year, is a time trial and climbing specialist and she revelled in the two ascents of Box Hill in leafy Surrey, stretching the peloton as the pace increased.
There were plenty of early attacks, with Ellen Van Dyjk, Audrey Condon, Judith Arndt and Vos, but Pooley was always there to cover them as she looked to protect fellow British riders Lizzie Armitstead and current Olympic champion Nicole Cooke.
Pooley attacked herself on the first ascent of Box Hill to stretch out the field, but it was on the second climb that the decisive move was made.
Russian Olga Zabelinskaya made the first move, before Armistead and Shelley Olds from the United States bridged the gap to be joined by the hot favourite Vos.
The four pulled half a minute clear of the chasing pack as Pooley was content to stay in the pack with her team-mate further up the road in the hunt for the medals.
The four leaders were reduced to three with the loss of the American to a puncture and that meant a definite medal for Britain if they could stay clear.
The peloton slowly began to organise a response on the run into London as the rain began to fall more heavily.
Pooley suffered a second puncture in the closing stages and was left to think about the things to come in the time trial – her job was already done.
But the three leaders remained in control to keep the chasing pack at bay and in the final straight on the Mall it was the Dutch girl who just held off Armitstead to grab the gold.
It was silver for Great Britain though and Pooley will be hoping she can add to that in the time trial on Wednesday.