Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

No new medal for Hughes

Canadian star had led for much of road race

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LONDON -- Marianne Vos of the Netherlands won the gold medal in the women's road race, while Canada's Clara Hughes failed to win her seventh Olympic medal.

Vos, the former world champion, made a daring move past Russia's Olga Zabelinskaya over rain-slicked roads Sunday to emerge from the three-rider breakaway on the straightaway from Buckingham Palace.

Elizabeth Armitstead wound up with silver, Britain's first medal of the London Olympics.

The former track cycling star came through under immense pressure from a nation gripped by cycling fever in the wake of Bradley Wiggins' Tour de France triumph.

Hughes finished 32nd after spending much of the race near or at the front of the peloton.

"It was epic. It was awesome, though," said a smiling, shivering Hughes.

"There were so many people on the course. We were wondering if people would come out and watch the women's race, it was amazing. I can't say enough about the support in the pouring rain."

Hughes, a native of Winnipeg who makes her home in Glen Sutton, Que., has another chance to become Canada's most decorated Oympian when she competes in the individual time trial. Hughes and speedskater Cindy Klassen both have six medals.

Joelle Numainville of Laval, Que., finished 12th after losing control trying to avoid another fallen rider with 10 kilometres remaining.

"It was really slippery and it was really hard in the rain," said Numainville. "I felt like my tire was slipping on a couple of corners. I crashed, it's part of the game.

"It was so hard, but it was good racing."

Denise Ramsden of Yellowknife finished 27th.

It was a race that saw everything from sunshine to torrential downpours, crashes on wet, greasy pavement, plenty of punctures and a string of breakaway attacks.

The 140-kilometre women's race was a condensed version of the men's 250-kilometre trek, with 66 women from 35 countries competing. The field featured all three medallists and five of the top-six finishers from the 2008 event in Beijing.

The women started on the Mall, passing by Buckingham Palace and other tourist attractions before crossing Putney Bridge and heading out of the city for suburban Surrey and two laps around Box Hill.

Then it was straight back to the city and a finish down a stretch of the Mall.

The riders came out for the pre-race introductions to sunshine and drops of rain. A half-hour before the noon start local time, the clouds turned dark and there was thunder. Ten minutes later, it was raining.

The rain stopped just minutes before the start, prompting racers to hurl their balled-up rain jackets to the side. Still they had to contend with greasy roads.

"It was terrifying," said Hughes. "It was like really technical, and the roads were pretty slippery. Crashes. I mean racing in the rain is not fun. This is like three out of three Olympic road races for me in the rain."

Hughes won two bronze medals in cycling (road race and individual time trial) from the 1996 Games in Atlanta and a gold, silver and two bronze in long-track speedskating from the 2002, 2006 and 2010 Winter Games. Hughes will participate in the time trials on Wednesday.

"Mentally they can be prepared for it," Canadian coach Denise Kelly said prior to the race of the weather. "One of the big things they can do is eat more, fuel the body, make sure that they're really well-fuelled because if it does get a lot colder, you burn more calories when your shivering."

The rain returned after some 40 minutes as the changeable weather conditions.

An hour into the race, Hughes was at the front of the peloton when Dutch rider Ellen van Dijk launched a pair of breaks in unsuccessful attempts to leave the peloton behind.


-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 30, 2012 C5

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