Cycling: Armstrong defeats Russian for third straight gold

Wed Aug 10, 2016 3:42pm EDT
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By Martyn Herman

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - On the one hand there was Kristin Armstrong, hoping to complete a fairytale return to road cycling with a third consecutive Olympic time trial gold the day before her 43rd birthday.

On the other there was Olga Zabelinskaya, a Russian rider with a doping past who was nearly booted out of the Games.

So when Armstrong, the last of the field to tackle the 29.7km course on a wild and wet day next to the Atlantic breakers, crossed the finish line five seconds quicker than Zabelinskaya had managed it felt fitting in so many ways.

Not only had Armstrong become the first rider to win the same road event at three different Olympics -- providing a fillip for all 40 somethings to boot -- she also spared the Games what would have been a controversial victory.

Double London medalist Zabelinskaya, who served an 18-month suspension for a banned stimulant and who got a last-gasp reprieve to compete after the IOC's attempt to ban Russia's previous dopers collapsed, had looked poised for victory.

She was almost celebrating at the finish, only to watch Armstrong, pedaling like fury, roar home in 44 minutes 26.42 seconds before collapsing on to the tarmac in exhaustion.

Dutch rider Anna van der Breggen confirmed her reputation as women's cycling's new force by adding a bronze medal to the gold she took in Sunday's road race, finishing 11 seconds back.

But the day belonged to Armstrong.   Continued...

Kristin Armstrong of USA celebrates after winning. REUTERS/Matthew Childs