Van Vleuten finally finds Games victory with time trial gold

Posted at 12:14 AM, Jul 28, 2021

After catastrophic heartbreak and tearful oversight, road race silver medalist Annemiek van Vleuten captured gold Wednesday in Japan, propelling the Dutch back atop the women's time trial podium for the first time in 17 years.

The 2017 and 2018 world champion absolutely destroyed the 13.7-mile (22.1-km) Fuji International Speedway circuit, clocking 30:13.49 to win by nearly a full minute.

Five years ago, Van Vleuten crashed during the women’s road race at the 2016 Rio Games while leading late in the race and suffered three spinal fractures and a severe concussion.

Then, just days ago, the Dutchwoman mistakenly celebrated her runner-up finish in the road race, thinking she had won gold. Afterward she admitted confusion, citing miscommunication.

SEE MORE: Rio 2016: van der Breggen wins cycling road race gold

Van Vleuten's teammate Anna van der Breggen, winner of gold or silver in both the world championship time trial and road race from 2018-2020, repeated her bronze from Rio for her third career Olympic medal in what might have been her final cycling appearance at the global stage.

Marlen Reusser, the 2020 world runner-up, added a fifth cycling medal to Switzerland's impressive haul with the nation's third silver in the sport.

American Chloe Dygert, the only woman outside the Netherlands to win time trial gold at the last four world championships, finished seventh in 32:29.89, more than two minutes back.

SEE MORE: Dygert crashes over guardrail in time trial at 2020 worlds

The Indiana native won her 2019 world title by more than 90 seconds, and built a similar lead at last year's worlds before she lost control and crashed into a guardrail, sustaining a gruesome leg injury that required surgery. She was back on the stationary bike by late November and competed in a time trial about a month ago – her only race since the crash and before Tokyo.

Dygert's teammate Amber Neben was the top American in fifth, slightly more than a minute back. The now three-time Olympian overcame spinal meningitis at age 4, leaving her in a coma for three days, then had surgery for cancerous melanoma at age 33. At 46, she's the oldest U.S. cyclist to ever compete at the Games.

This is the first American loss in the event since 2004. Legendary cyclist Kristin Armstrong, who retired, strung together three straight Olympic time trial golds from 2008-2016.

It's also just the second time a U.S. athlete has not made the podium – only the event's inaugural competition at the 1996 Atlanta Games was also missing an American in the top three.