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29th Olympic Games - JO

Beijing, China, August 9-23, 2008

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August 10: Women's Road Race, 126.4

Complete live report

Live commentary by Susan Westemeyer

Live coverage starts: 14:00
Estimated finish: 17:30

13:57 CST   
Hello and welcome back to our Olympic coverage. Today the women take to the road. They will cover a total of 126 km – 75 on the flat, as a warm-up, before hitting that beautiful climbing course we saw yesterday in the men's race. The women will only do two laps of the course, as compared to the seven laps that the men did.

Riders test the course in Beijing
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

14:00 CST   
Here is some not so good news: it is raining! Only lightly in Beijing – where the race has just started – but it is said to be raining very heavily along the Great Wall, with winds, too.

14:02 CST   
There are only 66 riders in this race, with no more than three women per nation. So don't look for any one team to dominate things.

14:05 CST   
It's a short race, with a small field and small teams – which means that it is unpredictable. But there are still three women it is worth keeping an eye on: Marianne Vos of the Netherlands, Judith Arndt of Germany, and Nicole Cooke of Great Britain.

14:08 CST   
When we look off into the distance, we don't see much. This could be the famous "smog" but we suspect it is also the rain. That could make this race a lot more difficult. It must be pretty warm, too, because some of the women have their jerseys pretty wide open.

14:12 CST   
Visibility seems to be getting worse, we are sorry to say. We still have everyone all together as they ride through the streets of Beijing, where there are a number of people out watching the race. And, as usual, a security man every few metres along the way.

14:17 CST   
Vera Carrara of Italy is leading the group around, followed by the Australians. Judith Arndt of Germany is bringing up the rear.

14:20 CST   
The women drive by some pretty colourful Olympic-ring inspired sculpture, and fans waving red flags.

14:21 CST   
Carrara has pulled out of the lead and is now letting Kate Bates of Australia have the honours.

14:22 CST   
Bates is followed by defending gold medal winner Sara Carrigan. Meanwhile, Italy's Noemi Cantele drops back to the team car for a moment.

14:24 CST   
Jeannie Longo-Ciprelli has now taken the lead. She is our heroine – a proud 49 years old!

14:27 CST   
The riders today range in age from 19 to, would you believe it, 49. The youngster is Marissa van der Merwe of South Africa. The eldest is the nearly legendary Jeannie Long-Ciprelli of France, who will turn 50 the end of October, but still isn't showing any signs of slowing down.

We have more riders born in 1981 (seven), followed by 1975 (six). Two riders were born in the 1960s: Norway's Anita Valen de Vries (1968) and Christine Thorburn of the USA (1969).

14:29 CST   
Now it is Marianne Vos together with Judith Arndt at the back of the field. A meeting of the favourites, but at the wrong end of the peloton.

14:30 CST   
At the front, Kate Bates is having a chat with Slovenian Sigrid Corneo. Corneo rides on the same team with Bates' sister Natalie.

14:32 CST   
The field now goes by the "Bird's Nest," the fantastic-looking stadium which hosted the Opening Ceremonies. And the mist seems to be getting heavier.

14:33 CST   
Tatiana Guderzo of Italy smiles and waves to the camera and gives an optimistic thumbs-up.

14:36 CST   
The bad weather today could be good for Kazakhi Zulfiya Zabirova, who rides well in the rain and wind. But unfortunately she doesn't do so well in the mountains. She is easy to pick out in those now-familiar Kazakh colours.

Nicole Cooke of Great Britain
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

14:39 CST   
Shane Sutton, the Great Britain coach, says that so far everything is going to plan. He is here with Nicole Cooke, Sharon Laws and Emma Pooley. Laws is recovering from a broken ankle and has a plate in it. But she is doing well enough to ride here with some very heavy strapping on that ankle.

14:47 CST   
And a happy birthday today to Christine Thorburn of the USA. She is turning 35 years old.

And we hear that the youngest is not South Africa's Marissa Van Der Merwe but South Africa's Cherise Taylor. Looking at our list, we see that we mis-read the line and apologize.

14:48 CST   
Here is a report from along the way. "Erin Kassoy Falquier here, wife of Dario Falquier, co-owner of the Webcor team, which has 2 Canadians (Willock and Wrubleski) and 1 American (Christine Thorburn) in the race. Dario is up on the circuit with Ted Huang, the other owner, as well as Andy Ball, Webcor CEO, Frank Scioscia, team consultant, and a bunch of other racers' relatives.

News is that it's raining and starting to get chilly. It's also breezy. They are eating noodles to stay warm. They have been there for six hours – it was the only way to get on the circuit after they were shut out yesterday. "

14:51 CST   
Bates falls back to call for water bottles. The fog/mist is getting heavier, preventing us from seeing much of the landscape. The next to fetch supplies is Tatiana Stiajkina of the Ukraine.

14:53 CST   
Kristin Armstrong of the US is back at the team car, getting water bottles and having a chat. She has start number 13, and as so many do, has turned one of her pin-on numbers upside down, to counteract the bad luck.

14:54 CST   
The official weather announcement says it is now 24° and a whopping 97% humidity. Quite a steam-bath!

14:56 CST   
Christel Ferrier Bruneau of France and Linda Villumsen of Denmark are pretty far back and are getting back up to the peloton behind one of the team cars – the French car, actually. They had better not let the the race jury see them do that for too long.

15:01 CST   
The high humidity causes the riders to sweat a lot, so they need to drink even more than usual to keep from getting dehydrated. That's why we see so many riders going back now and stocking up on water bottles.

15:05 CST   
Attack! A Russian picks up the speed and everyone goes after her. All together again.

15:07 CST   
One of the German's in the race today is Hanka Kupfernagel, the reigning World Champion in Time Trial. Of course, she is one of the favourites for a medal on Wednesday, but she is in today's race, too. Read more about her here: Time on trial in gold rush.

15:09 CST   
The field just went through the toll booth, and like the men yesterday, none of them paid! Guess they forgot to bring their wallets.

Priska Doppmann of Switzerland is the next to pick up some water bottles. Things are quiet in the field at the moment.

15:13 CST   
The field is passing by a large group of spectators, all of whom are waving their pom-poms in practiced rhythm.

15:14 CST   
We've been talking to a number of the women riders in the build up to these games. Back in March Ben Atkins spoke to Marianne Vos on the eve of her World points race championship where she was even then focusing on this race.

15:16 CST   
And the next attack! Carrara of Italy, closely followed by Kupfernagel. But once again, there is a good chase.

15:17 CST   
Oenone Wood (Australia) has dropped her gear chain and has to have some help.

15:18 CST   
Another Russian has attacked, followed by an Italian. But the field just isn't ready to let anyone get away.

15:19 CST    34.4km/92km to go
Things have quieted down and slowed down again. Are they waiting for Wood?

15:22 CST   
The rain seems to be picking up, as we see some raindrops on the camera lenses, and the street is definitely wet. Even the team cars have their lights on.

Unfortunately some of the team suppliers don't seem to have taken the rain into account. Some of the jerseys, especially the light coloured ones, are tending to become rather transparent as they get wet.

15:25 CST   
More recently Ben Atkins spoke to two more of the favourites for today's race. Germany's Judith Arndt has already had a stellar season, but this is the big one for her. She was silver medalist four years ago in Athens but aims to go one better this time.

15:29 CST   
Two of the Australian riders present quite a contrast. Kate Bates is noticeable taller than a lot of the other riders, at 176 cm. But team-mate Oenone Wood measures in at only 158 cm. She is so small, in fact, that she has to ride an aluminum frame, because team supplier Giant doesn't make a carbon frame small enough.

15:33 CST   
This is really water day. Water coming down, water in the air, water on the road, and lots and lots of water bottles in action.

15:34 CST    54.4km/72km to go
Puddles are now forming on the road and it is raining more heavily.

15:37 CST    56.4km/70km to go
The women have now been underway for 1:37 hours, and are still all together.

15:38 CST   
Kupfernagel takes off!

15:39 CST   
That sure woke things up. The peloton is coming behind her, but now it is all strung out for the first time.

15:39 CST   
We have added more photos of the men's road race that was held yesterday. Having a look through will allow you to get a better idea of the course that the women are racing on today.

Riders in the men's race reach the finish line
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

15:40 CST   
And the next one goes. A Russian? It is hard to see in the rain. Three riders have a tiny lead, with the peloton all right there, still strung out and moving hard.

15:42 CST   
Bates moves back to the head of the group to try and keep control of things. In about 20 km the women will pass over the finish line for the first time.

15:44 CST   
Ben Atkins also spoke with Great Britain's Nicole Cooke; she's spent the entire season preparing for this race. She was fifth in Athens and really wants a medal this time.

15:49 CST   
We got a little confused on the birthday front. It is not Christine Thorburn's birthday (she will celebrate next month). In fact, her USA team-mate Kristin Armstrong will have her birthday tomorrow, and will blow out those 35 candles on her birthday cake.

15:52 CST    65.4km/61km to go
As far as we know, no one has yet dropped out or fallen back. And it is still raining...

15:57 CST    68.4km/58km to go
Germany's Kupfernagel has a second set of brake levers on her handlebars, such as we often see in Paris-Roubaix. That will let her get her hands on the brakes more quickly when she has her hands on the top of the handlebars.

15:58 CST   
The pack is now riding through a stretch where there are virtually no spectators – but a security person every few meters. The security people have their backs to the race.

16:00 CST    70.4km/56km to go
Longo has left the lead and is now at the rear of the field. She can usually be found at one of those two locations – she simply doesn't like to ride in the middle of the pack.

16:01 CST   
The three Germans are riding together and moving up slowly on the right side. Are they planning something?

16:02 CST   
And the flat portion is over. The women are moving to the Wall. And who attacks? Another Russian!

16:03 CST   
She has picked up a lead of some 50 metres, with the gap growing. Still heavy rain and lots of water on the road. It is Alexandra Burchenkova, only 19 years old.

16:05 CST    73.4km/53km to go
Still 5 km to go until they hit the finish line for the first time. Bates at the head of the field in the pouring rain – she is doing an enormous amount of work today.

16:06 CST   
Just in case you have forgotten the results of 2004 in Athens, here they are: Gold went to Sara Carrigan, of Australia; silver to Judith Arndt, Germany; and bronze to Olga Slyusareva of Russia, who is not in the race this year.

Alexandra Burchenkova (Russian Federation)
Photo ©: Andrea Brewer
(Click for larger image)

16:06 CST   
The women have now been underway for over two hours. Burchenkova has built up a lead of some 15 seconds.

16:08 CST   
Bates is out of the lead, and a US rider has taken over, Thorburn. Longo is at the back still, and looks almost as if she is dropping off.

16:13 CST   
The favourites are starting to move up towards the front, as they approach the wall.


16:14 CST   
A Korean rider has fallen into the ditch but is back up. A number of other riders went down too, but they are all back up and underway again.

16:15 CST   
The riders involved were Sharon Laws (Great Britain), Jennifer Hohl (Switzerland), Sara Mustonen (Sweden) and Sungeun Gu (Korea). It looked like the Korean lost control and brought the others down.

16:16 CST   
Now they're on the round course. Incidentally, a photo from the finish showed us people standing in ankle-high water.

16:17 CST    78km/48.4km to go
And there they go over the finish line, for the first time. We expect the action to start any time now.

16:18 CST   
Interestingly enough, there seems to be less fog or mist here. Lots of rain, though.

16:19 CST   
Thorburn moves to the front and picks up the speed. And immediately, the first riders drop off the back. One of them is Bates, but she has certainly done more than her share of work today.

16:20 CST   
Carrara is also falling off the back, but she did a lot of lead work, too. Both she and Bates will be back in the points race on the track.

16:21 CST   
Two US riders at the front, and a German. Beltman of the Netherlands is also up there.

16:22 CST   
The two US riders are Thorburn and Armstrong, with Germany's Worrack and Brändli of Switzerland up there. And another Russian goes!

16:23 CST   
A quick advantage for the Russian, who attacked on the steep portion. It is Natalia Boyarskaya.

16:24 CST   
Right now the field is letting her go. Arndt has moved to the front of the peloton.

16:25 CST   
Boyarskaya now has 25 seconds on the field. The group passes under the showers which the men enjoyed so much yesterday. They aren't turned on now, though, as Mother Nature is providing the showers today.

16:28 CST   
1:05 now for our leader. She wends her lonely way through the rainy forest.

16:30 CST   
Boyarskaya is 25 years old and rides for the Fenixs team. She just won the Tour Féminin en Limousin - Poitou-Charente, so she ought to be in good form.

16:31 CST   
Amber Neben of the US leads the attack. The Russian had built her lead up to 1:13, but she seems to be slowing down again.

Hanka Kupfernagel in a pre-ride
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

16:33 CST   
Italy's Cantele and Spain's Sanchis are at the front. Kupfernagel was having some difficulties at the back, but is now moving up again. Her chain had fallen off and she repaired it herself.

16:34 CST   
Emma Pooley of Great Britain moves into the lead work. Last year she finished in the Top Ten in both the time trial and road race at the Worlds. In her spare time, by the way, she is working on her PhD. in soil engineering.

16:35 CST   
Pooley has in fact pulled a few meters away – but Worrack leads the chase to pull her back.

16:36 CST   
Now Modesta Vzesniauskaite of Lithuania has moved to the front of things.

16:38 CST   
Susanne Ljungskog is right behind the Lithuanian. At the back, more and more riders are dropping back.

Oh dear, Boyarskaya is not sure which way to go! She had to practically stop and ask directions at the intersection!

16:39 CST   
It looks as if Boyarskaya has gone the right direction but the motorcycle has gone the wrong way. That doesn't speak well for the organiser – there was nothing to block off the side street or indicate that it was not the course.

16:40 CST    37.4km/89km to go
The lead is being mentioned as 1:54. Can it really be that large?

16:41 CST   
No, the lead is 1:06.

16:42 CST   
And now we are told it is 59 seconds....

16:43 CST   
Boyarskaya has it good right now, she is in the long (and dry!) tunnel.

16:44 CST   
The peloton is also in the tunnel. The lead has fallen to 45 seconds.

16:46 CST   
Boyarskaya descends as quickly as she dares in this weather, trying to build up her lead as much as possible.

16:48 CST   
Thorburn leads the field downwards in the pouring rain. Kupfernagel is safely back in the pack, and in fact, near the front.

16:49 CST   
Thorburn is closely followed by Jolanta Polikeviciute (Lithuania) and Christiane Soeder of Austria.

16:51 CST   
Third wheel is now Yulia Martisova of Russia. At the other end of the field, Longo is still managing to keep in touch with the peloton, but not much more than that.

Boyarskaya's lead is now 53 seconds.

16:53 CST    101.4km/25km to go
The field is almost at the finish line again. Then they will have one more round before we know who our 2008 gold medal winner is.

16:54 CST   
Boyarskaya goes through the toll booth, again without paying, and heads up a short but steep climb to the finish line.

16:55 CST   
Alexandra Wrubleski (Canada) and a GB rider have gone down on those wet white lines on the road. The Canadian has to put her chain back on before she takes off again.

16:56 CST   
Pooley takes off again as she approaches the finish line and builds up a slight lead. The peloton comes across the line some 38 seconds behind Boyarskaya.

16:57 CST   
Two Team Columbia team-mates lead the chase: Beltman (Netherlands) and Wood (Australia).

And Pooley has nearly caught Boyarskaya.

16:59 CST    104.4km/22km to go
Pooley powers her way along, and is now joined by Tatiana Guderzo (Italy). They have a bit to go before they catch the Russian.

Tatiana Guderzo racing with her trade team in July
Photo ©: WomensCycling.net
(Click for larger image)

17:00 CST   
And now they have her. Will she abe able to stay with these two time trial specialists?

17:00 CST   
Arndt leads the peloton, with GB's Nicole Cook right behind her.

17:02 CST    105.4km/21km to go
The women have now been underway for just over three hours. Boyarskaya lets the other two do all the lead work in the escape group. The peloton is falling apart now as Arndt leads the chase.

17:03 CST   
Kupfernagel is one of the ones who have been dropped. There are maybe 20-30 left in the main group?

17:04 CST   
And the escape is nearly over. The field will catch them any minute.

Mechanical for Amber Neben, but she is going again.

17:05 CST   
That's it, all together again. And the next attack comes directly. But doesn't get anywhere.

Carrara has now dropped out.

17:06 CST   
Kate Bates is also out now. She and Carrara were about 7 minutes down when they dropped out. They did a lot of work early.

17:08 CST   
Zulfiya Zabirova of Kazakhstan has pulled out to a short lead, maybe five seconds.

17:10 CST   
Zabirova, who rides for Bigla, is a time trial specialist who likes the wind. But Arndt is determined to bring her back, and is supported by German team-mate Worrack.

They have her now.

17:10 CST   
Soeder of Austria is the next to give it a try.

17:11 CST   
She doesn't get away either.

17:12 CST   
Worrck goes, followed by the Swedish riders. Can't really call it a break, though.

17:14 CST   
All together again. Oops, two more try and don't get anywhere. Another nasty crash for a Chinese rider. She went down in the gully too. It is Meng of China. Fortunately she is up again. It is amazing that there aren't more crashes today.

17:14 CST   
Who is leading now? None other than Jeannie Longo!

17:15 CST   
She is closely followed by Zabirova.

17:16 CST   
Well, that didn't work.

There is now a group of about 5 with a few metres lead.

17:17 CST   
Arndt has fallen back. Cooke leads things now, followed by Ljungskog.

17:18 CST   
Armstrong and Pooley dropped. Vzesniauskaite takes over the lead, and another attack! It is Guderzo.

17:18 CST   
She pulls slowly but surely away.

17:19 CST    113.6km/12.8km to go
About 10 seconds for the Italian.

17:19 CST   
22 riders left in the group but if it goes on like this, that number will get smaller.

17:21 CST   
Soeder is leading the chase, still about 7 seconds.

17:22 CST   
We now a four-rider strong chasing group of Soeder, Johansson, Villumsen and Cooke. That's a strong group!

17:22 CST   
The four will soon catch the Italian. This could be the decisive group.

17:24 CST   
11 seconds now for the five in front, who aren't really working together.

17:25 CST    119.4km/7km to go
16 seconds now.

17:26 CST   
Arndt has caught up with the chasing field. Will she or any others be able to make up those 16 seconds to the leaders?

17:27 CST    121.4km/5km to go
The five leaders appear to be working together now. They will have to if they hope to stay away.

17:28 CST    122.4km/4km to go
Arndt again leads the way, with Worrack right behind her. 15 seconds. The five leaders can't seem to cooperate.

17:29 CST   
Cooke leads the small group. The chasers can see them now.

17:29 CST    124.4km/2km to go
Will they be caught at the last minute?

17:31 CST    125.4km/1km to go
Cooke still leads the group, under the 1 km marker. Arndt is doing all she can to catch them but it won't happen.

17:31 CST   
Now Cooke has problems. Soeder leads the way up the steep climb.

17:32 CST   
200 metres and Cooke is in the lead again.

17:32 CST   
Cooke ahead and wins!

17:33 CST   
The field comes in some ten seconds later.

17:35 CST   
The silver medal goes to Johansson of Sweden, with bronze for Italy's Guderzo.

Big hugs for Cooke from her overjoyed team-mates.

17:35 CST   
Well, the rain-race turned out be a very exciting one. Thanks for joining us. Come back on Wednesday when we hit this same course for the women's and men's time trials.

Provisional results

1 Nicole Cooke (Great Britain)
2 Emma Johansson (Sweden)
3 Tatiana Guderzo (Italy)
4 Christiane Soeder (Austria) 
5 Linda Melanie Villumsen Serup (Denmark)

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