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Armitstead's road race silver gives GB first medal

ESPN staff
July 29, 2012 « London Olympics 2012 LIVE! | Chartbeat test »
Lizzie Armitstead picked up silver © Getty Images
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Team GB picked up their first medal of London 2012 as Lizzie Armitstead snatched silver in a pulsating conclusion to the women's cycling road race.

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In a sprint finish contested in treacherous conditions, with heavy rain a near-constant throughout the race, Netherlands' Marianne Vos took gold, while Olga Zabelinskaya of Russia grabbed bronze.

Armitstead's team-mates - Nicole Cooke, the 2008 Olympic champion, Lucy Martin and Emma Pooley - laid the platform, with Pooley making a particularly decisive contribution.

There were a host of ill-fated breakaway attempts in the early and middle parts of the race, most of which came from the Dutch riders. Although no-one was able to streak clear, the bursts did serve to spread out the field - and the pace was too hot for Lucy Martin to handle as she dropped off the back of the peloton. It was Pooley who stationed herself at the head of the pack and had the responsibility for reeling in those who surged out front.

The first effective breakaway came from Zabelinskaya with around 40km remaining, and she was joined by Armitstead, Shelley Olds and Vos in building the biggest gap of the race, which was ultimately too significant for the chasers to bridge.

As the rain lashed down, Olds dropped off from the leading group just inside the 30km mark, leaving just three frontrunners incentivised by a guaranteed medal if they could stay at the head of the action. They worked together to shoulder the burden as the stripped-down peloton continued to lose decisive ground, with around 40 seconds the gap with 5km remaining.

Colin Oates summed Khashbaater Tsagaanbaater © Getty Images
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They meandered towards an inevitable closing sprint, with Zabelinskaya left behind, and Vos and Armitstead contesting the final few seconds. Despite Armitstead's brave effort, it was Vos, a former road race world champion, who crossed first in a breathtaking finish.

"It's just really strange," Armitstead said to the BBC. "I'm a bit shocked. My team-mates did exactly what was asked. I needed an aggressive race."

GB women's hockey team got their London 2012 campaign off to a flying start with a 4-0 win over Japan. Two goals from Alex Danson and one each from Sarah Thomas and Sally Walton gave the home side a comfortable half-time lead which they never looked in danger of relinquishing.

NBA star Luol Deng was unable to inspire GB men's basketball to victory on his Olympic debut. The Chicago Bulls player scored 26 points as the hosts lost to Russia 95-75.

GB men's handball team suffered a heavy 44-15 defeat to reigning gold medallists France, while the water polo team lost 13-4 to Romania in their opening group match.

Colin Oates shocked Khashbaater Tsagaanbaater, the bronze medallist in Beijing, in judo action before suffering defeat in the quarter-finals.

Ben Ainslie, the three-time sailing gold medallist, placed second in his first race of the Games.

Britain's defending rowing champions, Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter, reached the semi-finals of the lightweight men's double sculls.

Welsh boxer Fred Evans was too good for Ilyas Abbadi of Algeria in the men's welterweight round of 32.

In women's team event archery, GB were knocked out in the first round by Russia. The trio of Alison Williamson, Naomi Folkard and Amy Oliver looked on course for victory but their opponents finished the stronger to win through 215-208.

GB's men produced a valiant display in the volleyball but ultimately Bulgaria proved too strong at Earls Court. Bulgaria, ninth in the world standings, overcame their 92nd-ranked opponents 25-18 25-20 26-24. GB's women's pair Zara Dampney and Shauna Mullin fought from a set down to beat the Canadian team of Annie Martin and Marie-Andree Lessard. Having lost a close first set, Dampney and Mullin, cheered on by a partisan crowd at Horse Guards Parade, got back on level terms before sealing a 17-21 21-14 15-13 victory.

Badminton mixed doubles pair Chris Adcock suffered their second defeat in as many Group A matches, losing 11-21 21-17 21-14 to German duo Michael Fuchs and Birgit Michels.

In table tennis, Joanna Parker was outclassed by Germany's Kristin Silbereisen at the second-round stage - but Paul Drinkhall beat Yang Zi 4-1 in the second round.

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