Dutch Cyclist Anna Van Der Breggen Wins Gold in Women's Road Race Cycling | NBC 6 South Florida
2016 Rio Olympic Games

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Dutch Cyclist Anna Van Der Breggen Wins Gold in Women's Road Race Cycling

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    Anna van der Breggen of the Netherlands celebrates after winning the Women's Road Race on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Fort Copacabana on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

    Anna van der Breggen made it back-to-back golds for the Netherlands in the women's Olympic road race. 

    It took everything she had to do it. 

    Van der Breggen joined Sweden's Emma Johansson and Elisa Longo Borghini in a frantic race to catch American rival Mara Abbott, sweeping her up within sight of the finish line, then had just enough kick to win the sprint along Copacabana Beach on Sunday. 

    Van der Breggen thrust her arms in the air as thousands of fans lining the course roared approval, and a light mist that had been threatening for hours finally began to fall. 

    It would have taken a downpour to dampen her spirits.

    She was greeted moments later by Marianne Vos, who won the race at the London Olympics in 2012, the compatriots wrapping themselves in the Dutch flag. 

    Abbott coasted across in fourth in another shattering disappointment for the United States, which entered the race as arguably the strongest team. American rider Shelley Olds was in position to medal four years ago before a puncture on the run-in to the finish line cost her. 

    In Abbott's case, it was simply a matter of tired legs. The climbing specialist shattered most of the field on the hard climb of Vista Chinesa, then stayed upright when Dutch race leader Annemiek van Vleuten, 33, crashed on the same ruthless downhill that claimed the leaders of the men's race. 

    Van Vleuten was conscious but there were no other reports on her health. The Dutch cycling federation tweeted that she was "OK" but would have more information soon.

    Johansson added another silver to her one from Beijing in 2008. Borghini matched Imelda Chiappa's performance at the 1996 Atlanta Games for the best finish by an Italian woman. 

    World champion Lizzie Armitstead was among those dropped by Abbott on the final climb, though she chased hard enough to finish fifth. Katarzyna Niewiadoma of Poland was sixth, and Vos finished ninth — a strong performance after her 10-month hiatus because of injury. 

    Unlike the men's race, the women stuck together the first 100 kilometers, each attack quickly shut down by the powerhouse teams trying to set up their leaders. 

    Lotte Kopecky of Belgium spent time off the front early, and Britain's Emma Pooley tried in vain to animate the race. But the field was together again after two trips of the Grumari Circuit, where jarring cobblestones caused so much trouble in the men's race. 

    Seven riders sprung away in sight of Vista Chinesa, the hard climb and harrowing descent that helped crown Greg Van Avermaet a day earlier. Among them was Vos, Trixi Worrack of Germany and former road race world champion Pauline Ferrand-Prevot of France.

    The Americans missed the break and were forced to work hard to bring it back. 

    Abbott accomplished it almost single-handedly, the world's top climber quickly catching them as the race tilted uphill. She also succeeded in splintering the peloton, pushing a tempo so strong that Vos and Armitstead — the silver medalist at the London Games — slowly dropped off the pace. 

    With stretches approaching 20 percent in grade, Abbott and van Vleuten shook loose the survivors of the first part of the climb and turned it into a two-woman race on the slick downhill.

    On the last tight curve, van Vleuten locked up her wheels and crashed hard off the road. 

    Abbott cautiously navigated the same corner where van Vleuten lay unmoving, then realized just 10 kilometers of flats to Fort Copacabana stood in her way of gold. She got into her handlebar drops, sucked down one last energy gel and began to accelerate through streets lined with fans. 

    Three riders, working together behind her, caught Abbott just before the finish line.