Image courtesy Gallo images
Obstructed by a crash and a puncture, lead rider Ashleigh Moolman said the South African trio were disappointed with their results in the women’s cycling road race at the London Olympics on Sunday.
Moolman finished in 16th place, stuck in a large chasing group, while Joanna van de Winkel was 28th at the back of the same pack.
Robyn de Groot crossed the line outside the time limit.
“Going in we were going for a big one – going for a medal – and that was always going to be hard,” said Moolman.
“Particularly being a small nation and less experienced, but it’s all or nothing at the Olympics.
“Once you’re selected you become an Olympian. After that, all that counts is a medal.”
Sidelined first by a puncture, then a crash with 85km to go in the 140km race, De Groot was unable to play much part in the team effort.
“It was a silly crash due to loss of momentum at the foot of the hill, with people falling sideways,” De Groot said.
“But I lost my strength trying to get back to the bunch.”
Initially working together, Moolman and Van de Winkel were seldom out of the top dozen, covering every move at the front of the lead peloton.
“It was very fast with a few crashes early on,” Van de Winkel said.
“I went down in one and had to chase hard to recover, which took time.
“Conditions were not good. It was very cold.”
Moolman was prominent in the lead group, but she did not counter when Russian Olga Zabelinskaya slipped away on the Box Hill descent, followed by Lizzie Armitstead of Great Britain, American Shelly Olds and Marianne Vos of the Netherlands.
Having opened 45 seconds on the peloton, and losing Olds to a puncture, Vos held off Armitstead in a sprint for gold in three hours, 35 minutes, 29 seconds (3:35.29).
“Any time Vos gets up front it’s going to be dangerous,” Moolman said.
“Once she gets a gap she’s hard to catch. I’m really disappointed to miss that move.
“I was up front all day and I was feeling strong, so it’s just disappointing.”
The 26-year-old South African road champion admitted she faced a stiff challenge in the women’s time trial on Wednesday.
“It’s all about recovery now,” Moolman said.
“Time trials is a specialist sport, so it’s an opportunity to build my experience.
“I’m against the best there is, so a top 10 would be good.”