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The Olympic cycling time trials were the ultimate story of redemption

Annemiek van Vleuten of the Netherlands and Slovenia’s Primož Roglič both found the glory they were looking for in Tokyo.

CYCLING-ROAD-OLY-2020-2021-TOKYO-PODIUM Photo by GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images

When Annemiek van Vleuten crossed the finish line in the women’s road race on Sunday, she thought she had won gold only to later find out that Austria’s Anna Kiesenhofer had actually arrived one minute earlier. A silver medal at the Olympics is still a massive accomplishment, but at least initially it felt like a disappointment for one of the pre-game favorites.

During Wednesday’s time trial, however, there was no doubt about the result: van Vleuten had won gold. No questions asked.

Actually, there was one, asked by the Dutch cyclist herself.

”I’m No. 1, right?“ she said after her run.

Mastering the 22.1-kilometer course in 30:13.49, van Vleuten finished nearly a minute ahead of Switzerland’s Marlen Reusser. Anna van der Breggen, a teammate of van Vleuten, finished third.

For the 38-year-old it was the ultimate redemption story. Not only had she lost gold in one of the biggest upset stories in cycling history three days earlier, she also lost a chance at an Olympic title five years ago when she crashed en route to winning gold in the Rio road race.

Now, she finally overcame the hump.

“I knew after the road race I was in super great shape,” van Vleuten said after the event. “Everyone was talking about everything else. Nobody was talking about my performance. I shut off social media. I didn’t listen to anything. I just took the message that me and my coach had achieved the best shape possible.”

Van Vleuten was not the only time trialst to exorcise some demons on Wednesday. Slovenia’s Primož Roglič did the same.

Less than a year ago, Roglič was well on his way to win his first ever Tour de France. Entering the final time trial on the penultimate day of the tour, all he needed to do was stay ahead of second-placed Tadej Pogačar. With Pogačar 57 seconds behind there was just no way the reigning Slovenian time trial champion could lose against his compatriot, right?

Right?!

Unfortunately for Roglič, Pogačar delivered a time trial run for the ages and eventually ended up winning the Tour de France by 59 seconds Roglič, meanwhile, was left defeated and entered a challenging 10-month stretch.

He did manage to win his second Vuelta a España, but his quest at finally winning a Tour de France was denied just a few days into this year’s edition. Roglič was involved in a crash on the third stage that left him looking like this:

Roglič was back on the bike the very next day, but he was later forced to abandon the race.

Not even a month later, however, he reigns supreme at the Olympic Games. His post-race emotions speak for themselves:

Roglič won the men’s time trial on Wednesday in 55 minutes and 4.19 seconds. Second-placed Tom Dumoulin of the Netherlands lost more than a minute on the 44.2-kilometer course, followed by Rohan Dennis of Australia.

Both Roglič and van Vleuten won their races in dominant fashion. More importantly, they can finally celebrate after all of their recent disappointment.

And there is no Anna Kiesenhofer waiting to spoil the party his time.