Forgotten 500/1 Austrian Cyclist Anna Kiesenhofer Wins Gold in 2020 Olympics

Tokyo Olympics 2020 Cycling

The 2020 Olympics was a funny one in a number of ways, not least because it was held in 2021 due to the covid pandemic and lockdowns the year before.

At one point it looked like it might not go ahead at all, but when it did, there were some surprises in store, and one of them was Anna Kiesenhofer’s victory in the women’s road race.

An Austrian native, Kiesenhofer was representing her country without any professional training – she didn’t even have a coach let alone a team to train with – and as such was written off as a no hoper for the women’s road race in Tokyo.

The bookies gave her odds of 500/1, although we don’t know if anyone actually bet on her, but bettors certainly wouldn’t miss her name after he achievements this day.

Kiesenhofer herself had said she would be thrilled with a top 25 finish, so even she wasn’t expecting to win.

But win she did, and here is how.

How the Race Was Won

Anne Kiesenhofer 2020 Win

Credit: Marc Flickr

It seems that being invisible might have been Anna Kiesenhofer’s secret weapon in the race.

The Austrian broke away from the main peloton early in the race, opting to ride solo for the majority of the competition. Her decision to make an early breakaway proved to be pivotal, catching many of the favourites off-guard and creating a significant gap between herself and the chasing group.

She wasn’t alone though, two other cyclists were with her to begin with, Omer Shapira and Anna Plichter, although they later dropped back and were caught by the peloton. This would be an important factor later, because after catching Shapira and Plichter, those riders in the peloton now thought they were in the lead.

Using all of her strength and endurance, Kiesenhofer maintained her lead for the whole race, navigating the challenging course with determination and focus and later stating that her legs felt ‘completely empty’ by the end.

She crossed the finish line a full 75 seconds ahead of everyone else.

But unbeknownst to Anna, the rider in second, heavily tipped favourite for the win Annemiek van Vleuten, had no idea she was ahead of her. Everyone had simply forgotten that Kiesenhofer had taken off like that at the start, so when van Vleuten crossed the line in second place, she celebrated as though she had won gold.

Even in interviews after the race, other riders were congratulating van Vleuten – it took a while for the truth to be known.

Despite being a relative unknown in comparison to some of the more established cyclists, Anna Kiesenhofer demonstrated exceptional tactical awareness and pushed herself harder than she ever had before to grasp the sensational win, stunning the cycling community in the process.

She was Austria’s only entrant in the race, claiming gold for her country for the first time since 2004, and for the first time in cycling since 1896.