She started the women’s race in Glasgow as the favourite, but that only made it harder to win. There was a strong Australian team, in particular, but the performance of the English team was brilliant, from Laura Trott and Dani King’s efforts early in the race, to Emma Pooley’s late set-up before Armitstead delivered the killer blow, attacking and winning alone, just as Geraint Thomas would do later in the men’s race.
The cherry on the cake was a silver medal for Pooley, who counter-attacked and also arrived on Glasgow Green alone. It was Pooley’s second silver medal after Thursday’s time trial in her final outing before retirement, and the emotion of the occasion overcame her as she finished.
The weather was not quite as atrocious as it was for the men’s race later on, but it was wet – and that suited Armitstead. “I love the rain,” she said. “I was just thinking of my family. When the rain started I knew they’d all be thinking ‘Yes, this is good for Lizzie’. A little smile came on my face and I just thought yes, this is perfect.
“It was always the game plan [to attack alone]. And I thought if it doesn’t work I’d go again on Montrose Street. The field whittled down like I said and I just thought actually I’ll go earlier and I’ve got more breathing space. I’m happy I went when I did.”
To Pooley, she said: “A massive, massive thank you. Cycling is a beautiful sport, it’s a team sport, and others often get overlooked so I’m so happy that Emma got silver too.”
Another standout performance was Katie Archibald’s seventh place. The 20-year-old’s preparation for the Games was focused mainly on the track and it was rewarded with a bronze medal in the points race. But she has followed a big shift on the track with two strong rides on the road, also finishing fifth in Thursday’s time trial.
“Mentally I just said to myself I’m training for the track, that’s where I want to get results,” said Archibald. “I didn’t put a lot of expectation on myself for the time trial and the road race. Maybe I could’ve been a bit smarter with targeting the time trial but everything’s better in hindsight. But I knew the road race was just going to be a case of how deep can you dig.”
The answer, as she responded to the attacks of professional riders who race at a much higher level than she is used to, was pretty deep. And, considering the calibre of the opposition, Archibald said she was “really happy. It was when I was bridging and there was an Australian on my wheel, I thought, bugger it, I’m just going to have to bring her across.”
Finally she ran out of gas – she suffered an “atomic blow” on the final lap, she said later – but seventh was a more than respectable placing. “It’s never nice to finish getting dropped essentially but that’s the first time I’ve been dropped and I was seventh,” she said.
Archibald is so versatile that she could target track or road. So which will it be? “I have this childish way of looking at it in that I really like winning,” she said. “So far I’ve had quite a lot of success on the track and so you ask me and I go: ‘Oh yeah, track, thrilling’.
“I really like the track and the tactics of points racing and the manic things running through your head. But maybe, advancing through the higher levels of road racing, that will become more apparent. Hopefully next year I can get up a gear, up a level and have a bit more experience in this calibre of race.”