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Lizzie Armitstead and TeamGB cyclists all together now
Lizzie Armitstead is adamant team unity and the potential to surprise will be strengths of Great Britain’s women in the Olympic road race on Sunday.
Britain have options in their four-rider team, with Otley star Armitstead joined by 2008 Olympic champion Nicole Cooke, Emma Pooley and Lucy Martin.
Following the World Championships last September, there was a public fall-out when Armitstead – having finished a disappointing seventh – accused fourth-placed Cooke of riding “for herself”. Armitstead had been the nominated leader.
The two insist the incident and comments are behind them and are optimistic of success in this weekend’s 140-kilometre road race, which features two ascents of Box Hill in Surrey.
Armitstead said: “I’m used to the team dynamics question but I can’t stress it enough – genuinely we will work as a team, I’m really confident in that fact.
“I’m looking forward to it. Other nations are looking at us and are worried about us, which is a good position to be in.
“There’s no obvious tactic for us. No-one’s going to underestimate Nicole Cooke or Emma Pooley or me – and then you’ve got Lucy, who potentially could surprise as well. I think we’ve got a well-rounded team.”
The tactical options Britain can deploy are seen as an advantage in a hectic race which is difficult to predict.
Britain favour a fast and aggressive approach to whittle down the contenders and should Armitstead be in the front group through Richmond Park and heading towards The Mall, she will be supported to go for the line.
“I have waves of nerves but the general feeling is excitement,” said 23-year-old Armitstead, who will be supported by Martin throughout the day.
“I’m just thankful it’s here now. I can’t change it. I’ve got the form I’ve got and I’ll just have to use it to the best of my ability on Sunday.
“I’m not sure what to expect. It’s my first Olympics and it’s a smaller bunch than I’ve ever ridden in before, but a more competitive bunch. All the best girls are there.
“It will be an interesting race. I’m happy enough to ride off instinct and not worry too much beforehand what’s going to happen.
“The harder the race, the better for me. I’ve got a fast finish but it helps if the race has been hard, especially over the climb.
“I can climb better than most sprinters can, so that would be ideal for me.”
Armitstead was a key component of the British team which helped Cooke to victory in the 2008 World Championships, just a few weeks after her Olympic triumph by the Great Wall of China.
The 29-year-old from Swansea has struggled for top form of late but is set to be given a free role in the race by women’s road coach Chris Newton, who will deploy six ‘spotters’ around the course to relay tactical information to his team.
Cooke said: “I’ve been thinking about this Olympics for a very long time. I’m happy with how my training’s gone and I’m just so excited.
“As the GB team, we’re perhaps not the favourites, but we’ve got a definite chance of winning or getting a medal. It’s very much game on.
“We’ve got four riders who could all take on the leadership role as the race develops and evolves. We know we can all rely on each other in the race. It’s a good position going into the race.”
Britain’s women compete on the second day of the Games and will tomorrow position themselves in front of the television at their Surrey hotel to watch Mark Cavendish go for gold – and for a final assessment of the route, which is expected to be lined by over one million people.
Cooke said: “We will watch the race, first of all to see how the guys go. We know Mark’s got an amazing chance, so we wouldn’t want to miss that.
“But also to try to take in some of the details of the course and make sure everything’s totally fresh.”