Evelyn Stevens of the United States (R) leads the pack during the Women's Road Race Road Cycling Day 2 of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 29.
Wall Street investment banker-turned-Olympic cyclist Evelyn Stevens finished 24th in the women's cycling race in London Sunday, 27 seconds behind gold-medal winner Marianna Vos of the Netherlands.
Vos came in at 3:35:29, while Britan's Elizabeth Armitstead finished just a fraction of a second later for a silver medal, and Russia's Olga Zabelinskaya came in at 3:35:31 for bronze.
Stevens finished with a time of 3:35:56, and was the first American to cross the line. Kristin Armstrong of Boise, Idaho and Amber Neben of Irvine, Calif. placed 35th and 36th, respectively.
Stevens, who started riding in Central Park in 2008, told NBC 4 New York ahead of her trip to London she was thrilled simply to be representing the U.S.
"To live out your dream and your passion, for me, that's just enough as it is," she said.
The Dutch Vos powered through a driving rainstorm on The Mall on Sunday, sprinting clear of her two rivals and winning the women's road race.
Armitstead's silver was the home nation's first medal of the London Games.
"It was a hard race today with the weather conditions," Vos said, "but then I felt good. We made the race hard with the Dutch squad, early attacks, and that was the plan."
A former Olympic gold medalist in track cycling, Vos had grown accustomed in the past few years to finishing just off the top step in major races. She's been silver medalist five straight years at the world championships and had never stood on the podium in an Olympic road race.
Perhaps fittingly, the clouds broke and the sun shone for the medal ceremony.
"I knew this was another race," Vos said, "and you have all the chances, and you don't have to think about the years before. During the race I felt, well, maybe this might be the day."
"She is a machine," Zabelinskaya said.
Armitstead's silver medal should serve to buoy cycling fans in Britain. They came out Saturday expecting to see Mark Cavendish win the men's road race, but the powerhouse British team that includes Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins finished with a whimper.
"Marianne Vos was the one to watch and I knew that before the race," Armitstead said. "I played my tactics and thankfully it came off."
While the crowds Sunday didn't nearly reach the estimated 1 million fans who watched the men's race, they were still packed deep along the 87-mile route.
The riders started off from The Mall during one of the many showers that plagued the entire race, and passed Buckingham Palace before heading south of London.
Estonian rider Grete Treier was among several riders who crashed on the narrow, slick roads in the opening miles. There were also a number of flat tires, including one that slowed reigning time-trial silver medalist Emma Pooley of Britain.
Ellen van Dijk, the national time-trial champion from the Netherlands, spent the first half of the race trying to open up gaps on the field. Every time she bounced off the front, though, a handful of riders were positioned right behind with orders to bring her back.
Just as in the men's race, Box Hill was where the race took shape.
The first of two trips up the climb in the Surrey countryside broke the field into two groups. One of the riders dropped was Nicole Cooke, the defending gold medalist from Britain, who managed to race back to the peloton but was spent by the time the riders started the climb again.
That's where Vos made her first big move, and she was quickly joined by Armitstead. They went clear, along with Sweden's Emma Johansson and American rider Shelley Olds, the group of four reaching more than 40 mph on the quick descent.
Their gap was 18 seconds with about 25 miles remaining, and working together the group managed to extend their advantage as another round of rain pounded the course.
Olds dropped away after puncturing her tire at the most inopportune time, and the three riders remaining in the break carried on. Vos did most of the work at the front, pushing the gap to more than 30 seconds while a field led by the Italians and Americans frantically gave chase.
The wet roads didn't help their cause.
Every rider who moved to the front had to slow dramatically around the city's tight, narrow corners, and their lost momentum allowed the breakaway to build its lead.
It reached 53 seconds as crowds choked the run-in to Buckingham Palace, and by that point it was clear the race would be decided among the three. Vos began her sprint with the finish line in sight, and Armitstead didn't have enough left to chase her down.
"With three, you know you have to keep on pushing to the finish, because it was our biggest chance for gold, or for a medal," Vos said. "I knew Lizzie was fast on the line, so I was not dead-on confident, but I knew I had a chance, and I knew I had a big chance."
A chance to forget all those silvers and go for gold.
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