Cycling: Armitstead lays down Games marker but Cavendish left behind


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The Independent Online

A 40km solo break earned reigning British champion Lizzie Armitstead her first big win of 2012 in the women's Gent-Wevelgem one-day Classic yesterday, a victory she says bodes well for London 2012, her main objective of the season.

Despite not feeling 100 per cent before the race, Armitstead struck out alone on the second of four tough cobbled climbs, and fended off the pack single-handed for another 80 minutes to claim a hugely impressive win.

"It's a great start to my Olympic year," said Armitstead after victory on a course with some similarities to the London road-race route – "very motivating to win alone after such a long break. It's also wonderful to be able to win in the national jersey, something very special for me."

Meanwhile, Britain's Mark Cavendish came unstuck in the men's version of the same Classic, one of the Sky rider's big objectives for 2012. Following his defeat in the Milan-San Remo last weekend, the reigning world champion was caught out when the main Gent-Wevelgem bunch split mid-race over the crucial Kemmelberg and Monteberg climbs. Despite making a courageous lone counter-attack, the Manxman had lost too much ground and ended up 58th. Belgian star Tom Boonen took an immensely popular home win, for a third time.

In a packed weekend of racing, defending Tour de France champion Cadel Evans proved – for the first time in 2012 –that he is on track to defend his title this summer with an impressive win in the two-day Criterium International in Corsica, which is considered a mini-Tour de France for its format of a flat stage, a time-trial and a trek through the high mountains complete with summit finish. The veteran Australian took over the lead on Saturday with a time-trial victory by less than a second's margin over compatriot Mick Rogers. Evans then finished fourth in yesterday's summit finish at L'Ospedale, enough to secure overall victory.