Cyclists in action during the women's Road Cycling race of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Fort Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 07 August 2016.

Anna van der Breggen delivered the Netherlands its first gold medal of the Rio Olympics on Sunday in a nail-biting finish to the women's cycling road race, which saw her team-mate Annemiek van Vleuten injured in a nasty fall.

Van Vleuten had been in the lead when she fell while going around a rain-slicked corner in the treacherous descent to Rio, where Italy's Vincenzo Nibali and Colombia's Sergio Henao had also crashed out in Saturday's men's race. Nibali suffered a fractured collarbone and Henao was reported to have fractured part of his pelvis.

Van Vleuten was taken to a Rio hospital where "severe concussion and three small fractures in her lumbar spine" were diagnosed, according to the Dutch cycling federation KNWU.

"I am now in the hospital with some injuries and fractures, but will be fine," Van Vleuten tweeted. "Most of all super disappointed after best race of my career."

Van der Breggen said the other riders were "shocked" to pass van Vleuten, who lay motionless on the ground after taking a head-first spill off her bicycle and hitting her back on a concrete border lining the road, around 12 kilometres from the finish line.

Swedish cyclist Emma Johansson, who ended up taking silver, encouraged van der Breggen to pedal on by telling her "just do it for Annemiek," the Dutch champion said.

"After the men's race, ... we were all warned that we need to take care of that descent," van der Breggen said. "Of course, if you are riding in front, then maybe you take too much risk. I don't know. It's still a bike race and everything can happen, so it's maybe just bad luck that it happened to her."

Johansson called the crash "horrendous."

US cyclist Mara Abbott then took over the lead, but van der Breggen teamed up with Johansson and Italy's Elisa Longo Borghini to chase her down. Abbott ran out of steam just before the finish line on Copacabana beach and finished fourth, behind bronze winner Longo Borghini.

Van der Breggen, Johansson and Borghini all clocked the same time of 3 hours, 51 minutes, 27 seconds in the 137-kilometre race.

It is the first Olympics for van der Breggen, who has been competing since she was 8 years old, inspired by her older brothers.

British world champion Lizzie Armitstead had been a favourite in the competition, but lost precious time at its windswept start after having to change bicycles, reportedly because of a puncture. The 27-year-old finished fifth.

"I'm happy with the tactic I had, I just simply wasn't good enough at climbing, so I can be proud of the effort I did," Armitstead said.

She almost did not get to compete in Rio after missing three doping tests over the last year, but she successfully challenged one of them in the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

"It's been a very difficult couple of weeks," she said. "It was a victory to be here for me."

Armitstead had declared in a statement posted online on Wednesday that she is "a clean athlete" and that "it hurts me to consider anybody questioning my performances."

Latest news

Alphabet's self-driving car company sues Uber over alleged theft

Alphabet's self-driving car company Waymo said Thursday it was suing Uber and its subsidiary Otto for allegedly stealing its technology and infringing its patents.

US, Mexico take "important steps" even as Trump voices indifference

Top US and Mexican diplomatic and security officials met on Thursday in Mexico City, as President Donald Trump in Washington expressed ambivalence about relations with the United States' southern neighbour.

US Supreme Court's Ginsberg emphasizes value of free press

US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg expressed optimism about the political future of the United States despite the polarized and combative political atmosphere that has marked the fledgling presidency of Donald Trump.

Top Trump aide Bannon points to promises kept, media fight

Top White House strategist Steve Bannon said Thursday US President Donald Trump is keeping the promises he made during his campaign on issues from immigration to job creation.

Le Pen promises independent foreign policy, autonomous defence

Marine Le Pen promised Thursday that if elected president of France she would ensure it had a truly independent foreign policy as well as an autonomous capacity for self-defence.

Slovenia for ending lawsuits against Ljubljanska Banka

Croatia is infringing the memorandum of understanding signed with Slovenia in 2013 which they interpret differently, the Slovenian Embassy said on Thursday after a hearing at a Zagreb court in a suit which Croatia's PBZ bank filed against Slovenia's Ljubljanska Banka (LB) and Nova Ljubljanska Bank (NLB) over transferred foreign currency savings.

Marin Pucar appointed as new CEO in Podravka food concern

Marin Pucar is the new Management Board chairman of the Podravka food concern and will take the helm of the company after Zvonimir Mrsic's term expires at midnight on Thursday.

Croatian MEP says Moscow wants to influence in western Balkans

Croatian MEP Ivan Jakovcic said in an interview with the Montenegrin Pobjeda daily on Thursday that Moscow is trying to exploit the political forces in Montenegro and that Russia's meddling in Montenegro's internal affairs was "unacceptable behaviour."

New York Times launches brand campaign for 'The Truth' with Oscars ad

The New York Times is using Sunday's Academy Awards show to launch an advertising drive with an ad spot that capitalizes on President Donald Trump's confrontational relationship with the paper and other mainstream media.

Gambia charges former spy chief with murder of opposition leader

The former head of the Gambian national intelligence agency has been charged with the murder of an opposition youth leader who died in detention last year.

Dutch populist Wilders won't publicly campaign after security fiasco

The Dutch Party for Freedom (PVV) won't make public appearances in support of its election campaign after a security official assigned to protect party founder Geert Wilders was detained by police.

Peace Implementation Council Steering Board calls for defusing tensions in Bosnia

The Steering Board of the Peace Implementation Council in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) met on Thursday, expressing the international community's concern about the situation in the country and calling on local politicians to act rationally to prevent an escalation of the crisis after a motion was submitted to review an International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling in BiH's case against Serbia for genocide.