(CNN) -- Lizzie Armitstead won the first medal of the London Games for the hosts but had to settle for silver behind Dutchwoman Marianne Vos in cycling's women's road race Sunday.
Vos proved the stronger in the sprint for the line on The Mall to win her second Olympic gold medal after claiming the track points title in Beijing four years ago.
Russia's Olga Zabelinskaya, the third member of a decisive breakaway, took the bronze.
Defending Olympic champion Nicole Cook of Britain finished in the main bunch, just under 30 seconds behind the trio.
With American Shelley Olds, the medalists took their chance after the second circuit of Box Hill and they quickly opened a good advantage.
Olds dropped away after a puncture and with the peloton failing to eat into the lead of the breakaway, it all boiled down to a sprint finish after 140km racing in mostly wet conditions.
The 25-year-old Vos, runner-up for the past five years in the world road race championships, finally went one better as she had too much strength for Armitstead.
"We gave everything in the breakaway. There were so many people. It was The Mall. It was like a wall of sound. I just sprinted to the line," Vos told gathered reports.
"After Beijing, that was the only thing that was on my mind for four years. Now that it's happened, it's incredible. Now the gold is mine."
Armitstead's performance was a welcome boost for home fans after the bitter disappointment of Mark Cavendish's failure to win the men's road race Saturday.
The 23-year-old from northern England received superb support from teammate Emma Pooley on the testing two laps of Box Hill and took her chance when it emerged.
"I'm a bit shocked. I was so glad I committed to that break, but I should have jumped early, but never mind," she said.
"We discussed before what happened in the men's race that once a group is committed in front, it's hard to be in the back.
"It's the most special thing I've experienced in my life. It's crazy and so inspiring," she added.
The cycling events continue Wednesday with time trial events for men and women.