MEN’S ROAD RACE: An Unpopular Winner
The favourite for this event was clear from the start. It was the first day of the Olympic Games and hopes were high for the host nation for their first gold medal. The man they hoped to deliver it was Mark Cavendish (GBR), the current World Champion. Team GB’s race strategy was simple: get Cavendish to Buckingham Palace within striking distance and let the Manx Missile demonstrate his finishing speed. In short, they were repeating the strategy they had used in Copenhagen in 2011.
But there were three flaws with this plan: the first was everybody else in the Peloton knew it and where determined to not give Cavendish such an opportunity. The second was that this time the 27-year-old Brit only had four domestiques to pace him to the end, not seven. The third and final problem was the parcours; questions were being asked whether or not it was too hilly for the sprinter. In truth, the seven circuits of Box Hill was probably two too many for the sprinter.
What gave Cavendish – and the millions of British fans watching on the course and at home – so much hope, however, was the fact that this team was undoubtedly the best Britain had fielded at an Olympic Road Race, and clearly demonstrated the strides the UK has made in road racing.
The British team consisted of 2012 Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins and Tour runner-up Chris Froome (who were also preparing for the TT on Wednesday). They were joined by the experienced David Millar and National Champion Ian Stannard.
A pattern was set from start of the race when, after the riders had avoided an errant dog, a dangerous group of 12 men from as many countries jumped clear to form the first breakaway.
This group included…
Stuart O’Grady (AUS)
Janez Brajkovic (SLO)
Lieuwe Westra (NED)
Jurgen Roelandts (BEL)
Marco Pinotti (ITA)
Fumiyuki Beppu (JAP)
Denis Menchov (RUS)
Tim Duggan (USA)
Jonathan Castroviejo (ESP)
Michael Schar (SWI)
Alexander Kristoff (NOR)
Sungbaek Park (RKR)
With half the 250km distance completed, Team GB seemed comfortable at the front of the chasing group. Then the serious attacks began, on Box Hill, Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) broke away, Robert Gesink (NED), Martin Elmiger (SWI), Philippe Gilbert (BEL) and Greg Van Avermaet (BEL) soon joined with him.
This attack was caught on the descent, but then on the 5th ascent of the climb Nibali and Gilbert attacked again. This time they were joined by Lars Boom (NED), Jakob Fuglsang (DEN), Sylvain Chavanel (FRA), Gregory Rast (SWI), Andriy Grivko (UKR), Niki Terpstra (NED), Luca Paolini (ITA), Jack Bauer (NZL) and Taylor Phinney (USA). This new group eventually caught and merged with the original leading group.
The threat to Cavendish did not seem obvious, because the time gaps looked manageable, but the danger grew as his teammates appeared to burn themselves out chasing it down. They hoped that Andre Greipal’s German team would help them out; they had no intention of helping Cavendish. To make matters worse new, fresh riders managed to bridge the gap and infiltrate the leading group. This included Rigoberto Uran (COL), Fabian Cancellara (SWI), Luis Leon Sanchez (ESP), Alejandro Valverde (ESP) and Alexandr Vinokourov (KAZ).
With the final lap of Box Hill completed, the lead group was now thirty strong; it was Gilbert who was the first to attempt to spring clear, panic set in amongst the leading group. But Gilbert had gone too early.
Then Cancellara, the silver medallist in this event from Beijing, made a mistake on a corner coming out of Richmond Park, he crashed into the barrier and his race was done. The remaining leaders now started to eye each other and it was Vinokourov, who completed a two-year drugs ban in 2009, and Uran who grabbed the initiative with a smart burst through Putney.
In the last few hundred metres, Uran completely misjudged the sprint. Vinokourov made no such mistakes. It ended up being a comfortable win for the controversial Kazakh. On the top of Box Hill the feelings of the crowd were clear, a disappointed silence, cut only by a few murmurs of disquiet. This reaction was not caused by disappointment over the British performance. Its roots lied in disappoint that someone with Vino’s past had taken the Gold Medal. By the time the race reached The Mall, most had been hoping for a Columbian victory…
WOMEN’S ROAD RACE: A Popular Winner
The first hour of the race had been a relatively sedate ride out through south west London towards the Surrey hills. But the next two hours saw attack after attack, as riders from all the leading nations tried to break the race apart. The Dutch were particularly active. Were they setting up for an attack by Marianne Vos (NED).
Things seemed to be calming down for the long, fast drag back to London, when the big attack started. The break consisted of the unfancied Olga Zabelinskaya (RUS) broke clear. She was quickly followed by Lizzie Armitstead (GBR), Shelley Olds (USA) and Vos herself. The 4 riders started to work together in TTT mode, the four riders pulled out a lead, 12 seconds, and then 18, before stabilising at 25 as the peloton struggled to organise a chase.
The weather had been changeable all day, but as the riders approach Richmond Park, the heavens opened. Disaster struck for Olds, the American suffered a puncture and never managed to get back on terms with the rest of the breakaway. At one point, it seemed as if Zabelinskaya was hanging on by a thread as well, but as the miles clicked down back, she dug deep to do her bit for the Anglo-Dutch-Russian joint venture.
Despite this it was clear that the final sprint would be between Armitstead and Vos. Armitstead had a great turn of pace, but she was no match for the peerless Vos.
WOMEN’S ROAD INDIVIDUAL TIME TRIAL: Repeated Glory
Day 5, and it was time for the ITT’s, American Kristin Armstrong set about defending her Olympic Time Trial crown with a storming ride. Germany’s reigning World Champion Judith Arndt claimed Silver, while Russian Olga Zabelinskaya added another Bronze to her Bronze in the Road Race.
Armstrong dominated, recording the quickest time through the two intermediate splits on her way to a time of 37’35” over the 29km course, 15” faster than Arndt.
Just 10 days shy of her 39th birthday, her performance is all the more impressive given she retired in 2009 to have a son, and returned to competition only last year. As recently as May her chances of becoming only the second woman to defend an Olympic Time Trial title looked in doubt, as she broke her collarbone in a racing accident.
MEN’S ROAD INDIVIDUAL TIME TRIAL: Final Triumph After An Extraordinary Year
Then it was the turn of Bradley Wiggins (GBR), the 2012 Tour de France winner stopped the clock at 50’39” on the 44km course. This was a convincing 42” quicker than Germany’s World Champion Tony Martin (GER), and 68 seconds faster than his British team-mate and rival Chris Froome (GBR).
Bradley Wiggins’ had now won 7 Olympic Medals (4 Golds, a Silver and 2 Bronzes) give him one more than rowing great Sir Steve Redgrave. Wiggins declared that nothing in his sporting career
‘will ever top this now… That’s it. It will never, never get better than that.’
Wiggins had been marginally down on his German rival at the first time check at 9km, he did not panic. His body position, all important in this discipline, remained perfectly aerodynamic as he turned his pedals with unmatched efficiency and power.
By 18km, he was 11” up; at 29km, his lead was 23”. There was no catching him then, as he was roared home by a massive crowd. What was in doubt, though, was if the Kenyan-born Froome could claim a one-two finish to match the pair’s Tour de France exploits. But the impressive Martin, who has suffered two serious injuries this season, gritted his teeth to split the Team GB stars.
Taylor Phinney (USA) picked up a second fourth-place finish in London 2012’s road cycling events, an agonising return for the talented American, while defending champion Fabian Cancellara (SWI) could only manage seventh. He was clearly nursing an injury from Saturday’s crash. A special mention has to go to Luis Leon Sanchez (ESP). The unfortunate Spaniard, an outside medal hope, saw his chain snap as he accelerated away from the starting ramp, before puncturing a tyre out on the course.
CYCLING RESULTS AT THE XXX OLYMPIAD
MEN’S ROAD RACE
GOLD: Alexander Vinokourov (KAZ)
SILVER: Rigoberto Uran (COL)
BRONZE: Alexander Kristoff (NOR)
WOMEN’S ROAD RACE
GOLD: Marianne Vos (NED)
SILVER: Lizzie Armitstead (GBR)
BRONZE: Olga Zabelinskava (RUS)
MEN’S ROAD INDIVIDUAL TIME TRIAL
GOLD: Bradley Wiggins (GBR)
SILVER: Tony Martin (GER)
BRONZE: Chris Froome (GBR)
WOMEN’S ROAD INDIVIDUAL TIME TRIAL
GOLD: Kristin Armstrong (USA)
SILVER: Judith Arndt (GER)
BRONZE: Olga Zabelinskaya (RUS)
MEN’S INDIVIDUAL SPRINT
GOLD: Jason Kenny (GBR)
SILVER: Gregory Bauge (FRA)
BRONZE: Shane Perkins (AUS)
WOMEN’S INDIVIDUAL SPRINT
GOLD: Anna Meares (AUS)
SILVER: Victoria Pendleton (GBR)
BRONZE: Guo Shuang (CHN)
MEN’S TEAM SPRINT
GOLD: Philip Hindes (GBR), Chris Hoy (GBR), Jason Kenny (GBR)
SILVER: Gregory Bauge (FRA), Michael D’Almeida (FRA), Kevin Sireau (FRA)
BRONZE: Rene Enders (GER), Maximilian Levy (GER), Robert Forstemann (GER)
WOMEN’S TEAM SPRINT
GOLD: Kristina Vogel (GER) and Miriam Welte (GER)
SILVER: Gong Jinije (CHN) and Guo Shuang (CHN)
BRONZE: Kaarle McCulloch (AUS) and Anna Meares (AUS)
GOLD: Chris Hoy (GBR)
SILVER: Maximilian Levy (GER)
BRONZE: Simon Van Velthooven (NZL)
BRONZE: Teun Mulder (NED)
GOLD: Victoria Pendleton (GBR)
SILVER: Guo Shuang (CHN)
BRONZE: Lee Wai Sze (HKG)
MEN’S TEAM PURSUIT
GOLD: Ed Clancy (GBR), Geraint Thomas (GBR), Steven Burke (GBR) & Peter Kennaugh (GBR)
SILVER: Jack Bobridge (AUS), Glenn O’Shea (AUS), Rohan Dennis (AUS) & Michael Hepburn (AUS)
BRONZE: Sam Bewley (NZL), Aaron Gate (NZL), Marc Ryan (NZL), Jesse Sergent (NZL) & Westley Gough (NZL)
WOMEN’S TEAM PURSUIT
GOLD: Danielle King (GBR), Laura Trott (GBR) & Joanna Rowsell (GBR)
SILVER: Sarah Hammer (USA), Dotsie Bausch (USA) & Jennie Reed (USA)
BRONZE: Tara Whitten (CAN), Gillian Carleton (CAN) & Jasmin Glaesser (CAN)
GOLD: Lasse Norman Hansen (DEN)
SILVER: Bryan Coquard (FRA)
BRONZE: Ed Clancy (GBR)
GOLD: Laura Trott (GBR)
SILVER: Sarah Hammer (USA)
BRONZE: Annette Edmondson (AUS)
MEN’S CROSS-COUNTRY MOUNTAIN BIKING
GOLD: Jaroslav Kulhavy (CZE)
SILVER: Nio Schurter (SWI)
BRONZE: Marco Aurelio Fontana (ITA)
WOMEN’S CROSS-COUNTRY MOUNTAIN BIKING
GOLD: Julie Bresset (FRA)
SILVER: Sabine Spitz (GER)
BRONZE: Georgia Gould (USA)
GOLD: Maris Strombergs (LAT)
SILVER: Sam Willoughby (AUS)
BRONZE: Carlos Oquendo (COL)
GOLD: Mariana Pajon (COL)
SILVER: Sarah Walker (NZL)
BRONZE: Laura Smulders (NED)