Monday 23 April 2018

Peloton take shine off Cavendish's gold plan

Vinokourov returns from drugs ban to spoil celebration day for home fans, writes Dion Fanning

The crowds had gathered across London and into the countryside. More than a million were waiting to see the second act of London's triumphant first weekend of the Games. Danny Boyle's opening ceremony had raised expectations and yesterday afternoon Mark Cavendish was expected to sprint along the Mall with Buckingham Palace behind him and claim gold. "That's the problem with sport," Seb Coe said afterwards, "unlike on Friday night, you don't know the ending."

The ending involved Alexandr Vinokourov and Rigoberto Uran tussling between themselves for gold. In part, this was because of Fabian Cancellara's crash about 15km from London. Cancellara's back wheel appeared to lock as he came round a right-hand turn and he crashed out of the race. He is a doubt to defend the time trial on Wednesday.

Instead it was Vinokourov who was the strongest, with the controversial Kazakh claiming gold. Vinokourov was banned for doping in 2007 and returned unrepentant in 2009.

At the age of 38, he will now retire with the gold medal, after blowing Cavendish -- who may question Britain's tactics -- and the others away.

"The bunch was really strong, we were really committed to bringing it back but they were going like motorbikes," Ireland's David McCann said afterwards. McCann was the best of the Irish, finishing 55th while Nicolas Roche was 89th and Dan Martin finished one place behind him.

For Cavendish, there was more disappointment and the sense that many had set out to stop him. "We didn't expect any help," he said. "The Australians just raced negatively and other teams were content that if they didn't win, we wouldn't win."

Vinokourov was the beneficiary but the disappointment was for the crowd whose excitement had touched most of the riders.

"It was a great day out, the atmosphere was incredible," McCann said. "It doesn't surprise me that there were a million people, they were five, six deep in places. It was great to see the support. There's a lot of cycling that's quite isolating, you're away on your own and you're doing your training by yourself so to come out and see a million people cheering and going crazy for your sport is really motivating."

There were plenty of Irish on the route but the crowds had mainly come for Bradley Wiggins and to cheer Cavendish.

The elevation of Bradley Wiggins to the front rank of British sportsmen was evident before the race began. The riders were introduced to Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles, before they were brought over to the roadside to be introduced to Wiggins' mother who was among spectators at the start.

If Sky's victory in the Tour de France had echoes of US Postal, then the British team had tried, as much as they could with a smaller team protecting Cavendish in this case, to copy Sky.

As the peloton concluded their laps of Box Hill, Britain led the chase to close down the breakaway groups, which included dangerous rivals like Belgium Philippe Gilbert and the Italian Vincenzo Nibali.

They had chased the breakaway group and without the team radios which had helped Sky suppress any revolts from within and without in the Tour de France -- the British team now hesitated with Wiggins going back to the team car for instructions.

By the time they were finished with the laps of Box Hill and beginning to consider the race into The Mall, everything appeared to be lined up for Cavendish to claim gold.

Gilbert had caught the breakaway group and embarked on a daring solo ride back into London. Gilbert was going all-in while Roche and Martin sat comfortably in the peloton. Britain thought they had control but it was the Spanish who closed Gilbert down, along with a large group that didn't include Cavendish and his men.

They had expected to catch them but the breakaway group was too big and when Cancellara went over the race demanded one more act of daring.

The crowds still cheered when Vinokourov and Uran cycled past Buckingham Palace and into the final straight. But it wasn't the winner they wanted to see.

Sunday Indo Sport

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