Great Britain’s Adam Yates narrowly missed out on a medal as the cycling events opened at the Tokyo Olympic Games on Saturday with the men’s road race, won by Richard Carapaz of Ecuador.
Yates was part of an eight-man group that sprinted for silver and bronze after Carapaz took the gold medal over a gruelling 234km course, by over a minute.
The British rider opened his sprint first but was caught and eventually finished ninth, with Belgium’s Wout van Aert taking silver and Slovenia’s Tadej Pogacar, who won the Tour de France this month, filling out the podium in third.
“There was a bit of a headwind on the final straight and with the guys there I was never going to win so I tried to go a little bit early on the other side,” explained Adam.
“But Van Aert opened up early and took everyone with him. I couldn’t have done much more so it’s a good day in the end.
“It was a really tough day. It was my first race back for a long time and I was cramping everywhere but we just did the best we could.”
It was a brave performance by Yates - a team mate of Carapaz with their professional road team Ineos Grenadiers - whose brother Simon finished in a second chasing group, coming over the line in 17th.
But it was a frustrating and painful day for veteran British rider Geraint Thomas, a double Olympic champion on the track in 2008 and 2012.
Having crashed out of the road race, while in a potential medal place at the road race at the 2016 Rio Olympics, Thomas crashed with Great Britain team mate Tao Geoghegan Hart in an innocuous part of the race after 60km.
The Welshman was clearly affected and struggled on for 100km before being forced to abandon, while Hart followed him in ending his race prematurely around 30km later.
In temperatures that reached 33 degrees celsius, the race featured 4,865m of climbing and it was the last major ascent, of the 6.8km Mikuni Pass, that saw the race blown apart.
Adam managed to jump onto an elite selection of 13 riders over the final 35km but Carapaz and Brandon McNulty of the USA made a decisive break with just over 24km remaining and the Ecuadorian made the final move with 6km to go.