Published: 28 July 2012
Report: Lionel Birnie
Image: John Giles/PA Wire
Alexandr Vinokourov of Kazakhstan is Olympic Road Race Champion, beating Rigoberto Uran in two up sprint, leaping clear from a large breakaway with 7km to go. Great Britain worked hard to control the chase after two large breakaway groups coalesced as the race headed back to London following nine laps of the Box Hill circuit, but with just a five man team, couldn't bridge the gap.
They refused to give up even when it was obvious that the gap was not going to be closed in time.
As leafy Surrey gave way to London’s city streets, Bradley Wiggins emptied the tank, dropped to the back of the bunch for a breather, then discovered he had a little more to give so he went back to the front to give it one last effort, seemingly oblivious to the effect it might have on his time trial hopes on Wednesday.
There was nothing secret about Team GB’s strategy for Saturday’s Olympic Games road race. They were going to support Mark Cavendish’s bid for a gold medal until the very last, and that is what they did.
But unlike last year’s World Championships in Copenhagen, when a seven- man support crew found they had men to spare going into the final kilometres, Team GB found that controlling a 250-kilometre face with only four workers was asking too much.
Everyone knew that Cavendish would probably win the race if they allowed him a sight of the finish line in The Mall. The manner of his victories in Brive and on the Champs-Elysèes in the final three days of the Tour de France were evidence of that.
And so, the other major nations sought to put the Great Britain team under pressure early on.
Australia, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, the USA, Switzerland and Spain were among the countries represented in a 12-man break that went clear before they reached the first of nine climbs of Box Hill. While Stuart O’Grady, Marco Pinotti, Jurgen Roelandts, Lieuwe Westra, Tim Duggan and Michael Schar may not have been potential gold medallists, their presence in the break meant their team-mates could sit back in the bunch while the rest looked at Britain to control the tempo in the bunch.
There was some assistance from Germany’s Tony Martin, because their strategy was similar to Great Britain’s in that they hoped for a sprint finish and a victory for Andre Greipel, but that was about it.
Britain’s riders were prepared for the burden and they welcomed it.
Put aside the fact that Britain’s strategy was not a secret for a moment, the onus settled on them because in their ranks they had first and second overall in the Tour de France, a total of seven Tour stage wins between them, and a national champion.
They weren’t just the strongest team in the race on paper.
Ian Stannard, Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins did much of the early work to ensure that a six-minute lead did not balloon into something that could not be brought back under control.
Even when Vincenzo Nibali, third in the Tour behind Wiggins and Froome, attacked with Philippe Gilbert as they tackled Box Hill for the fourth time, the British did not flinch.
Their strategy was simple. They would not react suddenly, they would reel in the escapes like a patient angler, because they knew that jerky accelerations on the climb might take their toll on their sprinter’s legs.
Three laps to go, two laps to go, it all looked so good. But then, on the last climb of Box Hill, things suddenly slipped from their grasp.
A dangerous move went clear. Luis Leon Sanchez and Alejandro Valverde of Spain, Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland were in there, as were Sylvain Chavanel of France and the eventual winner Alexandre Vinokourov of Kazakhstan.
They hooked up with the survivors from the earlier move, swept up Gilbert, whose bold bid for freedom before the final climb of Box Hill looked doomed but courageous and romantic, and put their heads together.
It wasn’t just the calibre of riders who had slipped the net but the number of them – almost 30 – and the fact that there were several riders from Switzerland and Spain.
That made for an uneven pursuit as back in the bunch there was still a reluctance to help the British team.
There was a glimmer of hope when the co-operation among the leaders began to falter just as they approached Richmond Park. Fabian Cancellara’s sudden and shocking fall, when he lost traction on a right-hand bend going into the park and crashed heavily into the barriers, might also have upset the rhythm, but it was not to be.
However doomed Britain’s chase looked, they persisted until the end.
Perhaps they hoped the Australians and Germans might wake up and realise that their best chance of a medal lay with a bunch sprint.
The gap remained at around 50 seconds and the realisation was that even if they caught the bulk of the group, there were so many riders ahead that someone was bound to jump away and scoop up the medals anyway.
That is what happened. Alexandre Vinokourov of Kazakhstan and Rigoberto Uran of Colombia sprung the winning move. The rest hesitated just long enough for them to prize open the door and they were away.
Britain ended a long, tiring day empty-handed. However, they committed fully to the plan and gave it everything they had. And, as Cavendish said afterwards: “It shows what a strong nation we are.”
1 Kazakhstan VINOKUROV Alexandr 05:45:57
2 Colombia URAN URAN Rigoberto 05:45:57
3 Norway KRISTOFF Alexander 05:46:05
4 United States of America PHINNEY Taylor 05:46:05
5 Uzbekistan LAGUTIN Sergey 05:46:05
6 Australia O'GRADY Stuart 05:46:05
7 Belgium ROELANDTS Jurgen 05:46:05
8 Switzerland RAST Gregory 05:46:05
9 New Zealand BAUER Jack 05:46:05
10 Netherlands BOOM Lars 05:46:05
11 Denmark FUGLSANG Jakob 05:46:05
12 Portugal COSTA Rui Alberto Faria 05:46:05
13 Spain SANCHEZ GIL Luis Leon 05:46:05
14 Czech Republic KREUZIGER Roman 05:46:05
15 Colombia HENAO MONTOYA Sergio Luis 05:46:05
16 Ukraine GRIVKO Andriy 05:46:05
17 Spain VALVERDE BELMONTE Alejandro 05:46:05
18 Belgium GILBERT Philippe 05:46:05
19 France CHAVANEL Sylvain 05:46:05
20 Slovenia BRAJKOVIC Janez 05:46:05
21 Japan BEPPU Fumiyuki 05:46:05
22 Netherlands GESINK Robert 05:46:05
23 Russian Federation KOLOBNEV Alexandr 05:46:05
24 Norway NORDHAUG Lars Petter 05:46:05
25 Spain CASTROVIEJO NICOLAS Jonathan 05:46:13
26 Germany GREIPEL Andre 05:46:37
27 Belgium BOONEN Tom 05:46:37
28 Great Britain CAVENDISH Mark 05:46:37
29 France DEMARE Arnaud 05:46:37
30 Spain VENTOSO ALBERDI Francisco Jose 05:46:37
31 Brazil FISCHER Murilo Antonio 05:46:37
32 United States of America FARRAR Tyler 05:46:37
33 Slovakia SAGAN Peter 05:46:37
34 Costa Rica AMADOR BAKKAZAKOVA Andrey 05:46:37
35 Austria EISEL Bernhard 05:46:37
36 Hong Kong, China WONG Kam-Po 05:46:37
37 Italy VIVIANI Elia 05:46:37
38 Mexico ZAMARRON RANGEL Hector Hugo 05:46:37
39 South Africa IMPEY Daryl 05:46:37
40 Croatia ROGINA Radoslav 05:46:37
41 Denmark BRESCHEL Matti 05:46:37
42 Kazakhstan BAZAYEV Assan 05:46:37
43 Spain ROJAS GIL Jose Joaquin 05:46:37
44 Venezuela UBETO APONTE Miguel 05:46:37
45 Slovenia BOZIC Borut 05:46:37
46 Lithuania NAVARDAUSKAS Ramunas 05:46:37
47 Japan ARASHIRO Yukiya 05:46:37
48 Portugal CARDOSO Manuel Antonio Leal 05:46:37
49 Estonia MANDRI Rene 05:46:37
50 Venezuela RODRIGUEZ Jackson 05:46:37
51 Russian Federation ISAYCHEV Vladimir 05:46:37
52 Belarus HUTAROVICH Yauheni 05:46:37
53 Serbia STEVIC Ivan 05:46:37
54 Ireland McCANN David 05:46:37
55 Latvia SARAMOTINS Aleksejs 05:46:37
56 Switzerland ELMIGER Martin 05:46:37
56 Denmark SORENSEN Nicki 05:46:37
58 Lithuania BAGDONAS Gediminas 05:46:37
59 Poland KWIATKOWSKI Michal 05:46:37
60 Bulgaria ANDONOV PETROV Danail 05:46:37
61 Morocco JELLOUL Adil 05:46:37
62 Canada HESJEDAL Ryder 05:46:37
63 Luxembourg DIDIER Laurent 05:46:37
64 Finland VEIKKANEN Jussi 05:46:37
65 Ukraine KRIVTSOV Dmytro 05:46:37
66 Cuba ALCOLEA Arnold 05:46:37
67 Croatia DURASEK Kristijan 05:46:37
68 Portugal OLIVEIRA Nelson Filipe S. Simoes 05:46:37
69 Venezuela GIL MARTINEZ Tomas Aurelio 05:46:37
70 Denmark BAK Lars Ytting 05:46:37
71 Chile GARRIDO ZENTENO Gonzalo Andres 05:46:37
72 Eritrea TEKLEHAIMANOT Daniel 05:46:37
73 Netherlands LANGEVELD Sebastian 05:46:37
74 Czech Republic BARTA Jan 05:46:37
75 Sweden LARSSON Gustav 05:46:37
76 Norway LAENGEN Vegard Stake 05:46:37
77 Belarus SAMOILAU Branislau 05:46:37
78 Slovenia BOLE Grega 05:46:37
79 Australia EVANS Cadel 05:46:37
80 Austria SCHORN Daniel 05:46:37
81 Netherlands TERPSTRA Niki 05:46:37
82 Australia GERRANS Simon 05:46:37
83 Poland BODNAR Maciej 05:46:37
84 Australia GOSS Matthew Harley 05:46:37
85 France GALLOPIN Tony 05:46:37
86 Switzerland SCHAR Michael 05:46:37
87 United States of America DUGGAN Timothy 05:46:37
88 Ireland ROCHE Nicolas 05:46:37
89 Ireland MARTIN Daniel 05:46:37
90 Australia ROGERS Michael 05:46:37
91 Belgium van AVERMAET Greg 05:46:37
92 United States of America HORNER Christopher 05:46:46
93 Great Britain STANNARD Ian 05:46:47
94 Germany GRABSCH Bert 05:46:47
95 Switzerland ALBASINI Michael 05:46:47
96 Netherlands WESTRA Lieuwe 05:46:47
97 Russian Federation MENCHOV Denis 05:46:51
98 Italy MODOLO Sacha 05:46:51
99 Belgium VANDENBERGH Stijn 05:46:51
100 Italy NIBALI Vincenzo 05:46:53
101 Germany SIEBERG Marcel 05:47:08
102 Great Britain WIGGINS Bradley 05:47:14
103 United States of America van GARDEREN Tejay 05:47:31
104 Germany DEGENKOLB John 05:48:49
105 Switzerland CANCELLARA Fabian 05:51:40
106 Italy PINOTTI Marco 05:54:04
107 Great Britain MILLAR David 05:55:16
108 Great Britain FROOME Christopher 05:58:24
109 Greece TAMOURIDIS Ioannis 05:58:24
Argentina RICHEZE Maximiliano Ariel OTL
Ecuador GUAMA de la CRUZ Byron Patricio OTL
Islamic Republic of Iran SOHRABI Mehdi OTL
Serbia KASA Gabor OTL
Turkey AKDILEK Ahmet OTL
Italy PAOLINI Luca DNF
Brazil PANIZO Gregolry DNF
Norway BOASSOH HAGEN Edvald DNF
Algeria LAGAB Azzedine DNF
Bulgaria GYUROV Spas DNF
Malaysia OTHMAN Muhamad Adiq Husainie DNF
Turkey KAL Mirac DNF
Turkey KUCUKBAY Kemal DNF
Uzbekistan HALMURATOV Muradjan DNF
Brazil NAZARET Magno Prado DNF
Germany MARTIN Tony DNF
Hungary LOVASSY Krisztian DNF
Malaysia RUSLI Amir Mustafa DNF
Republic of Moldova BERDOS Oleg DNF
Poland GOLAS Michal DNF
Romania NECHITA Andrei DNF
Belarus KIRYIENKA Vasil DNF
Islamic Republic of Iran HAGHI Alireza DNF
New Zealand HENDERSON Greg DNF
Georgia NADIRADZE Giorgi DNF
Republic of Korea PARK Sungbaek DNF
Morocco HADDI Soufiane DNF
Guatemala RODAS OCHOA Manuel DNF
Namibia CRAVEN Dan DNF
Morocco LAHSAINI Mouhcine DNF
Syrian Arab Republic HASANNEN Omar DNF
Uruguay SOTO PERERA Jorge Adelbio DNF
Colombia DUARTE AREVALO Fabio Andres DNF
France BOURGAIN Mickael DNF
Islamic Republic of Iran ZARGARI Amir DNF