Olympic road race


A bit of a disaster today – starting favourite and over hyped was always going to prove a curse. All the teams left the Brits to chase down the pack of 22 escapees and sadly 4 men can’t tow a pelaton and catch up with a group of 22 elite riders. Germany decided to help at the last but by then it was too late …. The group of escapees worked together well and as they were about to sit up and play for position Vinokourov shot off the front on the left and the Colombian diced through on the right – no one chased and pretty soon gold and silver were sorted.

Vinokourov and Rigoberto Uran (Colombia) had escaped from a larger breakaway in the final kilometres of the 250-kilometre race around London and Surrey. Vinokourov opened up his sprint in the final 500 metres as Uran appeared to look the other way and miss the move.

The young Colombian had to settle for silver, with Alexander Kristoff sprinting at the head of the large 30-rider chase group to claim bronze for Norway.

Cavendish came home in the main bunch 40 seconds behind the leaders after Great Britain failed to bring back the escapees on the journey back from Box Hill to The Mall.

A pre-race favourites and with such strong home support, it was Great Britain’s race to lose. Cavendish, Ian Stannard, Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and David Millar had controlled the day’s events admirably on the nine ascents of Box Hill, pegging back the time advantage of an earlier 12-rider escape group, an attack by a group containing Vincenoz Nibali (Italy) and a lengthy solo move by Philippe Gibert (Belgium). But the effort took its toll.

A large group, led by Spain and Switzerland, launched at attack on the final Box Hill circuit. With no other teams willing to assist in the chase, Great Britain looked tired and isolated on the road back to London as the lead group forged ahead.

Cavendish’s hopes of an Olympic medal once again evaporated, and he crossed the line in London shaking his head in disappointment.

“The Germans came a bit too late and the other teams seemed to be more content that they wouldn’t win as long as we didn’t win. That’s kind of how it goes,” Cavendish told BBC Radio Five Live after the race.

“I can be proud of how the lads rode today. I’m proud of my country because there was incredible support. The guys are sat there, they are spent. They have got nothing left in the tank. It’s incredible to see what they gave for the cause.”

There were several notable casualties during the race, not least Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland) who crashed out after misjudging a corner whilst in the lead group. He appeared to have injured his shoulder, throwing some doubt on his participation in the time trial on Wednesday.

Tom Boonen (Belgium) also had his chances dashed with a badly-timed puncture in the final 20 kilometres. A wheel change meant he lost contact with the peloton.

Controversial winner
Vinokourov will be seen by many as a controversial Olympic champion, after he failed an anti-doping control for homologous blood transfusion at the 2007 Tour de France and was ejected from the race.

The 38-year-old has always strenuously denied any wrong-doing and returned to cycling in 2009 after a two-year suspension.

Earlier this year, Vinokourov announced that this would be his last season as a professional rider.

Grand Day Out
The result may not have been what many British fans were hoping for, but the support for British riders along the route was unprecedented.

UCI president Pat McQuaid’s estimate that one million spectators would turn out to watch the race cannot have been far off, as crowds lined every street and road on the entire route.

It was once again proof that cycling is riding on a high in Britain after this year’s Tour de France success.

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British Cyclist Selected for Olympics


Glad to see David Millar in there …

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David Millar, no longer subject to a lifetime ban from representing Great Britain in the Olympics, is one of eight men named today by British Cycling as being candidates for the five places in the men’s road racing team at London 2012. The governing body has also named five women of whom four will figure in the women’s road events, as well as final squads for the track, mountain bike and BMX disciplines.

No date has yet been confirmed for when the final road teams will be announced, and with Millar having only recently returned to racing after breaking his collarbone in a crash in Belgium earlier in the season, it is likely that the Scot will have to prove his fitness in the opening week or so of the Tour de France.

The two certainties to start the men’s road race are of course Mark Cavendish, who is targeting gold, and Bradley Wiggins, who has his sights set on the individual time trial; riders in that event must come from those competing in the road race.

The inclusion of Millar, banned for two years in 2004 for using EPO, but now eligible for selection after the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled the British Olympic Association’s lifetime ban for athletes convicted of a doping offence invalid, is the most attention grabbing aspect of today’s announcement.

Otherwise, given the men’s and women’s road teams have not yet been finalised, there are no surprises, with the men’s and women’s track squads having taken shape over the past couple of years; of the team that dominated the world championships in Melbourne in April, the one big change is the absence of Ben Swift, who took a gold and two silvers there, but all in events that are no longer part of the Olympic programme.

Swift had already withdrawn from the track squad and stated his intention to help Team Sky colleague Cavendish realise his ambition or winning gold, although as a sprinter who is also able to tackle hills, he could also provide a useful back-up option should the race be split apart on those nine ascents of Box Hill, provided he makes the final selection.

With Cavendish and WIggins automatic choices, likewise a fully fit Millar who would perform the role of road captain he played in Copenhagen last September – and who moreover is the strongest candidate for the second slot in the time trial, having won silver in the world championships in 2010 and being reigning Commonwealth champion – there are five riders vying for those final two spots, however.

Meanwhile, on the women’s road team, just one of the five riders named will miss out on competing at the Games, with the biggest headache those making the final selection face possibly being how to accommodate Lizzie Armitstead, the probable designated rider, and defending champion Nicole Cooke, particularly given the well publicised spat that has simmered between the two over the past couple of years.

On the track, Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton are among the defending Olympic champions named in the squad and both will be looking to end their final Olympics by adding to the gold medals they have previously won. Hoy, winner of three golds at Beijing is likelty to defend his titles in the team sprint and Keirin, with Jason Kenny the probable choice for the individual sprint, with new rules permitting only one rider per individual event for each competig nation.

Hoy, four times an Olympic champion, said: “It’s a huge honour to be selected to represent your country at an Olympic Games, and it’s even more special to know I’m definitely part of the team for London 2012. This will be my fourth Olympics but my first home Games, and it’s going to be an amazing experience and a once in a lifetime opportunity for all of us.

“The standard in the British cycling team is so high and the selection process is always going to be tough, but there’s a great atmosphere in the team and we just need to keep putting in the hours in training and make sure we’re in the best shape possible for race day. I’m looking forward to competing in front of a home crowd with all the other British athletes in Team GB. I can’t wait!”

Team GB Performance Director Dave Brailsford added: “We have selected what I believe to be an excellent team going into an Olympic Games and we have a good mix of experienced Olympians alongside young riders who are making their Olympic debut.

“We still have some decisions to make, for example the road teams will be refined in due course and who will ride what event on the track will be determined nearer the time. Overall though, the GB Cycling Team has had a strong season across all the disciplines and we are ready to step up again at the Olympics.”

The squads named this afternoon are:

Men’s Road (five to be selected)

Mark Cavendish (age: 27 born: Isle of Man)
Steve Cummings (age: 31 born: The Wirral)
Chris Froome (age: 27 born: Nairobi)
Jeremy Hunt (age: 38 born: Canada)
David Millar (age: 35 born: Malta)
Ian Stannard (age: 25 born: Chelmsford)
Ben Swift (age: 24 born: Rotherham)
Bradley Wiggins (age: 32 born: Ghent)

Women’s Road (four to be selected)

Lizzie Armitstead (age:23 born: Otley)
Nicole Cooke (age: 29 born: Wick)
Katie Colclough (age: 22 born: Grantham)
Sharon Laws (age 37 born: Kenya)
Lucy Martin (age: 22 born: Merseyside)
Emma Pooley (age 29 born: Wandsworth)

Track (Sprint)

Philip Hindes (19: born: Krefeld, Germany)
Chris Hoy (age: 36 born: Edinburgh)
Jason Kenny (age: 24 born: Bolton)
Victoria Pendleton (age: 31 born: Hitchin)
Jessica Varnish (age: 21 born: Birmingham)

Track (Endurance)

Steven Burke (age: 24 born: Burnley)
Edward Clancy (age: 27 born: Barnsley)
Wendy Houvenaghel (age: 37 born: Magherafelt)
Peter Kennaugh (age: 22 born: Isle of Man)
Danielle King (age: 21 born: Southampton)
Joanna Rowsell (age: 23 born: Carshalton)
Andrew Tennant (age: 25 born: Wolverhampton)
Geraint Thomas (age: 26 born: Cardiff)
Laura Trott (age: 19 born: Harlow)

BMX

Liam Phillips (age: 23 born: Taunton)
Shanaze Reade (age: 23 born: Crewe)

Cross Country Mountain Biking

Liam Killeen (age: 30 born: London)
Annie Last (age: 21 born: Nottingham)

Team GB Performance Director Dave Brailsford said: “We have selected what I believe to be an excellent team going into an Olympic Games and we have a good mix of experienced Olympians alongside young riders who are making their Olympic debut.

“We still have some decisions to make, for example the road teams will be refined in due course and who will ride what event on the track will be determined nearer the time. Overall though, the GB Cycling Team has had a strong season across all the disciplines and we are ready to step up again at the Olympics.”