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A Day at the Games: Men’s Road Race Final

Being located near the cycling route of London 2012 has it undoubted bonuses. You can witness the cyclists clicking into gears, fresh legged at the beginning at 10.15am. Fast-forward to 3:30pm when they return along the same route and it’s a different story with the final sprint in sight for the athletes. You could barely get a glimpse on the way back as the cyclists surged by in the search for Olympic glory.

When the Tour de France passed through Canterbury in 2008 it was a similar story, but something felt different. It was potential history – the first gold for Britain at the Olympics rather than a typical stage win in the Tour. The story ended in disappointment as the game was already up for Cavendish and co. by the time the leaders had detached from the main peloton. The screams of encouragement continued despite Great Britain delivering a familiar feeling to her fans; it ended in disappointment.

Despite this it was still very exciting, especially when you see in flesh and blood the first British man to win the Tour de France and Cavendish, the world’s greatest sprinter who recently surpassed the fabled Lance Armstrong in the amount of stages won in the Tour de France. However, some people have yet to understand some of the concepts of Road Race cycling. This is the greatest time in history for British cycling and one person commented on the side line, “Why are the cyclists not going so fast?” This was said fifteen minutes in.

The roads were bursting with supporters throughout the race, testimony to cycling’s gradual and potential emergence as a popular sport in Britain. You could tell it had been prepared by Britain. The roads were cramped at times, the weather unreliable, and the BBC commentary in comparison to Euro Sport and ITV woeful. Lack of information was clear throughout, names of riders scant and even camera shots were made to look amateurish in comparison to Euro Sport coverage.

Nevertheless it was an engaging race; nerves shredded as a black dog bamboozled the cyclists early on. It seemed it was a bad omen for Great Britain’s cycling team as they didn’t even claim a podium place. Cavendish and co. were suffocated and in many ways, that charge should be levelled at some of the other teams, too, namely Australia and Germany. They had finishers who would have liked their chances in a bunch sprint, too, but chose to let Mark Cavendish’s ‘Dream Team’ do all the work at the front of the peloton.

That is simply too much to ask of four men, even four men such as Chris Froome, David Millar, Ian Stannard and Bradley Wiggins. By the time the sprinters had realised this, it was too little too late as Vinokourov and co. had scuppered any hopes of a dash for glory. Nevertheless Vinokourov sprinted clear of Colombia’s Rigoberto Uran in the final stages of an eventful race to claim a great win. Vinokourov is now considering retirement and what a way to do it. Norway’s Alexander Kristoff pipped the rest of the breakaway pack to bronze. The ‘Dream’ team did not perform as expected but we can still be proud to boast such a phenomenal array of talent. This one setback will not undermine the magnitude of a fantastic year for British cycling.

Matt Williams

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