LONDON (Reuters) - Mark Cavendish’s thunderous face as he finished 29th in the Olympics men’s road race on Saturday told the story of a rider whose devastating sprint finish dominance helped force the tactics for the rest of the field and ensure his defeat.
With a world-class team to help him and a home crowd roaring him on at every corner, fired up by a British one-two in the Tour de France that ended on Sunday, it had been widely assumed the gold was the world champion’s for the taking.
“There was a group of 22 who got away and we couldn’t pull them back. The four guys who ran all day couldn’t do it,” said Cavendish, in a reflective mood after a rare defeat on a flat race - another disappointment after being the only British cyclist to go home empty handed from Beijing.
“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.”
Kazakh Alexandre Vinokourov upset a planned sprint finish for Cavendish to take the gold, with Colombian Rigoberto Uran second and Norway’s Alexander Kristoff third.
American Chris Horner said Cavendish was a victim of his own success over the past few years that has including racking up 23 Tour de France stage wins.
“Cav is that dominant that nobody wants to come to the line with him under any circumstances,” said Horner, munching on some fast food after the gruelling 249.5-km slog in and out of London.
“That’s everybody’s tactic,” he told reporters.
Horner said the British team’s tactics were spot on and in the unpredictable world of Olympic road race cycling they were just unlucky.
Cavendish paid tribute to his teammates’ efforts.
“I can be proud of how the lads rode today. I‘m proud of my country as 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 that. To see what they gave for the cause,” he said.
“We rode the exact race we wanted to ride. We wanted to control it. We expected teams to come and chase at the end with us. We controlled it with four guys for 250 km and we couldn’t do more. We are human beings.”
Editing by Alison Williams