RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - British riders topped the cycling medals table after more velodrome domination but it was far from a one-nation show as the sport’s disciplines provided rich storylines in Rio.
Golden couple Jason Kenny and Laura Trott were unstoppable on the track as Britain won 11 medals, six of them gold.
American Kristin Armstrong won a third straight road time trial gold, on the eve of her 43rd birthday, both road races were thrillers and a Colombian BMX rider sparked some of the wildest celebrations seen during 15 days of action.
Kenny won three golds to make it a British record-equalling six for his Olympic career, while fiancee Trott became the first woman from her country to win four golds after repeating her team pursuit-omnium double from London.
Trott’s quartet set a new world record in beating the U.S. to team pursuit gold, as did Bradley Wiggins and his British team mates in a thrilling men’s team pursuit final.
Wiggins became Britain’s most decorated Olympian in the process with a total of eight medals.
China won a first Olympic track cycling gold with Gong Jinjie and Zhong Tianshi speeding to victory in the team sprint, Italian Elia Viviani won the omnium, Dutchwoman Elis Ligtlee the keirin and Germany’s Kristina Vogel the women’s sprint despite her saddle falling off meters from the finish.
Two of the most exciting road races ever seen graced the opening weekend of the Games -- both set against the majestic backdrop of Rio’s verdant coastal hills.
Vincenzo Nibali seemed set to battle Colombia’s Sergio Henao for gold in an accident-hit men’s race but both crashed, horribly, on the final descent of Vista Chinesa, breaking their collarbones and pelvis respectively.
Poland’s Rafal Majka then went solo but was overhauled by Belgium’s Greg van Avermaet and Dane Jakob Fuglsang on the Copacabana home straight. Van Avermaet took gold.
The women’s race topped it for drama.
Dutch rider Annemiek van Vleuten was almost at the bottom of the final descent with gold glinting in her sights when she slammed headlong into a stone kerb - a crash that left her in hospital.
Then, in a nailbiting finish that encapsulated the fine margins between joy and despair, American Mara Abbott was caught 200m from the line by a trio of pursuers led by another Dutchwoman Anna van der Breggen who sprinted to gold.
Abbott ended up with nothing.
American Armstrong proved that age is, indeed, just a number when she won a third consecutive Olympic road time trial. The men’s race was won by another veteran, Fabian Cancellara, with Tour de France champion Chris Froome third.
Colombia’s BMX queen Mariana Pajon won gold at the Deodoro X Park, sparking wild celebrations, while Connor Fields won the crash-hit men’s event.
The final pedaling action was at the cross-country course where Swede Jenny Rissveds and Swiss Nino Schurter rode the trails to gold.
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Alison Williams