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Great Britain control race for Cav during laps of Box Hill but big escape group gets away; Cancellara crash puts ITT in doubt

Alexandre Vinokourov of Kazakhstan this afternoon pulled off a shock win in the men's Olympic road race, attacking from a big breakaway group with Rigoberto Uran as the race headed into its closing kilometres and then catching the Colombian off-guard to sprint to the line. Norway's Alexander Kristoff won the sprint from a group of around 25 riders for bronze. Mark Cavendish, the pre-race favourite, came home in the main bunch following a race that his Great Britain team seeemed to have under control as it headed over Box Hill for the ninth and final time, but the big escape group managed to draw out and maintain a minute's advantage that proved impossible to claw back.

Just 12 months ago, Vinokorurov's career seemed finished after he broke his femur in a crash during the Tour de France and announced his retirement.

Last September, however, the same month he turned 38, he revealed that he planned to race again this year with ambitions to win Olympic gold.

He has now fulfilled that goal to crown a career in which his attacking style brought him a string of prestigious victories but which was overshadowed by his testing positive for an illegal blood tranfusion during the 2007 Tour de France which led to a two year ban from the sport.

The prologue to that race had taken place in London, with the route taking the riders past Buckingham Palace. Today, Vinoukorov rode past it again, but this time he was heading towards a gold medal.

Sitting on Uran's wheel, Vinokourov's experience paid off when he launched a blindside attack on the Colombian, who had turned to check how far back the chasing group was.

In truth, though, the Kazakh rider had been favourite for the sprint once the pair had jumped clear on Putney High Street with a little under 8 kilometres to go and quickly drawn out an advantage on their fellow escapees.

That group had formed on the final ascent of Box Hill as a number of strong riders realised that if they didn't make their move now, the race would almost inevitably come down to a sprint on The Mall.

Cheered on by huge crowds throughout the race, Great Britain's team of Bradley Wiggins, Ian Stannard, Chris Froome and David Millar had put in a massive effort at the front of the main bunch all day to keep a smaller, earlier break in check and slowly reel it in.

Belgium's Philippe Gilbert had launched a solo attack ahead of the last lap of the Box Hill loop, but he seemed to have gone too early and it looked as though he would be allowed to hang out in front until being swept up as the race headed towards its finale.

Meanwhile, the earlier break looked set to be caught as Great Britain led the chasing bunch towards the ascent of Zig-Zag Road for the last time. The race seemed certain to be heading towards the predicted bunch sprint won by world champion Cavendish in front of a home crowd.

Great Britain's entire strategy for the race revolved around that scenario. There was no Plan B. Ben Swift who might have been expected to try and get into any dangerous looking breaks and then try and win a sprint, was overlooked in the final selection of five riders.

The script for last night's opening ceremony, years in the writing, saw a last-minute change to allow Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins to take the cheers of the crowd and ring the bell to get the spectacle under way. Today's script was not so much rewritten, however, as ripped up and scattered across the road.

The group that got away was full of dangerous riders. Besides Vinokourov, it contained the man who won that Tour de France prologue in London five years ago, Switzerland's Fabian Cancellara. Also there was Tom Boonen of Belgium, the man who dominated this year's Classics season, plus Spain's Alejandro Valverde and Luis Leon Sanchez, both winners of Tour de France stages earlier this month.

A group that dangerous didn't need much of gap to make it a difficult task for Great Britain's riders, now tired by having spent aorund 200 kilometres at the front of the peloton with no help from other countries, to pull it back.

Once the gap was out to a minute, it stayed there, despite the efforts of Wiggins, Froome, Millar and Stannard, also assisted by Cavendish's close friend Bernard Eisel of Austria, to bring the escapees back.

Germany, working for Andre Greipel, finally decided to help in the chase as the race headed into its closing kilometres, but it was far too late for their efforts to count.

From the breakaway group, Cancellara or Boonen might have been many people's pick for the gold medal, but the Swiss rider, awarded the silver medal in Beijing following Davide Rebellin's disqualification for doping, crashed on a corner with a little over 15 kilometres to go.

With his right wrist resting on his handlebars as he drifted back to the race doctor's car, it looked as though he may have broken his collarbone for the second time this season.

If that is indeed what has happened, he could well be doubtful for Wednesday's individual time trial, where he is the defending champion.

Boonen also encountered some kind of problem and fell back to the Cavendish group, which would roll over the line 40 seconds behind the winner and around half a minute down on the main breakaway group, although victory had long since evaded the man who went into the race shouldering the host nation's expectations this morning.

Olympic men's road race result

1  VINOKOUROV Alexandre      Kazakhstan    5:45:57
2  URAN Rigoberto            Colombia     Same time
3  KRISTOFF Alexander        Norway        5:46:05 
4  PHINNEY Taylor            USA       All at same time
5  LAGUTIN Sergey            Uzbekistan
6  O'GRADY Stuart            Australia
7  ROELANDTS Jurgen          Belgium
8  RAST Gregory              Switzerland
9  PAOLINI Luca              Italy
10 BAUER Jack                New Zealand
11 BOOM Lars                 Netherlands
12 FUGLSANG Jakob            Denmark
13 COSTA Rui                 Portugal
14 SANCHEZ Luis Leon         Spain
15 KREUZIGER Roman           Czech Republic
16 HENAO Sergio              Colombia
17 GRIVKO Andriy             Ukraine
18 Spain VALVERDE Alejandro  Spain
19 GILBERT Philippe          Belgium
20 CHAVANEL Sylvain          France

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

40 comments

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Simon E [2654 posts] 3 years ago
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Doper wins  2

To add insult to injury: after watching it for 3 hours I left it recording BBC3 (had to go to a wedding ceremony, of all things) and came back to find they switched the road race to BBC1 minutes later! The air was blue.

Shame for Cavendish and the GB boys but they were left to do virtually all of the work. At least they can say they gave it their best shot. Well done lads.

Edit: good report by Will Fotheringham: http://gu.com/p/39bz5/tw

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Some Fella [890 posts] 3 years ago
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None of the other strong teams did anything to help bring back the breakaway and it was telling that no one from those teams got anything from the race either. Cut their noses off to spite their faces.
As it is they let a doper win.

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TheHatter [770 posts] 3 years ago
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Just got back from watching it mainly at Hyde Park and then seeing it for real as it came past Harrods.
Great day out and I'm actually glad a breakaway won - shame it wasn't someone more deserving though.

ps Would have been interesting debates if Millar had been left out and then Vino wins without the Brits at full strength to chase it back...

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Lungsofa74yearold [281 posts] 3 years ago
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Wonder whose blood he was using this time? Time for the first Olympics drugs scandal courtesy of....cycling!

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bikeyourbest [23 posts] 3 years ago
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Some Fella wrote:

As it is they let a doper win.

EX-doper, Some Fella Just like David Millar.
Always plucky, Vino has never been a bore to watch.

I have to wonder though why GB did not have a backup plan...very strong team that had no worries letting everyone know what they were going to do. Trouble was they were cocky with it and didn't dream they'd be left to do all the rowing. Poor direction on their part. All the others were playing the luck card...if they had a mate in the break they were golden, if not at least they would make certain that GB wouldn't medal.

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Morpheus00 [40 posts] 3 years ago
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Australia, Germany, USA: you've all got world class sprinters and/or lead out men, so why don't you ride! Are you THAT scared of Cav that he's got you beaten before you turn the pedals?! #whyshowup?
PS Sagan, where were you?

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iDavid [47 posts] 3 years ago
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£9.4bn and no time gaps on TV? Porter, Boardman, world all left in the dark. French would never have let this happen.

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mike78 [7 posts] 3 years ago
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Yes it was annoying that Team GB were hung out to dry by all the other teams but what really got my blood boiling was the TV coverage. The commentators did there best but the information and the pictures just weren't there. After three weeks of watching professional TDF coverage this was a joke. How difficult is it to get regular time splits?

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notfastenough [3673 posts] 3 years ago
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@morpheus00

+1, don't know why half of them bothered. The Germans and Slovaks should have been all over that for Greipel/Sagan. As it was, they merely had a fast club run led by some angry fellas from GB, put very little in and got fuck all out of it.

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Slimie [21 posts] 3 years ago
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mike78 wrote:

Yes it was annoying that Team GB were hung out to dry by all the other teams but what really got my blood boiling was the TV coverage. The commentators did there best but the information and the pictures just weren't there. After three weeks of watching professional TDF coverage this was a joke. How difficult is it to get regular time splits?

Agreed. Shamefully poor support to the commentary team.

I wonder if not having radios made any diference to the way the race was played out?

-Simon

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Slimie [21 posts] 3 years ago
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Have to feel a pang of sadness for Cancellara, too. Any one know the extent of his injuries?

-Simon

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mattbibbings [81 posts] 3 years ago
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Team GB tactics were wrong. It's that simple. They tried to do what they did in Copenhagen but with half the team. This was doomed to failure on a course that suited a strong breakaway down to the ground.

I am at a loss as to why the precision, detail orientated approach of GB cycling went ahead with such an obviously fruitless tactic. They were relying on the Germans/Aussies/a.nother sprinters country to work and it turned out nobody wanted to play with Cav on the Mall - If they didn't see that one coming it begs some serious questions.

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PaulVWatts [111 posts] 3 years ago
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Shame about Cancellara congratulations to Vinokourov, Uran and Kristoff. I always like it when breakaways versus corporate efforts win. Maybe Cav will take Rigoberto Uran (a.k.a Mick Jagger) with him when he leaves Sky. The stupid BBC interview with Vinokourov after his win made be ashamed to be British.

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Super Domestique [1596 posts] 3 years ago
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I kind of hope that being an ex- doper means that he is kept a close eye on and therefore it is a fair and clean victory.
So Congrats Vino.
Pretty much same age as me which makes me feel a tad less than last it too!

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Mat Brett [617 posts] 3 years ago
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mattbibbings wrote:

Team GB tactics were wrong. It's that simple. They tried to do what they did in Copenhagen but with half the team. This was doomed to failure on a course that suited a strong breakaway down to the ground.

I am at a loss as to why the precision, detail orientated approach of GB cycling went ahead with such an obviously fruitless tactic. They were relying on the Germans/Aussies/a.nother sprinters country to work and it turned out nobody wanted to play with Cav on the Mall - If they didn't see that one coming it begs some serious questions.

Yeah, you tell 'em! What would Dave Brailsford, Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome, David Millar, Mark Cavendish etc know about planning, strategy and success? Bunch of underachievers. Heads must roll.

It didn't happen for them today, sadly. Congratulations to Vino and the other medallists.

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cat1commuter [1421 posts] 3 years ago
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notfastenough wrote:

@morpheus00

+1, don't know why half of them bothered. The Germans and Slovaks should have been all over that for Greipel/Sagan. As it was, they merely had a fast club run led by some angry fellas from GB, put very little in and got fuck all out of it.

Peter Sagan was the only Slovak in the race!

Aussies didn't come out of the race looking too clever though.

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koko56 [330 posts] 3 years ago
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This race really captured me - it was just incredible!

Of course shame and frankly surprise that a massive bunch was just prepared to sit and let, what - 4-5 guys do ALL the work? Surely a medal is better than no medal?

It was very exciting in the last hour or so - stable then nails being bitten.. and all plans going all over.

Awesome for Vino to win too after the bad luck at tdf last year and coming out of retirement and whatnot. Shame for Fab though - was he about to make a move as he was looking back on that corner? oh...

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allaction [14 posts] 3 years ago
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Sagan's only option was to shadow Cav and hope for a sprint. He wouldn't be allowed in a break you'd have thought. Fair play to our lads for working there nuts off, there strategy was spot on just the other sprint nations didn't play along.

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Morpheus00 [40 posts] 3 years ago
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mattbibbings wrote:

Team GB tactics were wrong. It's that simple. They tried to do what they did in Copenhagen but with half the team. This was doomed to failure on a course that suited a strong breakaway down to the ground.

I am at a loss as to why the precision, detail orientated approach of GB cycling went ahead with such an obviously fruitless tactic. They were relying on the Germans/Aussies/a.nother sprinters country to work and it turned out nobody wanted to play with Cav on the Mall - If they didn't see that one coming it begs some serious questions.

Ring, ring - it's British Cycling on the line Matt. They want some advice from you for their next race. What pearls of tactical wisdom can you offer? They'd also like to know what some of your 'serious questions' might be.

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JonD [397 posts] 3 years ago
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Quote:

To add insult to injury: after watching it for 3 hours I left it recording BBC3 (had to go to a wedding ceremony, of all things) and came back to find they switched the road race to BBC1 minutes later! The air was blue.

Ah, wasn't just me then  14 - we were up on box hill and caught much of the coverage on the big screen up there (where we weren't on the roadside) and I was expecting to catch up on the whole lot on one go - fortunately I *did* record both but more by luck than judgement - plus on BBC it also seemed to start late (unless it was my finger trouble)

>The stupid BBC interview with Vinokourov after his win made be ashamed to be British.

Was the interviewer that utter dickhead David Bond ? We just saw his 10 o'clock new report and were spitting feathers at his stupidity, even before this, replicated on his blog:

Quote:

But perhaps the harder questions will come from those who wonder whether the magnificent Team Sky mission to win the Tour de France has had an impact on the Olympic medal quest.
Brailsford, British cycling's performance director, has insisted that is not the case. I put it to Cavendish after the race and he snapped at me, saying I shouldn't ask stupid questions.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/davidbond/2012/07/cavendish_and_co_disappoint...

What he missed off was Cav's "do you know anything about bike racing?"

His other stupid comments were :
"9 laps of brutal box hill soon took their toll on Britains riders"
and some similar bollocks regarding Froome and Wiggins dropping off or 'not being able to keep up'
Err..possibly 'cos they were doing all the bloody work ?

I suspect it came down to a number of things: without radios they may not have known quite how far the breakaway was; pretty much every other team had a member in the breakaway and with GB in the peleton, and no rider in the breakaway there was no incentive to help; GB were doing all the work at the front with mostly little help. Millar's comment in the Guardian link re climbing at Cav's pace clarifies it IMO - if that's the guy you're hoping to deliver to the sprint, chasing a breakaway you're hoping to catch on the run in is pointless.

Oh well - great day out (dodgy commentary and lack of stats apart).

A shame Cancellara binned it, even if it was his own fault for overcooking it.

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Colin Peyresourde [1695 posts] 3 years ago
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Disappointing result, but a hard race to marshall, despite Team GBs great squad.

I think two things probably counted against Wiggo and co, and that was a lack of radio information in the time splits (it appeared that time splits were hard to come by anyway) and the reduced size of the men's team.

Riding for Cav was effectively going to handcuff team GB (but with Cav's record that was never to be a bad thing). And there could be no plan B. It just seemed like they never really had a handle on the breaks. A supreme disappointment because it would have been such a great way for the Olympics to begin and a fine way for such great talented riders to be rewarded for a great season.

I will never forget poor David Millar's face. I fell bad for Cancellera, but it makes Wiggo's job easier. Allez Team GB!

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Gkam84 [9086 posts] 3 years ago
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allaction wrote:

Sagan's only option was to shadow Cav and hope for a sprint. He wouldn't be allowed in a break you'd have thought. Fair play to our lads for working there nuts off, there strategy was spot on just the other sprint nations didn't play along.

Why would he not be allowed in the break?

They let Cancellara, Glibert, Kreuziger, Boom, Uran, Van Garderen, Rui Costa, Henao and Chavanel.....do I need to continue?

One more rider in Sagan would not have made a difference and if he'd be more experienced he'd have seen his chance and gone with that break. He's only 22, plenty of time to win in 2016 where as Cav won't because of the course  3

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Damon_11 [32 posts] 3 years ago
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Well done Vino. A favouite rider of mine because he attacks and gets rewarded, that's how bike racing should be. Ditch the radios and electronics and ride with your heart and a will to win.

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Sakurashinmachi [49 posts] 3 years ago
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cat1commuter][quote=notfastenough wrote:

@morpheus00

Aussies didn't come out of the race looking too clever though.

 7

Well, other than the fact that Stuart O'Grady organised the breakaway, rode at the front all day and came home sixth, which was 23 places higher than the top finishing member of Team GB?

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antonio [1119 posts] 3 years ago
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Plus one for the BOA ban on drug cheats, rollocks to the anti doping agency who overturned it and a hanging for those responsible for the road race coverage.

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Morpheus00 [40 posts] 3 years ago
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O Grady didn't 'organise' the breakaway, he got in it then hung in a group in which he had very little chance of medalling. Gossy represented their best chance, yet they never rode for him. Scared and defeatist. If their victory was "Yeah, we came nowhere, but at least Stuart placed higher than Cav", then that is beyond crap. Better to have stayed home. I get non sprinter teams not riding the break down, but with Gerrans, Renshaw and Goss the Aussies could have represented a massive threat instead of just being also rans.

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Simon E [2654 posts] 3 years ago
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Damon_11 wrote:

Well done Vino. A favouite rider of mine because he attacks and gets rewarded, that's how bike racing should be.

A lot of people would have agreed with you... before July 2007. He dopes and gets rewarded, gets caught and denies it, comes back to the sport and has done nothing to show remorse or show that he has changed his ways.

For those that are harping on about Millar also being an ex-doper, there is one MASSIVE difference between him and the likes of Vino, Valverde etc. Is it not obvious?

Put it another way: if Millar and Vino were both convicted drink-drivers which one would you prefer to drive you home from the pub?

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Jason.wellington [3 posts] 3 years ago
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And how do you know that the O'Grady breakaway wasn't that main Aussie plan? O'Grady probably wasn't considered too much of a threat so he was more likely to be able to get into the break. We know that he is a machine and has won the Roubaix so given the right oppoortunity he had a pretty good chance to at least medal. Unfortunately he missed the break with 4km or so to go otherwise he would have been in with a real chance unlike some others that were about 40 seconds behind. If the breakaway had been caught then Goss was there to contest the sprint finish as a plan B. Probably not a bad plan....

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Sakurashinmachi [49 posts] 3 years ago
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"O Grady didn't 'organise' the breakaway, he got in it then hung in a group in which he had very little chance of medalling. Gossy represented their best chance, yet they never rode for him. Scared and defeatist."

Phil Liggett remarked numerous times about how O'Grady was organising the breakaway. As for no change of medalling, he came sixth in a close bunch.

Cavendish is a great sprinter, but why do so many Brits appear to think that it was the Germans, Australian's et al's role to pace him to the Mall?

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drheaton [3318 posts] 3 years ago
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O'Grady came fourth n a sprint for third against half a group who couldn't be bothered. Unlike the TdF where people race for the minor placings its top 3 or nothing in the Olympics. He was never going to medal against the likes of Sanchez, Vino, Cancellara etc but Australia had so little confidence in Goss being able to win that they chose to roll the dice with the break rather than help bring it back. Personally I'm disappointed for Goss as I thought in a sprint he'd have been a cast iron medal and certainly would have finished higher than 6th but I guess that's the way it goes.

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