London – It was supposed to be a day when the United Kingdom’s top sprinter grab gold for the host country, but in the Olympic men’s raod race it came down to a duel between a wily veteran and an up-and-coming Colombian who wasn’t even supposed to be a contender.
In the end Alexander Vinokourov of Kazakhstan out maneuvered Colombia’s Rigoberto Urán to take gold, as race favorites Mark Cavendish of the UK, Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland and Tom Boonen of Belgium all faltered due to a mix of bad luck, crashes and mechanical failures.
It was a day when riders drew raucous applause from fans. It was also day when a big black dog crossed the road twice in front of the riders.
Veteran Australian Stuart O'Grady ignited the first real move of the day, breaking clear of the peloton and taking in his wheel a group of 11 men, including experienced riders Janez Brajkovic, Italian Marco Pinotti, Russian Denis Menchov and Belgian Juergen Roelandts.
The escapees worked well and opened a three minutes gap over the peloton with more than 130 miles to go, forcing the British favorites to work early as Wiggins and his teammates moved to the front of the bunch.
With no riders in the breakaway, the Germans decided to join forces with the Brits at the start of the second of nine loops around Box Hill, with world time trial champion Tony Martin leading the peloton in the ascent.
The Australians stayed true to their promise to make the race as uncertain as possible, sending Michael Rogers on a counter-attack. Rogers, a member of the Sky team that dominated the Tour de France, left the pack with a brutal acceleration. The move added some pressure on the Brits, who could not step up the pace too much because of the risk of seeing Cavendish get dropped in Box Hill.
Vinokourov broke away from the leading group about six miles from the finish with Rigoberto Uran of Colombia. Vinokourov then accelerated going down The Mall outside Buckingham Palace with 300 yards to go to leave Uran behind.
"It was up-down, up-down, too many people," Vinokourov said. "It was very dangerous. I knew that if was following the group I would have had no chance in the sprint. I finish my career with this victory."
Urán took silver, with Alexander Kristoff of Norway winning a mass sprint to for the bronze.
Vinokourov was third at the 2003 Tour but his reputation was tainted after twice testing positive for banned blood transfusions during the 2007 three-week race.
This was Vinokourov's second Olympic medal following his runner-up finish at the 2000 Sydney Games. Vinokourov, who served a two-year ban after testing positive for blood doping during the 2007 Tour de France, has said he will retire from cycling after the London Games.
This was Vinokourov's second Olympic medal following his runner-up finish at the 2000 Sydney Games.
Urán, a native of Colombia’s cycling hotbed of Antioquia, has come of age in the past few years. After seeing his father, a lottery ticket vendor, killed in his native Urrao, the young Urán took over his father’s job while still training and competing in Antioquia’s state run cycling program.
The 25-year old eventually made it to Euorpe where he rode for a Spanish team before joining Team Sky, the British squad that led Bradley Wiggins to a victory in this year’s Tour de France.
Urán, who won the Young riders classification in this year’s Giro d’Italia, is the twelfth Colombian to win an Olympic medal.
“Today we have the first silver medal, how wonderful!” said Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, according to the Colimbian daily El Tiempo.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.
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