Team GB’s hope’s of Olympic Gold at the men’s road race yesterday were dashed inside the last 10km as Geraint Thomas who was in the leading group on the road crashed on the dangerous descent, as Greg Van Avermaet sprinted to victory along Copacabana beach.
It was a punishing day in the saddle as the riders had to negotiate a 237.5km course with four laps of the Grumari circuit, and then three laps of the savage Vista Chinesa circuit – but for Thomas it was bitter end to what had been a superb day in the saddle for the Welshman.
GB done most of the pace setting, and when Thomas bridged a gap with the lead group consisting of the likes of Michael Albasini and Michal Kwiatkowski, everything was going according to plan.
But when the race entered it’s pivotal moment, plenty of riders fell victim to what was a hair-raising descent down the Rio mountainside. Richie Porte, Sergio Henao, and Vincenzo Nibali all suffered bad crashes, but it was the latter that came off worst.
The two time Giro D’Italia winner suffered two broken collarbones and is now back in Italy waiting to undergo surgery.
GB director Ellingworth said Thomas knew it was a ‘proper Gold medal chance’
It was a tough race throughout, but this Olympics they got their tactics spot on, unlike in London when Mark Cavendish failed to take home a Gold medal.
But on the road yesterday the likes of Chris Froome, Steve Cummings, Ian Stannard, and Adam Yates all rode well. But when it became clear that Thomas was the one that was looking the strongest, it was all hands to pump for the GB guys.
But as is the unpredictability of cycling you just never know what is going to happen, and unfortunately for Thomas, it ended in a bitterly disappointing way.
Speaking after the race, Ellingworth said: "Looking at Geraint there, he was proper, proper disappointed. He knew that was a proper gold medal chance."
The course was unlike any other professional one-day races; it had every terrain possibly. Cobbles, tough climbs, long straights it was a particular brutal course, and Ellingworth admitted that from the test event earlier this year, the descent was going to be crucial to anyone’s chances of winning.
"I knew from the test event that descent was going to perhaps be a deciding factor in the race, and it was. When you think about how many riders crashed round there, it was pretty mad really," said GB’s director Ellingworth.
In 2012 GB got their tactics all wrong, but yesterday it was pleasing to see GB dominate large chunks of the race, and on another day it might have been all different for GB and in particular Team Sky’s Thomas.