Mon, September 23, 2013

Crowd, course make up for British road race flameout

By STEVE SIMMONS, QMI Agency



LONDON - The early star of the Olympics for Great Britain did not turn out to be Mark Cavendish and their famed world-class cycling team.

It turned out to be the venue for the cycling men’s road race, where an estimated one million people lined the streets — and Prince Charles spent a few minutes watching around St. James’s Park, not far from his home — and Britains provided the noisiest, most enthusiastic, somewhat chaotic, backdrop in cycling history. All this coming one day after the stirring opening ceremony, with the makeshift stadium that wouldn’t end becoming the talk of a Games that is clearly putting the best of London on display.

“That’s the No. 1 crowd ever,” said Taylor Phinney, the American who finished fourth. “My ears are still ringing from that race.”

The noise was expected. The end result was not. The coronation for Team GB and Cavendish never materialized and caught just about everyojne by surprise, including the Team GB athletes like Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins, who was playing the part of rabbit Saturday.

“The way the race turned out, it wasn’t the British against the world, it was the world against the Brits. And the world won,” said Canadian coach, Gord Fraser.

If Canadians are upset at all about Ryder Hesjedal finishing 63rd, imagine how Britain feels, considering it thought it had sure gold and maybe more than that: Their riders finished with Cavendish in 29th, and the rest of the world championship team in 94th, 103rd, 108th, 109th.

“The guys all sat there in the tent absolutely spent,” said Cavendish. “We did everything we could.” Cavendish blamed the Australians for “racing negatively” and doing everything to defeat Team GB. “Other teams were content if they didn’t win, we wouldn’t win. We expecgted it. If you want to win, you’ve got to take it to them.”

The gold medal actually came down to that old fashioned Kazakhstan-Colombia rivalry. Alexandr Vinokurov, once banned from the sport for two years for blood doping, won gold in what is certain to be his last Olympics. Rigoberto Uran of Colombia won silver and Alexander Kristoff of Norway third.