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Vinokourov Surprise Winner of Olympic Cycling Gold

By Chris Jasurek
Epoch Times Staff
Created: July 28, 2012 Last Updated: July 30, 2012
Related articles: Sports » Cycling
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Alexandr Vinokourov of Kazakhstan (C) poses with gold medal next to silver medalist Rigoberto Uran of Colombia (L) and bronze winner Alexander Kristoff of Norway (R) after the men's road race cycling event at the 2012 Olympic Games in London on July 28, 2012. (Odd Andersen/AFP/GettyImages)

Alexandr Vinokourov of Kazakhstan (C) poses with gold medal next to silver medalist Rigoberto Uran of Colombia (L) and bronze winner Alexander Kristoff of Norway (R) after the men's road race cycling event at the 2012 Olympic Games in London on July 28, 2012. (Odd Andersen/AFP/GettyImages)

Alexandr Vinokourov of Kazakhstan won gold in the Olympic men’s cycling road race, shocking fans, experts and every other rider in the race. The 38-year-old Team Astana rider has retired, returned, was suspended for a positive test in the 2007 Tour de France, and is widely expected to retire at the end of this season. No one expected even a significant finish from this veteran rider.

Vinokourov joined a chase group bridging across to the initial eleven-rider breakaway. The resulting group, 32 riders strong, kept a gap of almost a minute through the final 30 km.

Switzerland’s Fabian Cancellara, Beijing silver medalist and four-time world time trial champion, led the race into the final ten kilometers. A great One-Day Classics rider, Cancellara was perfectly placed to launch a long attack to take the gold.

Instead, the Swiss rider overcooked it into a tight right-hand corner and crashed into the barrier, injuring his right hand and possibly the shoulder he broke earlier this season. It is not known if he will be ready for Wednesday’s time trial competition.

Alexandr Vinokurov of Kazakhstan celebrates crossing the finish line to win the men's cycling road race on Day 1 of the London 2012 Olympic Games. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Alexandr Vinokurov of Kazakhstan celebrates crossing the finish line to win the men's cycling road race on Day 1 of the London 2012 Olympic Games. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Cancellara’s crash split up the leading group and prompted unsuccessful attacks from Russia’s Alexandr Kolobnev and USA’s Tejay Van Garderen.

Colombia’s Rigoberto Uran launched an attack 7.7 km from the finish; for some reason only Vinokourov followed the Colombian climber. Possibly no one took either rider seriously as a breakaway threat.

Uran and Vinokourov stretched their lead to almost twenty seconds coming into the last kilometer, with the wily Vinokourov letting Uran take the lead. Coming into the last 300 meters, the Kazakh rider began creeping up on Uran’s right.

Uran made the fatal mistake of looking over his left shoulder to check the approaching chasers. Vinokourov, seeing this, started his sprint and immediately gained several bike lengths. Though Vinokourov probably hadn’t intended to start so far out, he made the most of his chance; Uran was not able to catch him, and Alexander Vinokourov won Olympic gold.

Great Britain: the Great Burnout

Great Britain, featuring the top two finishers of the 2012 Tour de France, as well as the Manx Missile Mark Cavendish, and David Millar, who also won stages in the 2012 tour, was far and away the favorite. Everyone—including the team itself—expected Mark Cavendish to take gold in a sprint finish.

“There isn’t a team as strong as us,” Millar told Cyclingnews.com. “I think that every team that starts knows that there isn’t a team as strong as us and everyone is expecting us to control the race. And we have to. We announced we’re riding for Cav, we’ve made it public, we’ve almost pointed ball park, Babe Ruth style, in how we’re going to do it.”

However strong the British team might have been, it wasn’t strong enough. The squad tried to control the entire race from start to finish, and this was just too much for a five-man team. Germany probably would have helped out, hoping to get a sprint finish for their man André Greipel, but Great Britain tried to do it all alone.

After ten kilometers of relaxed riding to give the TC cameras time to get some shots, the race began in earnest. The break of the day escaped 20 km in, with Stuart O’Grady of Australia leading 12 riders. This group got a gap of five minutes before the peloton got serious.
As the kilometers ticked by, through nine ten-mile laps up Box Hill before the final 60-km route back, the gap stayed steady and Great Britain tried to chase.

Large chase groups of a dozen or more riders formed up, escaped and fell back several times before one managed to link up with the remnants of the initial breakaway. Spain got three riders there to support Alejandro Valverde; Switzerland had three for Cancellara. Lars Boom and Robert Gesink of the Netherlands also pushed the pace.

Belgium’s Philippe Gilbert made several attempts to escape from the break and ride home alone, but there was too much firepower behind him. USA’s Tejay Van Garderen also attacked several times, either to escape, or to soften up the field so USA sprinter Taylor Phinney could take the gold.

Meanwhile Great Britain was losing riders; the team which saw itself as a leadout train for Mark Cavendish began to see that that the race wouldn’t end with a sprint. With more than 30 riders out front, many of which had serious gold-medal chances, even a one-minute gap was too great for a five-rider team to overcome.

Bradley Wiggins, fresh from wining the Tour de France, made a herculean effort to close the gap in the final ten kilometers, but he had to surrender five km for the finish. Greta Britain told the world they were the biggest threat; their competitors took them seriously and let them burn themselves out trying to win alone.

The famous sprinters weren’t even close to the line when the sprint for the last medal started. Norway’s Alexander Kristoff just edged USA’s Taylor Phinney for the bronze.

The 22-year-old Phinney had spent a lot of time training for the Olympics; identifying roads in the U.S. which mimicked the Olympic route and focusing on this event. His disappointment was evident after the race.   

“Fourth is a good place but it’s the worst place you could get,” Phinney told NBC Sports. “Tejay was amazing today, he was riding the front for me and I didn’t even ask him to.

“I was cramping the eighth time up the climb and the ninth climb and he was like, ‘Hey, you’re our sprinter—you’ve got to hang in there.’ And so I did, but it was just surviving the last 40 K, once the finish line got closer and closer I started to feel better and better. I had a good sprint but I really wanted a medal.

“I have a lot of motivation for the time trial. I’m going to try not to think about that sprint too much in the next couple of days and then move on, but … it’s a good result for our team but not necessarily what we wanted.”

The United States has one more chance for a medal in Wednesday’s time trial—but the same goes for Great Britain. Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome were the two best time trailers at the Tour; after failing to medal in the road race it is certain they will be even more eager in the time trials.

2012 Olympics Men’s Cycling Road Race

 

rider

nation

time

1

Alexandr Vinokurov

Kazakhstan

5:45:57

2

Rigoberto Uran Uran

Colombia

 

3

Alexander Kristoff

Norway

0:00:08

4

Taylor Phinney

USA

 

5

Sergey Lagutin

Uzbekistan

 

6

Stuart O’Grady

Australia

 

7

Jurgen Roelandts

Belgium

 

8

Gregory Rast

Switzerland

 

9

Luca Paolini

Italy

 

10

Jack Bauer

New Zealand

 



  • http://www.facebook.com/javier.cardenasperez Javier Hernan Cardenas Perez

    Vino should buy a rearview mirror for uran, as a thank you gesture :)


   

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