Vinokourov becomes Olympic road race champion in London
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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Vinokourov becomes Olympic road race champion in London

by Shane Stokes at 11:35 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Olympics
Uran and Kristoff take silver and bronze, Cavendish misses out to break

Alexandre VinokourovRiding what is expected to be the final season of his long career, Alexandre Vinokourov has turned back the clock and won the Olympic road race in London. The Kazakstan rider beat Rigoberto Uran in a two-up sprint to the line, capitalising on a momentary gap in concentration from the Colombian, who looked behind him to the left at precisely the same moment Vinokourov jumped on the right.

Vinokourov immediately opened a gap and while Uran tried to close it, he soon realised the opportunity was lost.

Norway’s Alexander Kristoff had been clear for much of the race after clipping away in an earlier break, but had sufficient reserves to win a 23-man sprint for bronze. He beat an impressive Taylor Phinney (USA), Sergey Lagutin (Uzbekistan) and Australia’s Stuart O’Grady, who is competing in his sixth Olympic Games.

“It is unbelievable. I finished the Tour a bit tired and sick, but I said I must go there,” Vinokourov said, referring to London. “Today’s race was unbelievable, there were too many people dangerous, [the course was] up, down, up, down, then I followed a big group [which got away].”

That group formed after the final ascent of Box Hill, when several riders clipped clear of the British-led peloton, opened a gap before the summit and then mopped up other riders who had been ahead, including a lone Philippe Gilbert (Belgium).

The Great Britain team of Mark Cavendish had kept things under control until that point, but then visibly fatigued and fell off the pace, enabling the 32-man break to pull ahead. While the German team gave some assistance in order to further Andre Greipel’s chances, the break was too committed and the gap opened to over a minute.

Beijing Olympics silver medallist Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland) was part of the move and was tipped by many, but he misjudged a corner inside the final ten kilometres and went down hard. That took him out of contention and with the Swiss rider unable to put weight on his right arm, gave his supporters concern about whether he will be able to contest the time trial on Wednesday.

He went for medical examination afterwards to see if he suffered any fractures.

That removed one obstacle to Vinokourov winning, but others remained. The Kazak rider knew what he had to do. “I said I must attack because if I arrive in the sprint, I won’t have a chance,” he explained. “I had a good jump with Uran, we rode hard together. This is an incredible victory to finish my career.”

The win produced very mixed reactions, with his supporters celebrating a very big victory, while others pointing out that he tested positive for a blood transfusion in 2007, was handed a two year ban and never apologised for his actions.

British hope Cavendish raced in as part of the main bunch, trailing Andre Greipel (Germany) and Tom Boonen (Belgium) to finish 26th. They were forty seconds behind the two leaders. A race predicted to end in a big gallop proved to be a more competitive one than that and Vinokourov, a rider known for his aggression, came out best on London’s Mall.

Cavendish thanked his team, but said that he couldn’t understand why more riders didn’t help. “There’s 70 guys in our group at the finish…I don’t understand why there’s only three guys riding,” he told BBC afterwards. “It doesn’t make sense.”

However he had said beforehand that he felt sure he was certain to win if things came down to a sprint; that was likely one factor in why so many teams opted to send riders up the road and race so hard to make sure they’d stay away.

How the race unfolded:

A total of 144 riders lined out for the start of the 250 kilometre men’s road race, with British supporters hoping that the home team could control things for a win.

After approximately fifteen kilometres of racing, Lieuwe Westra (Netherlands) and the Slovenian Borut Bozic briefly got clear; a more serious move went five kilometres later when a dozen riders got away. Those present included Westra, five-time Olympian Stuart O’Grady (Australia), US national champion Timmy Duggan, Italy’s Marco Pinotti, Fumi Beppu (Japan), Jonathan Castroviejo (Spain), Jurgen Roelandts (Belgium), Denis Menchov (Russia), Janez Brajkovic (Slovenia), Michael Schar (Switzerland), Alexander Kristoff (Norway) and Sungbaek Park (Korea)

After thirty kilometres of racing, the break was already two minutes ahead of the Great Britain-led peloton, which for some time was aided by Vasil Kiryienka (Belarus). The gap continued to grow and was a shade under five and a half minutes by the time the break hit Box Hill for the first time.

Back in the bunch, a crash took down several riders, including the strong Lituanian Gediminas Bagdonas and the Spanish sprinter Fran Ventoso.

Soon after the top of the climb, world time trial champion Tony Martin moved to the front, with Germany agreeing to British requests for assistance in chasing the break. Its sprinter Andre Greipel was one of the race favourites and wanted the move to come back.

Martin was joined by former team-mate and past world champion Bert Grabsch, who also aided the chase. However the bunch remained over five minutes back on the second ascent of Box Hill.

Several kilometres later, Australia’s Michael Rogers clipped away and opened several seconds’ gap over the peloton. He gradually pulled further ahead and crossed the Box Hill summit for the third time five minutes back; the peloton was a minute further behind there.

Just over 140 kilometres remained at that point, and Rogers had a lot of chasing ahead if he was to continue trying to get across. However he was just twenty seconds ahead of the peloton next time round and was caught on the climb, his effort in vain.

Big guns start firing:

Tour de France third-placed finisher Vincenzo Nibali (Italy) surged clear on the fourth ascent of Box Hill, and was quickly joined by Belgians Philippe Gilbert and Greg van Avermaet. Martin Elminger (Switzerland) and Robert Gesink (Netherlands) also got across, making it five chasers.

These rode hard up Box Hill but the peloton managed to bring them back after the summit. Less than a lap later, Ukrainian Andriy Grivko (Ukraine) attacked and was joined by Gregory Rast (Switzerland). Nibali and Gilbert then kicked clear again on Box Hill and, together with several others, caught the two just in front.

Also present in the chase group were Grivko and Rast, Danish rider Jakob Fuglsang, Italy’s Luca Paolini, Lars Boom (Netherlands), Sylvain Chavanel (France), Jack Bauer (New Zealand) plus the Czech Roman Kreuziger.

Just before the sixth ascent of the climb, the chasers had closed the gap to those out front to just under two minutes, and were 25 seconds ahead of the peloton.

Duggan and Westra used the slopes to kick clear, trying to split the break up and get rid of any passengers. Roelandts and Pinotti got across, but the others soon reeled them in again.

Nibali’s group was chasing hard and crested the summit one minute 15 seconds back, almost a minute clear of the peloton. The next time around the bunch was drawing closer, but an injection of pace by Gilbert and Nibali helped draw the break a little further ahead.

The chasers finally caught the break with 70 kilometres remaining, just before the penultimate ascent of Box Hill. Pinotti had been waiting at the back for Nibali to get up to them and once that junction was made, he pushed the pace for several kilometres. Nibali, Gilbert and then an impressive Fuglsang took over.

Back in the bunch, Alexandr Kolobnev (Russia) was concerned by the 45 second gap and attacked the peloton on Box Hill. Several of those from the front group drifted back and both he and they were just under 30 seconds back at the summit. The peloton was 53 seconds back, and trying to get back into control. However cracks were starting to show, and Britain’s grip on the race was slipping.

Final act plays out with surprise winner:

Gilbert decided to play his card early and jumped clear, riding hard to get a gap before the final ascent of Box Hill. He drove the pedals around and had a clear advantage hitting the slopes, being cheered on by the huge crowds as he neared the top.

While he’s nothing like the same rider as last year, he had a 43 second advantage over the chasers at the crest of the hill. Behind, two other groups wrested clear of the bunch on the climb and set about trying to bridge across. The first of those was one minute and three seconds back, with the second a further thirteen seconds behind. The Great Britain-led peloton was a further seven seconds back and struggling to keep things in check.

With several strong riders in the chasing groups, alarm bells were ringing for Cavendish. These concerns proved well founded when the various groups coalesced and caught Gilbert 42 kilometres from the line, producing a very strong front group with a solid lead. The Spanish and Swiss riders were particularly active, driving things along for Alejandro Valverde and Fabian Cancellara.

Wiggins was chasing hard behind and got assistance from Grabsch, but the gap was up to one minute with 34 kilometres remaining. The break was rotating very well, a marked difference from the bunch where a few riders were stuck on the front for a lot longer, and clearly starting to tire.

Chris Froome ran out of gas with approximately 25 kilometres left, sitting up. The other British riders continued to chase but the gap was still 50 seconds with twenty kilometres remaining. It persisted despite the break’s unity being disturbed by attacks by Norway’s Lars Petter Nordhaug and Gesink.

Cancellara was one of those to drive things along, realising that he had a big chance of taking a medal. However he got things completely wrong on a sharp right-hand turn after Richmond Park, misjudging the corner, hitting the ground and sliding into the barriers. The break lost some momentum but got going again; sadly for him, he was hurt and was unable to hold the bars with his right hand after remounting.

With ten kilometres to go the break was still a minute ahead, making it clear that the bunch was not going to come back. The mood shifted from collaboration to attack and Fuglsang gave it a shot, only to be closed down. Vinokourov and Uran then played their cards, clipping away with eight kilometres remaining and opening a decent lead.

Behind, the break started squabbling about the chase, with the thoughts of a bronze medal prompting some to save energy rather than giving everything to try to get the two leaders back. That was all they needed, and the duo went into the final kilometre with a sufficiently large gap to know that one of them would take gold.

Uran made the crucial error of looking behind at the wrong time; Vinokourov capitalised on this, attacking hard on the right side of the road and opening his sprint with a lead of several bike lengths. He held this all the way to the line, beating Uran for gold. Kristoff got the better of Phinney, Lagutin and O'Grady, netting bronze.

The main bunch was led home 40 seconds down by Greipel, who outsprinted Boonen and Cavendish. Each had hoped for a medal but with many riders so determined not to leave things to a bunch sprint, they had to settle for 27th, 28th and 29th. Needless to say, it wasn’t what they had in mind this morning.

Olympic road race, London:

1, Alexandr Vinokourov (Kazakhstan) 250 kilometres in 5 hours 45 mins 57 secs
2, Rigoberto Uran (Colombia)
3, Alexander Kristoff (Norway) at 8 secs
4, Taylor Phinney (United States of America)
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)
11, Lars Boom (Netherlands)
12, Jakob Fuglsang (Denmark)
13, Rui Alberto Faria Costa (Portugal)
14, Luis Leon Sanchez Gil (Spain)
15, Roman Kreuziger (Czech Republic)
16, Sergio Luis Henao Montoya (Colombia)
17, Andriy Grivko (Ukraine)
18, Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spain)
19, Philippe Gilbert (Belgium)
20, Sylvain Chavanel (France)
21, Janez Brajkovic (Slovenia)
22, Fumiyuki Beppu (Japan)
23, Robert Gesink (Netherlands)
24, Alexandr Kolobnev (Russian Federation)
25, Lars Petter Nordhaug (Norway)
26, Jonathan Castroviejo Nicolas (Spain) at 16 secs
27, Andre Greipel (Germany) at 40 secs
28, Tom Boonen (Belgium)
29, Mark Cavendish (Great Britain)
30, Arnaud Demare (France)
31, Francisco Jose Ventoso Alberdi (Spain)
32, Murilo Antonio Fischer (Brazil)
33, Tyler Farrar (United States of America)
34, Peter Sagan (Slovakia)
35, Andrey Amador Bakkazakova (Costa Rica)
36, Bernhard Eisel (Austria)
37, Kam-Po Wong (Hong Kong, China)
38, Elia Viviani (Italy)
39, Hector Hugo Zamarron Rangel (Mexico)
40, Daryl Impey (South Africa)
41, Matti Breschel (Denmark)
42, Radoslav Rogina (Croatia)
43, Assan Bazayev (Kazakhstan)
44, Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spain)
45, Miguel Ubeto Aponte (Venezuela)
46, Borut Bozic (Slovenia)
47, Ramunas Navardauskas (Lithuania)
48, Yukiya Arashiro (Japan)
49, Manuel Antonio Leal Cardoso (Portugal)
50, Rene Mandri (Estonia)
51, Jackson Rodriguez (Venezuela)
52, Vladimir Isaychev (Russian Federation)
53, Yauheni Hutarovich (Belarus)
54, Ivan Stevic (Serbia)
55, David Mccann (Ireland)
56, Aleksejs Saramotins (Latvia)
57, Martin Elmiger (Switzerland)
58, Nicki Sorensen (Denmark)
59, Gediminas Bagdonas (Lithuania)
60, Michal Kwiatkowski (Poland)
61, Danail Andonov Petrov (Bulgaria)
62, Adil Jelloul (Morocco)
63, Ryder Hesjedal (Canada)
64, Jussi Veikkanen (Finland)
65, Arnold Alcolea (Cuba)
66, Dmytro Krivtsov (Ukraine)
67, Kristijan Durasek (Croatia)
68, Nelson Filipe S. Simoes Oliveira (Portugal)
69, Tomas Aurelio Gil Martinez (Venezuela)
70, Lars Ytting Bak (Denmark)
71, Gonzalo Andres Garrido Zenteno (Chile)
72, Daniel Teklehaimanot (Eritrea)
73, Jan Barta (Czech Republic)
74, Sebastian Langeveld (Netherlands)
75, Gustav Larsson (Sweden)
76, Vegard Stake Laengen (Norway)
77, Branislau Samoilau (Belarus)
78, Grega Bole (Slovenia)
79, Cadel Evans (Australia)
80, Daniel Schorn (Austria)
81, Niki Terpstra (Netherlands)
82, Simon Gerrans (Australia)
83, Matthew Harley Goss (Australia)
84, Tony Gallopin (France)
85, Michael Schar (Switzerland)
86, Timothy Duggan (United States of America)
87, Nicolas Roche (Ireland)
88, Daniel Martin (Ireland)
89, Michael Rogers (Australia)
90, Greg Van Avermaet (Belgium)
91, Christopher Horner (United States of America) at 49 secs
92, Ian Stannard (Great Britain) at 50 secs
93, Bert Grabsch (Germany)
94, Michael Albasini (Switzerland)
95, Lieuwe Westra (Netherlands)
96, Sacha Modolo (Italy) at 54 secs
97, Stijn Vandenbergh (Belgium)
98, Vincenzo Nibali (Italy) at 56 secs
99, Marcel Sieberg (Germany) at 1 min 11 secs
100, Bradley Wiggins (Great Britain 1 min 17 secs
101, Tejay Van Garderen (United States of America) at 1 min 34 secs
102, John Degenkolb (Germany) at 2 mins 52 secs
103, Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland) at 5 mins 43 secs
104, Marco Pinotti (Italy) at 8 mins 7 secs
105, David Millar (Great Britain 9 mins 19 secs
106, Denis Menchov (Russian Federation)
107, Edvald Hagen (Norway)
108, Christopher Froome (Great Britain)
109, Laurent Didier (Luxembourg)
110, Ioannis Tamouridis (Greece)
111, Maximiliano Ariel Richeze (Argentina)
112, Maciej Bodnar (Poland)
113, Mehdi Sohrabi (Islamic Republic of Iran)
114, Gabor Kasa (Serbia)
115, Ahmet Akdilek (Turkey)
116, Byron Patricio Guama De La Cruz (Ecuador)
117, Gregolry Panizo (Brazil)
118, Kemal Kucukbay (Turkey)
119, Magno Prado Nazaret (Brazil)
120, Oleg Berdos (Republic of Moldova)
121, Andrei Nechita (Romania)
122, Michal Golas (Poland)
123, Amir Mustafa Rusli (Malaysia)
124, Krisztian Lovassy (Hungary)
125, Greg Henderson (New Zealand)
126, Vasil Kiryienka (Belarus)
127, Soufiane Haddi (Morocco)
DNF: Dan Craven (Namibia)
DNF: Mouhcine Lahsaini (Morocco)
DNF: Omar Hasannen (Syrian Arab Republic)
DNF: Jorge Adelbio Soto Perera (Uruguay)
DNF: Fabio Andres Duarte Arevalo (Colombia)
DNF: Mickael Bourgain (France)
DNF: Amir Zargari (Islamic Republic of Iran)
DNF: Alireza Haghi (Islamic Republic of Iran)
DNF: Azzedine Lagab (Algeria)
DNF: Spas Gyurov (Bulgaria)
DNF: Muhamad Adiq Husainie Othman (Malaysia)
DNF: Mirac Kal (Turkey)
DNF: Muradjan Halmuratov (Uzbekistan)
DNF: Tony Martin (Germany)
DNF: Giorgi Nadiradze (Georgia)
DNF: Sungbaek Park (Republic of Korea)
DNF: Manuel Rodas Ochoa (Guatemala)


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