Olympic dream shattered for Cavendish

Mark Cavendish Photo: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire/Press Association Images

By Matt McGeehan

Mark Cavendish's bid to claim Great Britain's first Olympic gold of the London 2012 Games on The Mall was ended as Kazakhstan's Alexandr Vinokourov triumphed in a dramatic men's road race.

Cavendish, the world champion and winner of 23 Tour de France stages, was among the favourites for the 250-kilometre event, which included nine ascents of Surrey's Box Hill.

But despite phenomenal support from his four British team-mates a late breakaway stayed clear and Vinokourov won the sprint for the line.

Colombia's Rigoberto Uran, a Team Sky colleague of Cavendish's, claimed silver, with Norway's Alexander Kristoff third.

Cavendish described Britain's five-man squad as the "dream team", with Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome, David Millar and Ian Stannard riding in support of the Manxman.

All four had ridden alongside Cavendish when he won the World Championships road race in Copenhagen last September, but this task was tougher, according to Millar and Wiggins.

With a 12-man escape group established and rivals attacking all around them on the nine ascents of Box Hill, Britain remained calm, riding at Cavendish's tempo on the climb and at high pace on the descents and the flat.

The composition of the leading group altered, but Cavendish and his British team-mates passed the summit of Box Hill for the final time with a deficit of one minute 23 seconds to solo leader Philippe Gilbert of Belgium.

Gilbert was caught as a group of 32 formed at the start of the long run-in to the finish and they established a lead of around one minute.

Riders appeared unwilling to take the initiative and there was a crash in the leading group in Richmond Park as Fabian Cancellara veered into the roadside barriers.

Vinokourov and Uran broke clear in the finale and the Kazakh launched his sprint with 400 metres to go, catching the Colombian by surprise, to triumph.

Cavendish finished well down the field.