Greg Van Avermaet delighted to prove pundits wrong and claim Olympic gold

The three medallists in the men's Olympic road race at Rio 2016 gave their thoughts on the race soon after crossing the finish line

(Image credit: Watson)

A brutal day in the saddle saw Greg Van Avermaet come out on top in the men's Olympic road race, a result he was understandably pleased with — but it wasn't an easy victory by any means.

An incredibly demanding day on the bike led to a hectic day of attacks and counter-attacks. In the end, it came down to a group of three as Van Avermaet (Belgium), Jakob Fuglsang (Denmark) and Rafal Majka (Poland) took gold, silver and bronze, respectively.

Crashes at the front affected numerous front-runners, including Vincenzo Nibali (Italy) and Geraint Thomas (Great Britain).

"When I saw the crash I was confused about how many riders were still up the road," Van Avermaet said.

"I was working with [Jakob] Fuglsang, and we saw [Rafal] Majka. We knew it was possible," he continued. "I knew I had to hang on. I am so happy for gold."

Many had predicted the winner as being someone with more climbing pedigree that Van Avermaet, and the perception of it being a climbers' course even saw Peter Sagan withdraw and switch to mountain biking.

"Everyone said all week it was for everyone else," the Belgian said, proving all predictions wrong.

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The podium of the men's Olympic road race. Photo: Graham Watson
(Image credit: Watson)

When speaking after taking silver, Fuglsang commented on the crash that saw Nibali and Sergio Henao crash out of medal winning positions.

"Sometimes it pays not to take risks. After the first climb I saw there was a bump on the road on the corner so I took it a little easier," he said.

"I knew the medals were in play, and I looked back and no one was working so I attacked. I'm very happy to take a medal at these Olympics."

Watch our guide to the road race and time trial

The final step on the podium was taken by Rafal Majka, who had been away on his own after Nibali went down in front of him.

"I don't know how I did not crash but somehow I made it through," he said. "In the end I had such hard cramps in my legs I could barely pedal. When the others caught me I knew that it was impossible to win.

"To come here to win bronze makes me so happy. I cannot believe it."

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