By Nigel Wynn
Alexandre Vinokourov (Kazakhstan) won the London 2012 Olympic Games men's road race on The Mall in London on Saturday after a large escape group kept the peloton at bay, denying British sprinter Mark Cavendish the chance for a medal.
Vinokourov and Rigoberto Uran (Colombia) had escaped from a larger breakaway in the final kilometres of the 250-kilometre race around London and Surrey. Vinokourov opened up his sprint in the final 500 metres as Uran appeared to look the other way and miss the move.
The young Colombian had to settle for silver, with Alexander Kristoff sprinting at the head of the large chase group to claim bronze for Norway.
Cavendish came home in the main bunch 40 seconds behind the leaders after Great Britain failed to bring back the escapees on the journey back from Box Hill to The Mall.
As pre-race favourites and with such strong home support, it was Great Britain's race to lose. Cavendish, Ian Stannard, Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and David Millar had controlled the day's events admirably on the nine ascents of Box Hill, pegging back the time advantage of an earlier 12-rider escape group, an attack by a group containing Vincenzo Nibali (Italy) and a lengthy solo move by Philippe Gibert (Belgium). But the effort took its toll.
A large group, led by Spain and Switzerland, launched at attack on the final Box Hill circuit. With no other teams willing to assist in the chase, Great Britain looked tired and isolated on the road back to London as the lead group forged ahead.
Cavendish's hopes of an Olympic medal once again evaporated, and he crossed the line in London shaking his head in disappointment.
"The Germans came a bit too late and the other teams seemed to be more content that they wouldn't win as long as we didn't win. That's kind of how it goes," Cavendish told BBC Radio Five Live after the race.
"I can be proud of how the lads rode today. I'm proud of my country because there was incredible support. The guys are sat there, they are spent. They have got nothing left in the tank. It's incredible to see what they gave for the cause."
There were several notable casualties during the race, not least Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland) who crashed out after misjudging a corner whilst in the lead group. He appeared to have injured his shoulder, throwing some doubt on his participation in the time trial on Wednesday.
Tom Boonen (Belgium) also had his chances dashed with a badly-timed puncture in the final 20 kilometres. A wheel change meant he lost contact with the peloton.
Vinokourov will be seen by many as a controversial Olympic champion, after he failed an anti-doping control for homologous blood transfusion at the 2007 Tour de France and was ejected from the race.
The 38-year-old has always strenuously denied any wrong-doing and returned to cycling in 2009 after a two-year suspension.
Earlier this year, Vinokourov announced that this would be his last season as a professional rider.
Grand Day Out
The result may not have been what many British fans were hoping for, but the support for British riders along the route was unprecedented.
UCI president Pat McQuaid's estimate that one million spectators would turn out to watch the race cannot have been far off, as crowds lined every street and road on the entire route.
It was once again proof that cycling is riding on a high in Britain after this year's Tour de France success.
London 2012 men's road race live coverage: a minute-by-minute account of the race>>
London 2012 Olympic Games, men's road race: London/Surrey, 250km
1. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kazakhstan) in 5-45-57
2. Rigoberto Uran (Colombia)
3. Alexander Kristoff (Norway) at 8 secs
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) all same time
29. Mark Cavendish (Great Britain) at 40 secs
94. Ian Stannard (Great Britain) at 50 secs
103. Bradley Wiggins (Great Britain) at 1-17
108. David Millar (Great Britain) at 9-19
109. Chris Froome (Great Britain) at 12-27
Ian Stannard chases
Vincenzo Nibali leads an escape group
Philippe Gilbert attacks
Alexandre Vinokourov wins
Rigoberto Uran (silver), Alexandre Vinokourov (gold), Alexander Kristoff (bronze)
London 2012: Live text coverage of cycling events
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Men's road race start list
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Men's time trial start list
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Olympic Games men's road race: Who will win?
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Team GB road race training on Box Hill (July 26)
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