AusCycling apologises for snapped handlebar horror at Tokyo Olympics

Damning report finds inadequate specification and testing at the heart of the equipment failure that saw rider crash at 60 km/h

Alex Porter crashes after handlebar snaps during team pursuit qualifying in Tokyo Olympics
(Image credit: Getty Images)

AusCycling has apologised after releasing a report into the handlebar which snapped during the Tokyo Olympics Team Pursuit (opens in new tab), causing Alex Porter to crash heavily. 

The report, conducted by mechanical and aeronautical engineer John Baker, made 14 recommendations after Porter’s bars snapped dramatically during qualifying. The heavy crash left the rider with numerous injuries including friction burns to his face. 

The team of Porter, Sam Welsford, Leigh Howard, Kelland O'Brien and Luke Plapp (opens in new tab) eventually rallied to win a bronze medal. However the spectacular incident, that saw Porter sent face-first into the boards at 60km/h, and subsequent fallout epitomised the track team’s poor showing. The single medal was its worst performance in the Olympic velodrome since the Moscow games in 1980.

Alex Porter crashes during team pursuit qualifying at the tokyo olympic games

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Among the recommendations made in Baker’s report, there were two significant takeaways. The report found that the national track cycling team provided “inadequate specification for custom-built handlebars” as well as failing to “conduct adequate fatigue testing.” 

“The report found that a lack of adequate processes and policies meant that the issues weren’t detected and rectified before the team raced at the Games, ” said AusCycling chief executive Marne Fechner.

“We apologise to Alex and his fellow riders, to the broader Australian Olympic team and to the Australian public, all of whom were entitled to expect better,” Fechner said. “The recommendations are very clear, in that there’s a complete overhaul required in how we go about our business.”

The manufacturer of the bars, Melbourne-based Bastion Cycles, were also cited in the report and received five recommendations, among them a call to review design and production quality assurance procedures. The equipment in question was its CA-06 base bar, which unsurprisingly is no longer available (opens in new tab).

Alex Porter back on his feet after handlebar failure causes him to crash during the team pursuit qualifiers at the Tokyo Olympics

(Image credit: Getty Images)

"You don't fail until you give up. We have always said that no matter what the results of the report were, we would treat this as an opportunity to learn and become stronger as people, and as an organisation," said Bastion co-founder Ben Schultz in response to the findings. 

"In team sport, we win together, lose together and critically, learn together. Bastion is committed to working with AusCycling and the team as we address each of the recommendations and work towards the future.”

Porter’s accident quickly became ‘the crash heard round the world’ and was one of the enduring images of the games. Soon after the incident fingers were pointed and speculation was rife. The team’s bicycle manufacturer Argon 18 was quick to confirm that although it had designed a handlebar for the team it was not the bar in use at the time of the crash. Bastion, who specialise in 3D printed titanium parts, soon released its own statement (opens in new tab)which stated it was “working with the Australian Olympic Team to understand the cause behind the failure of one of our handlebar units during the four-person, Australian pursuit challenge.” 

The published report ends months of speculation. It also appears to represent closure for the man who literally bore the brunt of AusCycling’s failings.

“I acknowledge the work that has gone into the report and the many people who have contributed to a better understanding of what happened in Tokyo,” said Porter. “I also appreciate AusCycling’s transparency and acknowledge their apology to all of us who rode in the team pursuit.”

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Luke Friend

Luke Friend has worked as a writer, editor and copywriter for over twenty years. Across books, magazines and websites, he's covered a broad range of topics for a range of clients including Major League Baseball, the National Trust and the NHS. He has an MA in Professional Writing from Falmouth University and is a qualified bicycle mechanic. He fell in love with cycling at an early age, partly due to watching the Tour de France on TV. He's a passionate follower of bike racing to this day as well an avid road and gravel rider.