If you had told me that medal podium would be Kazakhstan, Colombia, Norway today, I would have laughed a teensy bit. But the breakaway defied the predictions and the sprinter’s teams, disrupting many riders’ hopes for the ending today.
The attacks started early – with one large breakaway setting out before they reached Box Hill. At one point, the breakaway leaders had 9 minutes on the peloton, but Great Britain, leading the main group brought that back within three minutes fairly quickly. While circling Box Hill, it seemed like each climb launched another attack from the peloton, establishing one, two, or three different groups at any various time, which, by the time the course was headed back to London, had coalesced into a large group breakaway.
The peloton just could not catch up. One issue is that the other teams were clearly willing to let GBR lead the whole way – hoping for an advantage in the last few miles of the race. The only help that Wiggins and Co. got was a single German rider who helped lead in support of Andre Greipel, and Bernhard Eisel, who is Mark Cavendish’s BFF.
Meanwhile, the breakaway group was just too big to catch, and Alexander Vinokurov of Kazakhstan and Rigoberto Uran stayed fresh enough to attack, establishing and maintaining a sizable difference on the breakaway with about 3 miles to go. Coming into the end, Uran jumped the wrong way, looking for Vinokurov, who charged up the Colombian’s other side, and won a gold medal at 38 years of age. The bronze medal came down to a mini-sprint within the breakaway group, won by Norwegian Alexander Kristoff. None of these riders would have been considered a favorite coming in – but Alexander Vinokurov is a strong rider, who has pulled off some gritty finishes before. (See 2005 Tour de France)
There were several U.S. riders in the successful breakaway, including Taylor Phinney and Tejay VanGarderen – but breakaway’s leaders seemed to tired at the end to catch Vinokurov and Uran. Possibly the worst consequence was Switzerland’s Fabian Cancellara crashing – Cancellara was leading the breakaway in the last 5 miles, when he took a turn too fast, and crashed into the barrier. He rode into the finish line after the peloton, and looked to be nursing his right forearm or wrist. Cancellara looked to have a decent chance at the time, and is a favorite for the time trial – but the crash today may hurt him.