VeloEye view of the men’s Olympic road race

VeloVoices’ good friend, photographer Roz Jones, was among the crowd’s at yesterday’s Olympic men’s road race and was on hand to capture the drama leading up to Alexandre Vinokourov‘s triumph on the Mall. With her kind permission, we have reproduced here are a few of her shots from the day as she took up residence close to the 15km to go mark.

Gilbert can’t catch a break

It said much about the form of Philippe Gilbert – officially the top-ranked rider of 2011 – that (a) he felt it necessary to get into a risky break a long way out and (b) no one really believed it was going to work. Ultimately it was an instrumental move in scuppering Mark Cavendish‘s chances of victory, but that will have been of little consolation to Gilbert, who eventually finished 19th in the remnants of the break, eight seconds behind the leading two.

Philippe Gilbert (left) leads the break (image courtesy of Roz Jones)

Vino’s retirement gift to himself

Instead it was left to Vinokourov – a silver medallist in the road race in Sydney in 2000 – to launch the decisive attack along with Colombia’s Rigoberto Uran. A much-loved racer with a controversial past – he served a ban after being found guilty of blood doping at the 2007 Tour de France and has never repented – he announced he would retire after next week’s individual time trial.

Gold medallist Alexandre Vinokourov (centre) in the breakaway before launching the race-winning attack (image courtesy of Roz Jones)

Cancellara crashes out of contention

Also in the break and a strong candidate for victory was Switzerland’s Fabian Cancellara. One of the best bike handlers in the peloton, it was a shock to see him crash into the barriers on a corner about 16km from home. Although he did eventually climb back on to his bike to finish the race, his hopes of victory were long gone. He had sustained a bad shoulder bruise with internal bleeding which left him in obvious discomfort, as the post-crash image below clearly illustrates.

Cancellara alone and in pain after his crash (image courtesy of Roz Jones)

His status for Wednesday’s time trial – a discipline in which he is the defending Olympic champion – remains uncertain. Even if he does start, it will certainly boost the chances of the British duo of Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome, the historic winner and runner-up of this year’s Tour de France.

Britain stands alone (almost)

With almost everyone else leaving the British team to do the chasing on behalf of Cavendish, the peloton struggled to peg back the break’s lead much below one minute until it was too late. Even with the massive power of Wiggins, Froome, David Millar and Ian Stannard available, it was a bridge too far for a team which had had to sit on the front for virtually the entire day. Germany lent former world time trial champion Bert Grabsch to the chase, but the negative tactics of others meant the chase was an unequal one, leaving Cavendish and the other sprinters to compete for a lowly 27th position, 40 seconds behind Vinokourov.

The peloton chases, with Germany’s Grabsch leading the British team – but too little, too late (image courtesy of Roz Jones)

Cadel has nowhere to go

Another sprinter who will have been disappointed that the race did not end in a bunch gallop is Cavendish’s former teammate Matt Goss. Despite boasting 2011 Tour de France winner Cadel Evans in their squad, Australia steadfastly refused to do any work whatsoever in the chase.

Cavendish was critical of them afterwards, but once they had managed to sneak the veteran Stuart O’Grady into the break late on, they had no real reason to chase. It left Evans as a fairly anonymous figure hidden in the middle of the pack, unable to put his prodigious engine to use to help support Goss. O’Grady finished out of the medals in sixth.

Former Tour de France champion Cadel Evans cut an anonymous figure (image courtesy of Roz Jones)

In the end, an expectant partisan home crowd were left feeling disappointed, but that didn’t stop the race from producing both dramatic stories and dramatic images. Thanks to Roz for sharing hers with us!

You can follow Roz Jones on Twitter and find more of her photographic work at Roz Jones Photography. She also operates On The Road Cycling Tours for anyone interested in viewing the sport up close and personal – you can find out more on the website here.

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