Britain’s gold medal chase went awry on day one of the London Olympics when world champion Mark Cavendish finished 29th in the cycling road race. He blamed Australians for not helping chase down a breakaway.
Kazakhstan’s Alexandr Vinokourov, 38, won in his last few days as a pro rider. Rigoberto Uran of Colombia was second and Norway’s Alexander Kristoff third.
Cavendish was the favorite yesterday with bookmaker Coral Ltd., and a successful $1 wager would have yielded a $1 profit. He finished 40 seconds off the pace as four compatriots including Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins couldn’t lead him into a position to challenge in a sprint.
“The Australians just sat there and always ride negatively,” Cavendish told the British Broadcasting Corp. “I haven’t got a medal, but I’m really proud of my team and really proud of my country for the support we had.”
The four Australians included 2011 Tour de France champion Cadel Evans and Team Sky’s Michael Rogers, who helped Wiggins become the first Tour British winner on July 22.
London Mayor Boris Johnson, who’s known for his deadpan humor, said near the finish line that the defeat on day one was a “classic British maneuver.”
“We’re lulling our competitors into a false sense of security,” Johnson said in an interview. “The lulling may go on for several days.”
Britain is targeting 48 medals at the games.
Spectators waving British flags lined the road five or six deep as the riders made nine ascents of Box Hill in Surrey, southwest of London. The British quintet led by Ian Stannard for dozens of miles toiled to get within a minute of a 22-strong breakaway during the 140-mile race that ended on The Mall near Buckingham Palace.
Vinokourov, who won silver at the Sydney games in 2000 and failed a doping test at the 2007 Tour de France, outsprinted Uran on the final straight away after the pair spent the last several kilometers on their own.
The Kazakh darted ahead with some 300 meters left when Uran turned to look behind him.
“It’s a beautiful reward for my career,” Vinokourov said.
Cavendish had fewer teammates to support him than at the Tour de France -- in which teams have nine riders -- and didn’t have radios to get guidance from team directors like in the three-week stage, Kristoff said. Instead, they relied on officials riding pillion on motorbikes to show them the time margin on a blackboard.
Chris Froome, the Kenya-born Briton who finished second to Wiggins at the Tour de France, gave up the chase with a few miles remaining.
“It’s not easy with such small teams,” Kristoff said.