- London 2012 - Cycling
Woe for Cavendish as Vinokourov takes gold
The British team of Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome, David Millar and Ian Stannard shut down an early break and looked poised to deliver Cavendish at the finish, but a 30-man break formed shortly before the final climb up Box Hill and they were unable to peg it back as it was left to Vinokourov to beat Rigoberto Uran - a Team Sky colleague of many of the Team GB boys - in the sprint for gold.
On the back of Wiggins' Tour de France win, confidence was high in the GB camp that they could deliver renowned sprinter Cavendish into a position to win the race over the closing stages, but they were given scant help by the other nations and it proved too much for them to control the race.
A 12-man breakaway went out early and got a lead of over six minutes at one stage. The GB squad kept their tempo and the original break was pegged back but a second group formed, one that included time-trial king Fabian Cancellara.
Cancellara looked well set to deliver one of his famed long breaks, but as they entered Richmond Park the break-away started to splinter and in a shocking twist for Cancellara he lost control at a corner and hit the deck hard.
That ended his chances - and possibly his time-trial bid next week, as he immediately went off for an X-ray on his shoulder - but the rest of group kept their composure to stay away and in the final five kilometres Vinokourov and Uran jumped away.
They worked superbly all the way to The Mall, at which point Uran made the mistake of looking over his wrong shoulder as Vinokourov seized his chance to storm away and claim gold - 12 years after taking silver in Sydney.
Alexander Kristoff of Norway won the sprint for bronze, while a dejected Cavendish rolled in amongst the main pack.
Afterwards, disappointed Cavendish lamented the lack of support from within the rest of the peloton - noting that teams seemed to be more content to see the British squad fail than look to enhance their own chances and risk getting into a sprint with the Manx rider.
"We did our race the way we wanted to," Cavendish said. "It seems like most teams are happy not to win, as long as we don't win. That's the story of our lives in cycling. We've got to take it as a compliment, but it's bitterly disappointing.
"We can't make excuses. We did everything we wanted to do and more. I couldn't be more proud of my team-mates. They're absolutely spent."
Meanwhile Vinokourov, who served a two-year ban for blood doping back in 2007, intimated that he will finally retire after this memorable end to his career.
"It will be a nice way to finish off my career with a gold medal," the 38-year-old said. "After so many crashes returning to cycling was difficult but my family, my children and my parents were behind me all the time.
"I still have a metal plate in my femur so it was not easy and I had not won any stage at the Tour de France but I was still hoping today.
"I will still race in time-trial on Wednesday but I have the gold medal I wanted and after that I will consider retiring."