Sunday, 29 July 2012

Cavendish, Armistead And Jon Tiernan-Locke: Up And Down Weekend For British Cycling

In a weekend that promised Team GB's first Olympic gold medal for Mark Cavendish but delivered only a silver for Lizzie Armistead, it was left to Enduras Jon Tiernan-Locke to finally secure a win for British cycling. OK, so it wasn't exactly Olympic, but its a win none the same and one that continues to promise a bright future for Britains bike riders...

Mark Cavendish saw his dreams of Olympic gold desolve away in the closing kilometres of Saturdays Olympic Road Race as a late break-away managed to stick and put paid to Team GB's day long efforts to control the race to the finish. The emotional pain was etched all over Cavs face as he crossed the finish and having worked so hard, lost so much weight and sacrificed Tour de France ambitions it must have been a bitter pill to swallow for the Manxman.

David Millar, Chris Froome, Ian Stannard and Bradley Wiggins had worked tirelessly from the start to set the pace on the front and control the race. Each time a break went they stayed calm and reeled it back in with precision. A late merger between two breakaway groups though saw fresh impetus injected into the leading group who worked hard to put Team GB under pressure - cracks started appearing and though Bradley Wiggins took up the chase and managed to claw back a few seconds it was soon evident that this time, such a strong break-away was going to stay away. There was no help from the other teams with sprinters in the closing kilometres and Team GB were simply spent. Alexandre Vinokourov eventually took the honours, jumping away from Rigoberto Uran in the final 200 metres to take victory on the mall. Not only had Cavendish missed out on a podium place, he was beaten by a largely unpopular and unrepentant ex-doper - it made for a disappointing finish to what had been an exciting race.

On to today and could the women make a mends for the men's lack of metal? The women's team lined up at the start as one of the strongest, much the same as the men, with the likes of Nicole Cooke, Lizzie Armistead and Emma Pooley. At times it looked as though the women would achieve what the men hadn't and keep the peloton as one bunch come the home straight. That was until race favourite Marianne Vos took a flyer with 50km left to race. Luckily Armistead had spotted the move and managed to get on the wheel of Vos, along with Olga Zabelinskaya who would eventually make up the Podium places. They eaked out time and the chasers couldn't catch such a strong break-away, now it was all down to Lizzie Armistead's ability to take a sprint win, but as predicted Vos was just to strong - Armistead didn't have the final kick to come around her, and the gold medal went to the Netherlands with Armistead settling for silver, and GB's first medal of the games.

So still no win. Well, in the Olymics at least - as British sensation Jon Tiernan-Locke took overall glory (following two stage victories) in the 6 stage long Tour d'Alsace in France today thanks to a smart performance from his Endura team which saw them consolidate the race and keep any attacks under control on the final stage which saw the riders tackle five categorised climbs, adding to his fantastic seasons palmares including overall at Tour Méditerranéen, Tour du Haut Var and second in the Vuelta a Murcia. Tiernan-Lockes early season success was knocked back back a broken collarbone and three bruised ribs in the Lincoln GP but he announced his return in style with a sprint victory on stage 2 and on the mountainous stage 4 of the race in Alsace. Though 27 years old, with his penchant for European stage race victories and punching well above his weight Tiernan-Locke has emerged as Britain's brightest prospect and is sure to make the double step up from Continental to ProTour next season with rumours that he will be riding for Sky still persistant. Theres still talk that he will get the nod from Dave Brailsford to ride this years World Championships which would suit his punchier characteristics. I'd say this latest feat is a win for British cycling, Team GB or not...

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