THE Australian and British men’s road cycling teams were at loggerheads after a controversial Olympic road race on Saturday night local time.
While Stuart O’Grady capped his great Olympic career with an ironman performance in his sixth Games, British star Mark Cavendish accused the rest of the Australian team of negative tactics and being satisfied just to ensure he didn’t win.
Australian team director Matt White quickly rebuffed the world champion’s complaint, saying there was no way his riders were going to help the British because O’Grady was in the breakaway group.
The prevailing sentiments among the Australians were pride in O’Grady’s performance and rueing a lost opportunity as they were unable to put a second rider into the breakaway group.
Adding to controversy, Kazakh Alexandre Vinokourov won the gold medal after he and Colombian Rigoberto Uran escaped from the front group with 7km left in the 250km event.
Vinokourov served a two-year doping suspension in 2007-09.
Cavendish was the hot pre-race favourite and the British team controlled the race superbly at the front of the peloton until about 30km left by 20km to go, it was clear the break would stay clear.
Cavendish lamented the lack of help that the British team received and singled out the Australians.
White wasted little time in replying to the accusation, saying he had been very confident that O’Grady could win a medal.
“It’s not rocket science to counter what Mark has said - we had someone in the breakaway,” he said.
“We had no need to contribute to the chase today, we had Stuey in very, very good shape.
“We obviously wanted multiple riders in the breakaway to put a maximum amount of pressure on the sprinters.
“Mark is obviously a little bit upset that he didn’t win today, but we had no need to contribute today because we had Stuey in a very good position.”
White also denied the Australians had ridden negatively, noting Griffith-raised cyclist Michael Rogers, who ended up 91st, had tried to bridge to the front group but received no support.
Rogers will now take aim at his pet event, the individual time trial, on Wednesday in the hope of adding an Olympic medal to his three world-championships in the discipline.