Watching the coverage of yesterdays Olympic road race from an impartial distance left a number of impressions on many a neutral observer.
The evening before Sean Kelly whilst being interviewed on Eurosport once again called it spot on. He could not see the British team being able to control the entire race with such a small team and even though Cavendish would be the overwhelming favourite in a bunch sprint, he foresaw a large breakaway group deciding the race with anything up to 50 riders being possible winners .
Most of the British media saw it differently with the biased commentators in unison predicting a Cavendish win as a foregone conclusion. The British public bought into this as did most of the dignitaries and celebs nearby.
The pressure on Cav’s shoulders was immense .
When the result did not go their way the media were like a spoilt child with all the toys they could possibly want who still wanted more. Cavendish had let the whole nation down by not delivering a simple gold medal, or so they inferred .
Just 6 days earlier the current World Champion ( a cycling title just as great as being Olympic Champion ) won the final stage of the Tour de France ( biggest annual sporting event in the World ) for the fourth time (a record ) on the Champs Elyse as part of the overall winners team ( Britain’s greatest ever sporting achievement ). Along with carrying bottles stuffed up his rainbow jersey and with no team working for him until the final 10k of the whole race he managed to win 3 stages of this years event which propelled him to 4th in the list of stage winning numbers ever .
On Sunday afternoon he was a hero but just 6 days later a BBC sports editor was almost trying to portray him as a villain, making a big deal of a short answer to an ill timed question and writing a blog post that was beyond belief. The sports editor wanted to know why a course which did not suit their star rider had been designed as such !
A neutral observer could probably see many of the reasons why the British team did not get their result.
A team half the size of the Worlds team on a more difficult course would not be able to replicate the same result using the same tactics.
The Tour win was based around mathematics which had been transferred from track success. A team riding at 400 watts for 40 minutes could drop pretty much everyone on a climb allowing the team leader to ride at 450 watts in the time trial and beat everyone else. Maths with what little tactics were involved being transmitted via race radios from team car.
The Olympic road race has small teams and no race radios. The race demands a great level of tactical nous and experienced race craft. Cunning tactics before and during are essential to success and this is where Team Sky or Team GB slipped up.
To announce to all your rivals your plan to bring the fastest sprinter in the World to the finish in a bunch sprint years in advance is naive. A cunning old Belgian manager would have declared Wiggins to be team leader as the course would be too tough for Cav who was only being included as he is current World Champion. They would have hinted toward some kind of illness or fatigue within the team and have had the whole team hide for 3/4 of the race as they watched it develop. They would have had team personnel on the hill relaying time gaps from the side of the road. A poker player mentality would have not put them near the front until 2 laps to go where fresh legs might, and it would still be a might, have made a difference and Cav may have been given the opportunity to sprint for the win.
The eventual winner Vinokourov was probably the least favourable winner possible and a kick in the teeth for anti doping but he was tactically excellent. He wasn’t the only rider in the field to have served a doping ban so glasshouses and stones did come to mind afterwards too. A point blank zero tolerance policy should be adopted by the Olympics.
Again the British media showed their lack of cycling knowledge by referring to him as an unknown but we can’t talk as our sports anchor Bill O’Herlihy asked what happened to ‘Kavanagh’ after the race .
Mark Cavendish, Kavanagh or Macintosh. Whatever you might want to call him is one of the greatest sprinters ever, a born winner who will be winning very soon again. He is sometimes arrogant and tempestuous but always entertaining, just like a great sprinter should be. He may not have won the Olympics but he is still a great Champion.
Claire Moore who worked with him says he is a nice fella too, so that makes him OK !