Mark Cavendish blames 'negative' rivals after Olympic disappointment

By Matt SlaterBBC Sport on The Mall

Mark Cavendish blamed the negative tactics of other teams, including Australia, for his Olympic men's cycling road race disappointment.

Cavendish, 27, was favourite to claim Britain's first gold medal at London 2012 but finished 40 seconds behind winner Alexandre Vinokourov.

"Other teams were content that if they didn't win, we wouldn't win," said Cavendish.

"The crowd was tremendous, but the Aussies just raced negatively."

Australia's Michael Rogers, who was a team-mate of Cavendish's during the Tour de France, told BBC Sport: "Cavendish is a great athlete.

"He is the world's fastest man. Credit to him, his team gave it their best. They rode strong and took the race by the horns. They really took responsibility, but that's cycling."

Cavendish, who finished 29th, refused to blame his team-mates, who included 2012 Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins and runner-up Chris Froome.

"The guys are all sat there in the tent absolutely spent," he said.

"We did everything we could. The team was incredible. They left everything on the road; I am so proud of them.

"We rode the race we wanted to ride but we couldn't pull them back on [the key climb] Box Hill."

The Manxman, who has won 23 stages of the Tour de France since 2008, also praised the "tremendous" support the British riders were given by the enormous crowds that gathered along the 250km course - early estimates suggested over a million people lined the roads, making it the biggest crowd in Olympic history.

For Vinokourov, this victory was a perfect send-off after a long, sometimes glorious and often controversial career.

The Kazakhstan rider becomes the first man to win two medals in the Olympic men's road race, having won silver in 2000, but he will also be remembered for his 2007 doping conviction.

"It's just unbelievable," said Vinokourov, 38, who may consider retirement after winning gold.

"I finished the Tour de France a little tired, but the Olympics, I must go there.

"It was up-down, up-down, too many people and very dangerous.

"But I knew if I followed the group, I would have no chance in the sprint. This victory finishes my career."

The key to Vinokourov's triumph was getting himself in a group of potential race-winners with about 30 miles to go.

Once it became clear that the British-led charge would not reel these riders back in, Vinokourov and Colombia's Rigoberto Uran jumped clear with five miles to go.

"The last metres were very difficult," said Uran. "Vinokourov attacked and I didn't have the strength to sprint. We put everything into it.

"This is a historic medal. I hope that all of Colombia can celebrate this medal. It is Colombian."

It is a sentiment Cavendish, Uran's professional colleague at Team Sky, will understand, but must now wait until 2016 for another chance to experience it for himself.

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