Van Avermaet wins Olympic gold in men’s road race

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Greg Van Avermaet of Belgium chased down Rafal Majka of Poland at the finish of Saturday’s men’s cycling road race to win gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics. The finish was marred by crashes. Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali and Colombia’s Sergio Henao both fell on the last nasty descent from the top of Vista Chinesa with under 15 kilometers to go on the stage.

Majka, Nibali and Henao appeared to be on their way to podium finishes, in some order, after breaking free from an elite group of riders from the top of the final climb. The descent’s steep, tight bends had wreaked havoc on the field throughout the stage, however.

Majka luckily stayed upright as Nibali and Henao hit the pavement, but he didn’t have the legs to hold off Van Avermaet and Denmark’s Jakob Fuglsang on the long straightaway into the finish line at Fort Copacabana. Van Avermaet, one of the best sprinters in the road race field, seemed to get stronger as Majka’s legs clearly wavered.

Mechanical problems were a theme of the race. Among the biggest names, Australia’s Richie Porte jumped his chain twice, and Tour de France winner Chris Froome for Great Britain took an egregious pull behind a pace car to get back to the peloton at one point.

The break was caught with 45 kilometers to go by a strong chase group containing Froome and Belgium’s Greg Van Avermaet. The chaos only ramped up during the final circuit. The technical descent from Vista Chinesa claimed several casualties, including Porte (finally, after a snake-bitten day to continue a snake-bitten 2016).

Italy’s Nibali and Fabio Aru, Great Britain’s Adam Yates and Poland’s Majka bridged to the front group to take a 50-second lead over the peloton with under 30 kilometers remaining. The move left Spanish favorites Alejandro Valverde and Joaquim Rodriguez scrambling to get the peloton motivated. Froome slipped off the back of the lead group and never fully recovered.

Brent Bookwalter was the highest-placed American finisher, coming in 16th after a valiant ride off the back of the lead riders, coming in three minutes, 31 seconds off Van Avermaet’s time. Taylor Phinney finished 91st after taking fourth at the London games in 2012.

Rio Olympic Games 2016 – Road Race results: 

1 Greg Van Avermaet (Belgium)

6:10:05

2 Jacob Fuglsang (Denmark)

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3 Rafal Majka (Poland)

+05”

4 Julian Alaphilippe (France)

+22”

5 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spain)

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6 Fabio Aru (Italy)

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7 Louis Meintjes (Republich of South Africa)

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8 Andrey Zeits (Kazakhastan)

+25”

9 Tanel Kangert (Estonia)

+01’47”

10 Rui Costa (Portugal)

+02’29”

11 Geraint Thomas (Great Britain)

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12 Chris Froome (Great Britain)

+02’58”

13 Daniel Martin (Ireland)

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14 Emanuel Buchmann (Germany)

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15 Adam Yates (Great Britain)

+03’03”

16 Brent Bookwalter (United States of America)

+03’31”

17 Bauke Mollema (Netherlands)

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18 Kristijan Durasek (Croatia)

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19 Sebastien Reichenbach (Switzerland)

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20 Frank Schleck (Luxembourg)

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Belgium gold medal greg van avermaet jakob fuglsang olympic champion olympic games Rafal Majka RIO 2016

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