British hopes of a cycling medal on day one of the 2012 London Olympics turned to dust when pre-race favourite Mark Cavendish failed to finish in the top three of the men’s road race on Saturday.
Team Great Britain were brimming with confidence before the 250 kilometre event following the Tour de France success of Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome’s Tour runner-up placing and Cavendish’s final stage sprint win down the Champs Elysees a week ago.
But with half of the course completed, Team GB struggled to reel in an ever-increasing attack group that stretched a sizeable and dangerous lead over the main bunch.
Although Wiggins and company nibbled away at the front runners a growing fear that it was too little too late began to settle over the Team and the flag-waving host nation.
It proved to be the case – at the front and with seven kilometres to the finish line on The Mall – Alexandre Vinokourov of Kazakhstan and Colombia’s Rigoberto Uran took their chance and attacked the leading group.
It was a break that was to last to the line.
Vinokourov, who is to retire from cycling next week, easily outkicked Uran in the final metres to claim the gold.
Uran, who was looking behind him when Vinokourov exploded off into the distance, had to settle for silver.
Norway’s Alexander Kristoff beat the rest of the breakaway pack to win bronze.
Frustration was clear to see on the faces of Team GB who didn’t get the chance to lead out Cavendish for the sprint finish all were waiting for.
Cavendish eventually finished down in 28th position.
Elsewhere American Ryan Lochte highlighted his status as the hottest property in the pool at the London Olympics by thrashing the field to win the men’s 400 individual medley gold.
Brazilian Thiago Pereira won silver as Japan’s Kosuke Hagino rounded off the podium with bronze
American 14-times Olympic and reigning medley champion Michael Phelps was a distant fourth.
China were the biggest winners of day one. Sun Yang won the gold medal in the men’s 400 metres freestyle to become the first Chinese man to win an Olympic swimming title.
Yang beat Australian Ian Thorpe’s Olympic record with a time of three minutes 40.14 seconds.
23-year-old world number one Yi Siling of China won the first gold of the games in the women’s 10-meter air rifle event at the Royal Artillary Barracks.
While Wang Mingjuan continued China’s impressive showing winning gold in the first women’s weightlifting event.
Mingjuan extended a 10-year unbeaten international record by lifting a combined total of 205kgs to win the 48-kilogramme weight division.
Ye Shiwen capped off a glittering day for China by winning the women’s 400 metres individual medley with a world record time.
The 16-year-old turned on the power over the concluding freestyle leg to clock a world beating four minutes 28.43 seconds:
She shaved more than a second off the previous record of 4:29.45 set by Australia’s Stephanie Rice at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Sarah Menezes made Olympic history when she won the women’s Judo under 48kg title to became the first Brazilian female to win an individual gold medal.
The 22-year-old defeated reigning Olympic champion Alina Alexandra Dumitru of Romania with two scoring throws in the final minute.
Arsen Galstyan of Russia claimed the men’s -60kg when he shocked one of the gold medal favourites Japan’s Hiroaki Hiram with an upon – Judo’s equivalent of a knockout.
Australia won gold in the women’s 4×100 metres freestyle relay – The Netherlands finished second and the United States third.
It wasn’t all glory on day one of the Olympics as 19-year-old Albanian weightlifter Hysen Pulaku was banned from competing after testing positive for a banned steroid.
The dust had hardly settled from the opening ceremony before the first official doping ban during the Games was handed down.