Porte's pursuit of medal comes crashing down

Published 7 August 2016 (AEDT)

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 06: Richie Porte of Australia prepares to start during the Men's Road Race on Day 1 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Fort Copacabana on August 6, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. © 2016 Getty Images

Australia’s pursuit of a second medal in Olympic men’s road race history were cruelled when Richie Porte crashed during the final stages in Copacabana .

With less than 40 kilometres remaining in the race, Tasmania’s Porte fell victim to the descent of the treacherous Vista Chinesa climb, just one of a number of punishing course elements which plagued riders throughout the brutal 237.5km battle.

Perfectly positioned in the main bunch of 40 riders, Porte’s dream was ended when he was unable to avoid a rider who crashed ahead of him. The same descent also ended the Olympic hopes of pre-race favourites Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) and also Geraint Thomas (GBR) shortly after.

“Macca, I don’t think I am in for the time trial,” were Porte’s first words to Australian Head Coach Brad McGee who was first on the scene. Porte was taken in an ambulance to a nearby hospital shortly after the crash. He later withdrew from the time trial after suffering a fractured right scapula (shoulder blade) when he crashed. More here>>>

“He didn’t lose consciousness, he is good spirits but obviously in a lot of pain, but definitely there are a few breaks in there somewhere,” McGee said.

Bad luck followed Porte throughout the day, with two separate dropped chains coming as he negotiated tricky two-kilometre cobble section that lay at the foot of the first of the course’s two loops, the Grumari Circuit.

“We can’t have predicted what had happened thereafter, but he was definitely right where we wanted him,” added McGee. “He had already recovered from a couple of incidents, but he was in a good mindset, and the boys today did exactly what he needed.

“You have to take your hat off to him, not just today, but across the whole campaign, he has been in a really good place.

“He is a bloke that you would want to put a medal around his neck. He was there ready to shine. It is definitely disappointing, but we are not broken, he is definitely not broken, he will be back with his fighting spirit.”

Belgium's Greg Van Avermaet took the gold in a thrilling sprint to end the six-hour plus, 237.5km epic ahead of Denmark's Jakob Fuglsang and Poland’s Rafal Majka. Just 63 of the 144 riders who set out on the course at Fort Copacabana at 9.30am crossed the finish line.

Always the consulate team performer, Clarke was Australia’s lone finisher for the day in 25th position, six minutes behind Van Avermaet.

“It was as tough as what we predicted,” remarked Clarke. “It was a super race of attrition, as a team we were positioned perfectly before Richie had his mishap.

“The way Richie had been climbing of late at the Tour de France, I definitely think he would have been up there today.

“It is definitely an opportunity lost, but that is one-day racing. You can ride them so many times and just have bad luck.

“Unfortunately with the Olympics it only comes around every four years, but we stuck to the process, we had a good plan and everyone contributed so we need to come away proud of our performances.”

Rohan Dennis, who will line up in Wednesday’s time trial, and debutant Bowden who will contest the cross country mountain bike on the final day of competition, exited the race after setting Porte and Clarke up perfectly for Australia’s drive at a medal.

“With the resources we had, we rode the perfect race,” said Clarke. “Scott and Rohan did an amazing job early on the Grumari circuit to look after Richie, who had mechanical issues two out of the four laps on the cobblestones.

“It was vital to have Scott and Rohan supporting him there early, which enabled me to focus on getting ready to look after him on the second circuit.”

Clarke refused to play into any questions about the road surface, praising the Games organisers on the road quality.

“Look Rio did an awesome job, the roads were so smooth, we hardly saw any punctures which is an example of good road quality,” he said “The crash that happened, they were just going too fast. Quite often crashes are due to how riders choose to handle the course.

“Unfortunately, someone crashed in front of Richie and he had nowhere to go.

“It is important to ride within yourself, you don’t have to go down the descent at 70km/hour. You aren’t going to win a gold on the descent, but you certainly can lose it.”

Debutant Bowden was proud of his performance while on Olympic debut.

“For us, the one team hashtag that the AOC has been using, I really think we lived up to that today,” said Bowden, 21. “I think the process, the plan we had geared around Richie for the race, we did everything we could.

“For me it was unreal, expectations before this race, it was everything and more.”

Next up for Australia, the 136.9km women’s road race from 12.15pm on Sunday (1.15AM AEST Monday). Lining up in the 67-strong women’s peloton for Australia is London Olympian Amanda Spratt, plus debutants Gracie Elvin, Rachel Neylan and Katrin Garfoot. 

The men’s and women’s individual time trial will be held on Wednesday 10 August. Australia has qualified two riders in each event, however Porte will not line up given the injuries sustained today.

“What we have seen from Rohan today, he was definitely in the zone and we look forward to that on Wednesday,” said McGee. “It was part of the plan not to run him too long today, he went to the maximum today that I would allow him and he gave it everything.

“And we look forward to him now putting all his energy into his individual time trial and we will do everything to help him get ready for that.”

The final time trial entry lists will be confirmed after the women’s road race. The women’s time trial begins at 08.30am (9.30pm AEST) and the men’s from 10am local time (11:00pm AEST).

Amy McCann

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