Monday, 30 July 2012

The dream is over for Cavendish...

What a bloody shame. After all the talk, the hype, the odds. After self-sacrifice at the Tour de France and with a four year old desire burning strong in his heart, Mark Cavendish's hopes of securing an Olympic medal were left on the narrow lanes of Box Hill last Saturday.

In the morning they had all but hung the medal around his neck. By afternoon Mark Cavendish had left The Mall, his Olympic dreams in tatters.

It had been a day of magnificent promise. The crowds were massive - over a million people was the estimate. Somewhere out on the 156 mile course Mark Cavendish lost his christian name and most of his surname - to everyone along the route he became, simply, Cav. The name was on the country's lips. Reports of the manners of rival supporters, of rival nations, all exuded grace. On the packed train to Box Hill people leapt to offer their seats to older people. One man even offered his seat to an Australian. But in the end, out on the road, there was cruel disappointment and talk that it was impossible to ride such a gruelling race back to back with The Tour de France.

Team GB seemed to be riding the perfect race, controlling the main peloton and appearing unruffled as splinter group after splinter group tried to break them. But behind the impassive faces the toll of providing all the work was beginning to take effect. No other country was prepared to share the hard miles - But why should they? - What would be the point of helping deliver the fastest man in the world to a sprint finish that would all but guarantee him gold?

The message was clear. Teams that could not deliver a gold medallist were intent on preventing Britain from doing so - leaving Cavendish frustrated and helpless.

But nevertheless it was an Olympic spectacle, and Box Hill was a superb vantage point. It had been subject to a fingertip search before the Olympics - not for the caches of terrorism, but for nesting and endangered species. There are two species that are clearly not endangered - the wonderful British sports fans and the great British cyclists.

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