A crash on the final descent ended Geraint Thomas’ hopes of an Olympic medal after a dramatic end to the men’s Olympic road race at Rio 2016.
Belgium’s Greg van Avermaet eventually sprinted for gold by the shores of the famous Copacabana beach, nudging Jakob Fuglsang of Denmark and Poland’s Rafal Majka into silver and bronze medal position respectively.
Thomas had looked in with a chance of challenging for the medals after a crash involving two of the lead group, Vincenzo Nibali and Sergio Henao, left the door open to chase the loan leader Majka 10km from the finish
But the Welshman fell victim to the same misfortune almost immediately and eventually finished in 11th, one place ahead of Tour de France winner Chris Froome and four clear of another teammate in Adam Yates.
Thomas had ridden superbly throughout the day and found himself in the lead group with 43km to go. However, the trio of Nibali, Henao and Majka eventually proved too strong on the final climb and were seemingly left to contest the medals before the late drama unfolded.
In a brutal 237.7km race, less than half the 144 starting field finished including Team GB’s Steve Cummings and Ian Stannard.
“It was exactly what we thought it would be and was full on all the way," said coach Rod Ellingworth.
"That first break was a really strong group but we knew it wasn’t enough riders to stay away. However it was a group of quality riders so you had to respect that.
“Until the final circuit I thought the guys rode a perfect race. We had some bad luck with Ian who broke his bike on the cobbles but then Steve did a great job bringing the lads into the first climb. We wanted it to be hard and it was hard. G put himself into the bike race perfectly.
“In general, great teamwork but it’s just unfortunate the crash happened when it did. I knew from the test event that final descent would be a deciding factor in the race and that’s how it turned out.
“Looking at Geraint he was properly disappointed as knew that was a real gold medal chance."
Froome will get a second attempt at winning an Olympic medal when he competes in Wednesday’s time trial and the three-time Tour de France Champion will be looking to improve on the bronze medal he won four years ago at London 2012.
“Chris rode well today and left a lot of class bike riders on the climb. But for him it’s about recovery now, looking after him and giving him the best chance for the time trial."