Armitstead goes through the pain barrier as Cavendish wilts in heat

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The Independent Online

If you happen to be a citizen of India's capital city, please read on. This will come as news to you: there were two Commonwealth Games cycling road races contested in the heart of New Delhi yesterday.

The vast majority of Delhi's 14 million population will be unaware of what happened because the two races took place in a security bubble, on a 13.7km loop course that took the riders past India Gate and the sprawling presidential palace. Sadly, it took them past precious few Delhiites. The course was closed to the public for fear of a terrorist attack, guarded by two rings of military and police.

"There were a couple of people round the back of the course," Lizzie Armitstead reported, after taking silver for England in the women's 112km event, despite suffering a suspected broken toe when a falling barrier struck her right foot in mid-race. "Did you get their names?" she was asked.

At least Mark Cavendish turned up for the men's 168km race, unlike the Kennaugh brothers, Peter and Tim. They decided not to travel with the Isle of Man squad for fear of catching "Delhi belly" or worse. When it came to the crunch in the stifling heat and humidity of the Indian capital yesterday, Cavendish was left without sufficient support to hang on long enough to bring his fearsome sprint finish to bear.

He finished seventh, 59 seconds behind Allan Davis, who won the gold for Australia in 3hr 49min 48sec, with Hayden Roulston of New Zealand claiming silver and Scotland's David Millar snatching bronze. Cavendish had already vented his spleen at his professional team, HTC-Colombia, claiming in a press conference on Saturday that he was being "abused" by the terms of his three-year contract, which still has a season to run. "There is no goodwill, no bonuses, nothing," he said.

After his draining effort yesterday, the Manxman had nothing but praise for his Isle of Man team. "I couldn't have been more proud of our team," Cavendish said. "I said to them, 'As long as we all give 100 per cent, you can't ask for more. If the race doesn't go how we want, so be it'. As it turned out, at the end I was in a group and all the strong nations had two riders. You can't really compete with that."

Meanwhile Millar had Commonwealth Games Scotland to thank for giving him dispensation to compete. The doping offender turned anti-doping crusader said: "What I've done today is a big thank you to the Scottish team for believing in me. I've loved being part of this team. I really wanted to show off the jersey."

The women's 112km race was won in a sprint finish by Rochelle Gilmore of Australia, with Armitstead riding through the pain barrier for silver. "I think my little toe's broken," the 21-year-old Yorkshirewoman said. "It's pretty painful. These railings just came down in front of me. I didn't ride into them but they clipped me. I narrowly avoided a crash.

"It hurts but it didn't put a downer on my performance. It was nice to ride for England and take on the other British rivals because Nicole Cooke is such a dominant rider. It was nice to show that there are other people stepping up there."

Cooke, riding for Wales, had to change a wheel in the early stages but still managed to finish fifth. "I think I did very well to get fifth against some very strong opposition," the reigning Olympic road-race champion said.

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