In track cycling terms, the men's points final race is something of a marathon. Yet no one could have anticipated that the British medal contender, Chris Newton, would replicate Paula Radcliffe at the Velodrome yesterday.
In track cycling terms, the men's points final race is something of a marathon. Yet no one could have anticipated that the British medal contender, Chris Newton, would replicate Paula Radcliffe at the Velodrome yesterday. The 31-year-old from Middlesbrough, the 2002 world champion in this event, exited the race with only 90 of the 160 laps completed. He was so far adrift at the time, 50 points behind the leaders, his position was hopeless.
It was a departure which mystified British team officials, who have overseen conspicuous success, notably from the gold medallists Bradley Wiggins and Chris Hoy, during the past week and were optimistic of a medal at least, and possibly even a gold here. The Great Britain performance director, David Brailsford, looking bemused by what had befallen Newton, said: "This was a guy who rode 3.59 [over one kilometre] the other night to break the British record. As people within track cycling will know that is monstrously fast."
Having pulled up in the yesterday's race won by the Russian Mikhail Ignatyev, Newton dismounted, grabbed a spare machine and cycled straight out of the Velodrome: apparently into the Athens sunset. When he eventually returned, Newton conceded: "I didn't want to finish last or 10th. I came here to win a medal. The top half of me was fine. The bottom half wouldn't work. It went from bad to horrendous. Giving up was one of the easiest things I've done."
However, yesterday's events should not detract from a splendid Olympics for the Great Britain team, who already boast two golds and a silver and have potentially more cause for celebration this afternoon when the Belgium-born, France-based, but very British Wiggins is poised for a second gold in the men's madison final (in which he pairs up with Rob Hayles), a 50-kilometre event. Wiggins has already won gold in the men's individual pursuit and a silver in the team equivalent, and another medal here today could mean that the 24-year-old transcends the confines of his own sport, as Chris Boardman did - although the Edinburgh-based Hoy may have something to say about that.
"Bradley's a very focused and driven individual as most Olympic champions are," Brailsford said. "He's dreamt of this for 12 years, and has worked to make that dream a reality."
He added: "Bradley's young. He's got a lot of personality and character. He could become a superstar. Chris Hoy's the same. What Chris did the other night [winning the one-kilometre event] is one of the best Olympic performances I've ever witnessed."
Despite the disappointment of Nicole Cooke's road race events, Brailsford believes that there may be further success to be garnered in Saturday's mountain bike cross-country, with a young rider named Liam Killeen representing Great Britain
"In the last Olympiad we've been given £6.7m by the Lottery to achieve Olympic success," Brailsford reflected. "That is the clear focus and goal. While success here has obviously been about the talent of the riders, our task has also been to create the best support staff in cycling terms in the world. I think we're getting there, to be honest." Few would disagree.Reuse content