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Van Avermaet stuns the climbers to take gold in Rio

RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) — Greg Van Avermaet claimed a gold medal for Belgium in the men’s Olympic road race Saturday in Rio de Janeiro, sprinting to a clear victory in a three-man finish ahead of Denmark’s Jakob Fuglsang and Poland’s Rafal Majka at Fort Copacabana.

Van Avermaet and Fuglsang bridged to a soloing Majka, the last survivor of a three-man escape after Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali and Colombia’s Sergio Henao crashed on a tricky descent, in the waning moments of a grueling 237.5-kilometer race. The clear favorite for the ensuing sprint, Van Avermaet waited until the final 200 meters to launch, and then easily distanced his two rivals to take the victory.

“I am so happy for gold. Everyone said all week it was for everyone else,” said Van Avermaet, who mostly flew under-the-radar ahead of the race on such a climber-friendly course.

“It was a stressful race with all the crashes. There was a lot of risk-taking.”

Top 10

  • 1. Greg VAN AVERMAET, Belgium, in 6:10:05
  • 2. Jakob FUGLSANG, Denmark, at :00
  • 3. Rafal MAJKA, Poland, at :05
  • 4. Julian ALAPHILIPPE, France, at :22
  • 5. Joaquim RODRIGUEZ OLIVER, Spain, at :22
  • 6. Fabio ARU, Italy, at :22
  • 7. Louis MEINTJES, South Africa, at :22
  • 8. Andrey ZEITS, Kazakhstan, at :25
  • 9. Tanel KANGERT, Estonia, at 1:47
  • 10. Rui Alberto FARIA DA COSTA, Portugal, at 2:29

A six-man breakaway got clear around 20km into the race with several big hitters in the group, among them former world champion Michal Kwiatkowski of Poland, Colombia’s Jarlinson Pantano, Switzerland’s Michael Albasini, and Germany’s Simon Geschke.

Their gap plateaued at more than seven minutes but then it began to gradually drop. With 90km left it was only just over two minutes.

70km from the finish, Van Avermaet got into a counter-attack that also featured Great Britain’s Geraint Thomas and Damiano Caruso of Italy. Pantano, Abasini, and Geschke dropped out of the front group leaving only Kwiatkowski and Russian champion Pavel Kochetkov up front, while Colombia’s Sergio Henao and Estonia’s Rein Taramae bridged up to the three chasers.

With 47km left Kwiatkowski dropped Kochetkov, but the Pole was soon reeled in himself. Then, with 200km ridden, Nibali and his Italian compatriot Fabio Aru launched a joint attack and several riders caught the front five, making for a 10-man group at the head of affairs. The leaders sustained a healthy advantage as they flew down a technical descent — which saw Australia’s Richie Porte crash out of the race — to start the final lap of the two-climb Vista Chinesa circuit.

On the final climb, Nibali fired off the front in a burst with only Majka and Henao able to follow. Van Avermaet looked to be in danger of coming unhinged from the back of the chasers as the riders went up and over the final climb, but the ensuing descent turned the race on its head.

As the likes of Joaquím Rodríguez (Spain) and Louis Meintjes (Spain) latched on to the chasing group, Nibali and Henao both crashed out front on the same descent that felled Porte on the prior lap. That left Majka riding alone to the finish line. His gold medal chances still looked strong even into the final 10km as the chase group hesitated to work together, but then Van Avermaet and Fuglsang jumped clear in an attempt to bridge the gap.

“When I saw the crash I was confused about how many riders were still up the road,” said Van Avermaet.

“I was working with Fuglsang, and we saw Majka. We knew it was possible. I knew I had to hang on.”

Hang on he did. Van Avermaet and Fuglsang gradually reeled in Majka, making the catch with just over a kilometer to go, allowing the Belgian to seal the deal with his speedy finish. Fuglsang was unable to match his turn of speed at the line, while a cramping Majka didn’t even attempt to sprint, settling for bronze.

Van Avermaet’s gold-medal ride marks Belgium’s first Olympic road race win since 1952.

Olympic men’s road race results

  • 1. Greg VAN AVERMAET, (BEL) , in 6:10:05
  • 2. Jakob FUGLSANG, (DEN) , at :00
  • 3. Rafal MAJKA, (POL) , at :05
  • 4. Julian ALAPHILIPPE, (FRA) , at :22
  • 5. Joaquim RODRIGUEZ OLIVER, (ESP) , at :22
  • 6. Fabio ARU, (ITA) , at :22
  • 7. Louis MEINTJES, (RSA) , at :22
  • 8. Andrey ZEITS, (KAZ) , at :25
  • 9. Tanel KANGERT, (EST) , at 1:47
  • 10. Rui Alberto FARIA DA COSTA, (POR) , at 2:29
  • 11. Geraint THOMAS, (GBR) , at 2:29
  • 12. Christopher FROOME, (GBR) , at 2:58
  • 13. Daniel MARTIN, (IRL) , at 2:58
  • 14. Emanuel BUCHMANN, (GER) , at 2:58
  • 15. Adam YATES, (GBR) , at 3:03
  • 16. Brent BOOKWALTER, (USA) , at 3:31
  • 17. Bauke MOLLEMA, (NED) , at 3:31
  • 18. Kristijan DURASEK, (CRO) , at 3:31
  • 19. Sébastien REICHENBACH, (SUI) , at 3:31
  • 20. Frank SCHLECK, (LUX) , at 3:31
  • 21. Jhoan Esteban CHAVES RUBIO, (COL) , at 3:34
  • 22. Serge PAUWELS, (BEL) , at 6:12
  • 23. Alexis VUILLERMOZ, (FRA) , at 6:12
  • 24. Romain BARDET, (FRA) , at 6:12
  • 25. Simon CLARKE, (AUS) , at 6:12
  • 26. Primož ROGLIC, (SLO) , at 9:38
  • 27. Yukiya ARASHIRO, (JPN) , at 9:38
  • 28. Daryl IMPEY, (RSA) , at 9:38
  • 29. Nicolas ROCHE, (IRL) , at 9:38
  • 30. Alejandro VALVERDE BELMONTE, (ESP) , at 9:38
  • 31. Sergei CHERNETSKI, (RUS) , at 9:38
  • 32. Christopher JUUL JENSEN, (DEN) , at 9:38
  • 33. George BENNETT, (NZL) , at 11:49
  • 34. Fabian CANCELLARA, (SUI) , at 11:49
  • 35. Ramunas NAVARDAUSKAS, (LTU) , at 12:18
  • 36. Andre Fernando S. Martins CARDOSO, (POR) , at 12:18
  • 37. Eduardo SEPULVEDA, (ARG) , at 12:18
  • 38. Pavel KOCHETKOV, (RUS) , at 12:18
  • 39. Steven KRUIJSWIJK, (NED) , at 12:18
  • 40. Damiano CARUSO, (ITA) , at 12:18
  • 41. Andriy GRIVKO, (UKR) , at 13:18
  • 42. Philippe GILBERT, (BEL) , at 13:18
  • 43. Daniel TEKLEHAIMANOT, (ERI) , at 19:20
  • 44. Georg PREIDLER, (AUT) , at 19:37
  • 45. Patrik TYBOR, (SVK) , at 20:00
  • 46. Aleksejs SARAMOTINS, (LAT) , at 20:00
  • 47. Anasse AIT EL ABDIA, (MAR) , at 20:00
  • 48. Lars Petter NORDHAUG, (NOR) , at 20:00
  • 49. Kanstantsin SIUTSOU, (BLR) , at 20:00
  • 50. Vegard Stake LAENGEN, (NOR) , at 20:00
  • 51. Ioannis TAMOURIDIS, (GRE) , at 20:00
  • 52. Jan POLANC, (SLO) , at 20:00
  • 53. José Joao PIMENTA COSTA MENDES, (POR) , at 20:00
  • 54. Andrey AMADOR BIKKAZAKOVA, (CRC) , at 20:00
  • 55. Michael WOODS, (CAN) , at 20:00
  • 56. Michal GOLAS, (POL) , at 20:00
  • 57. Simon SPILAK, (SLO) , at 20:00
  • 58. Petr VAKOC, (CZE) , at 20:00
  • 59. Toms SKUJINS, (LAT) , at 20:00
  • 60. Chris Anker SÖRENSEN, (DEN) , at 20:00
  • 61. Bakhtiyar KOZHATAYEV, (KAZ) , at 20:00
  • 62. Michal KWIATKOWSKI, (POL) , at 20:00
  • 63. Alessandro DE MARCHI, (ITA) , at 20:05
  • . Murilo Antonio FISCHER, (BRA) , at 31:47
  • . Ignatas KONOVALOVAS, (LTU) , at 31:47
  • DNF Jonathan CASTROVIEJO NICOLAS, (ESP)
  • DNF Imanol ERVITI, (ESP)
  • DNF Jon IZAGUIRRE INSAUSTI, (ESP)
  • DNF Sergio Luis HENAO MONTOYA, (COL)
  • DNF Miguel Angel LOPEZ MORENO, (COL)
  • DNF Jarlinson PANTANO GOMEZ, (COL)
  • DNF Rigoberto URAN URAN, (COL)
  • DNF Warren BARGUIL, (FRA)
  • DNF Stephen CUMMINGS, (GBR)
  • DNF Ian STANNARD, (GBR)
  • DNF Rohan DENNIS, (AUS)
  • DNF Scott BOWDEN, (AUS)
  • DNF Richie PORTE, (AUS)
  • DNF Laurens DE PLUS, (BEL)
  • DNF Tim WELLENS, (BEL)
  • DNF Tom DUMOULIN, (NED)
  • DNF Wout POELS, (NED)
  • DNF Vincenzo NIBALI, (ITA)
  • DNF Diego ROSA, (ITA)
  • DNF Michael ALBASINI, (SUI)
  • DNF Steve MORABITO, (SUI)
  • DNF Simon GESCHKE, (GER)
  • DNF Maximilian LEVY, (GER)
  • DNF Tony MARTIN, (GER)
  • DNF Edvald BOASSON HAGEN, (NOR)
  • DNF Sven erik BYSTRØM, (NOR)
  • DNF Maciej BODNAR, (POL)
  • DNF Jan BARTA, (CZE)
  • DNF Leopold KONIG, (CZE)
  • DNF Zdenek STYBAR, (CZE)
  • DNF Denys KOSTYUK, (UKR)
  • DNF Andriy KHRIPTA, (UKR)
  • DNF Matej MOHORIC, (SLO)
  • DNF Ghader MIZBANI IRANAGH, (IRI)
  • DNF Arvin MOAZAMI GODARZI, (IRI)
  • DNF Mirsamad POURSEYEDIGOLAKHOUR, (IRI)
  • DNF Nelson Filipe SANTOS SIMOES OLIVEIRA, (POR)
  • DNF Abderrahmane MANSOURI, (ALG)
  • DNF Youcef REGUIGUI, (ALG)
  • DNF Stefan DENIFL, (AUT)
  • DNF Soufiane HADDI, (MAR)
  • DNF Mouhssine LAHSAINI, (MAR)
  • DNF Taylor PHINNEY, (USA)
  • DNF Rein TAARAMAE, (EST)
  • DNF Zac WILLIAMS, (NZL)
  • DNF Antoine DUCHESNE, (CAN)
  • DNF Hugo HOULE, (CAN)
  • DNF Vasil KIRYIENKA, (BLR)
  • DNF Kohei UCHIMA, (JPN)
  • DNF Okcheol KIM, (KOR)
  • DNF Joonyong SEO, (KOR)
  • DNF Jonathan MONSALVE, (VEN)
  • DNF Miguel UBETO APONTE, (VEN)
  • DNF Matija KVASINA, (CRO)
  • DNF Daniel DIAZ, (ARG)
  • DNF Maximiliano Ariel RICHEZE, (ARG)
  • DNF King Lok CHEUNG, (HKG)
  • DNF Jose Luis RODRIGUEZ, (CHI)
  • DNF Adrien NIYONSHUTI, (RWA)
  • DNF Maxim AVERIN, (AZE)
  • DNF Serghei TVETCOV, (ROU)
  • DNF Luis Enrique DAVILA, (MEX)
  • DNF Onur BALKAN, (TUR)
  • DNF Ahmet ORKEN, (TUR)
  • DNF Kleber DA SILVA RAMOS, (BRA)
  • DNF Ali NOUISRI, (TUN)
  • DNF Stefan HRISTOV, (BUL)
  • DNF Manuel RODAS OCHOA, (GUA)
  • DNF Bayron GUAMA DE LA CRUZ, (ECU)
  • DNF Ivan STEVIC, (SRB)
  • DNF Tsgabu Gebremaryam GRMAY, (ETH)
  • DNF Diego MILAN JIMENEZ, (DOM)
  • DNF Dan CRAVEN, (NAM)
  • DNF Oscar SOLIZ, (BOL)
  • DNF Qendrim GURI, (KOS)
  • DNF Brian BABILONIA, (PUR)
  • DNF Yousef MIRZA BANIHAMMAD, (UAE)
  • DNF Ariya PHOUNSAVATH, (LAO)
  • DNF Alexey KURBATOV, (RUS)

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