In the qualifying round of the men’s Team Pursuit at the Tokyo Olympics, Alex Porter of Team Australia was sent tumbling to the wooden surface of the track when the stem on his Argon18 Electron Pro suddenly gave way.
Bastion Cycles, an Australian company that supplied the 3D-printed titanium components to Team Australia track squad, confirmed on social media that their cockpit was on Alex Porter’s Argon18 bike when he crashed. The manufacturer indicated they are investigating the catastrophic failure of the cockpit on Porter’s bike.
“Our team is working with the Australian Olympic Team to understand the cause behind the failure of one of our handlebar units during the four-person, Australian pursuit challenge at the Tokyo Olympics overnight.
“Our first concern was for Alex Porter and the entire team. We are in constant contact with the Australian Olympic cycling team and coaches, and give our assurances that we are using all means available to investigate why this occurred.
“Our focus at this time is to continue supporting the Australian cycling team for the remainder of the competition,” read the statement.
AusCycling launched an investigation into the equipment failure and tamped down any blame set at the feet of team equipment partner Argon18.
“Discussion concerning what caused the incident is understandable, but it is clear that it will take some time to establish exactly what happened,” the AusCycling statement read. “A high-performance bike is made up of many components. AusCycling can confirm that the part involved in [a previous] night’s incident was not manufactured by Argon 18, who supplies bikes to the Australian Cycling Team.”
“While the immediate focus is on the success of the Australian Cycling Team across the remainder of the Olympic program, there will be a thorough investigation and review of the factors involved in the incident,” the statement explained. “To ensure the fairness of this process, we will make no comment on the detail of the investigation until it is complete.”
While Team Australia uses an Argon18 Electron Pro, with Zipp wheels, the cockpit is not a stock issue, nor is it manufactured by Argon18 or Zipp.
Argon18 vice president of product Martin Faubert said the Australian squad uses a different handlebar than the one his company designs and supplies.
“Like all of you, we were devastated to see the Australian rider crash in the men’s team pursuit. We are greatly relieved that no one was seriously injured and applaud the team’s quick return to the track to complete the race. A full equipment review is in progress by the Australian Cycling Team and we will have more details shortly, but at this time we can confirm it was not an Argon 18 handlebar which experienced this failure.” Faubert said. “While Argon 18 has designed a handlebar for the bike, and provided that handlebar to the team, it was not our bar in use during this incident.”
In an interview with Australian track cycling legend Anna Meares, Porter said a day later that he’s still sorting things out with what happened during his ride.
“I’m a bit battered and bruised and I’ve lost most of the skin down the center of my face and I’ve taken a good chunk off my arm,” Porter said. “To be honest, my brain is still trying to work it out. I remember I’d done my turn, I was on the back and was just trying to settle in and get ready for my next go on the front. Then, all of a sudden, I’ve just felt my arms pointing down and I could see the track getting closer to my face. At first, it felt like a dream, because my brain couldn’t work out what was happening.”
The Aussie was in fourth position and did not affect his teammates when he tumbled at a speed approaching 70kph. He was screened for concussion and found to be negative. A short time later, he and his team returned to the track to restart their qualification ride.
“I was really angry, I was really frustrated – we had all put in so much hard work,” Porter said. “I had this feeling before the start that we were going to be able to go out there and do something special. It was purely just frustration and anger at first. But, yeah, then I had to come in and refocus so we could go again.”
Australia, the 2019 world champions in Team Pursuit, was unable to set a qualification time for the gold medal round. They will race for a bronze medal on Wednesday.