Highs and lows of the 2012 London Olympics
From the defending champion’s DNF to high-profile mechanicals, here’s to acknowledge the low moments from London 2012.
5. Low: Kulhavy’s blue boots
No doubt the most memorable image of the Olympic podium ceremony was one of blue boots and white shorts.
Perhaps the Olympic champion was prepared to go hose off his own and his teammates’ bikes immediately after he descended the purple steps, or perhaps the first thing an Olympic champion wants to do to celebrate the win is jump in a muddy puddle and get an unsettlingly white pair of shorts dirty.
Either way, that gold medal certainly thought to itself, ‘I had to get hung around this guy’s neck.’
We can laugh all we want, but at the end of the day who is the one wearing a gold medal? Most anyone would have given up their most prized possession to spend that day in his shoes.
4. Low: Unlucky day for the Canadian women
Some days the race just doesn’t come together, and for Catharine Pendrel, the hands-down favorite for Olympic gold, that day was August 11, 2012.
The Canadian women’s team led the international UCI ranking in 2011 and boasted the World Cup winner, Pendrel.
With three women in the top 10 of the World Cup and only two slots available for the London team, the Canadian team denied 2004 silver medalist Marie-Helene Premont a slot in London, even though she finished the World Cup in eighth place, in favor of Emily Batty, who was sixth in the World Cup.
On paper, a medal for Canada seemed like an obvious outcome from the race, and with the most World Cup wins of any woman this year, Pendrel was hard to bet against for the gold.
To everyone’s surprise, Pendrel did not pose a threat to the outcome of the medals, barely holding onto ninth place.
“I’m not sure what happened,” Pendrel said after the race. “I didn’t have any bike issues. Normally I am really aggressive and out of the saddle and attacking. I don’t know if I used up all my energy being excited to race and just didn’t have it today.”
Pendrel’s Canadian teammate Batty finished 24th of the 28 finishers. “My head is not broken. My legs are not broken. My heart is broken,” said Batty after the race.
3. Low: Wloszczowska’s absence
The field of top female contenders thinned substantially when Maja Wloszczowska pulled out of the 2012 Olympics.
The 2008 silver medalist suffered a broken foot in a training ride in Italy and didn’t recover sufficiently by the time the race rolled around.
Ninth in the overall World Cup, Wloszczowska was on the World Cup podium twice this year, including the World Cup in Pietermaritzburg, which she won.
She was certainly a favorite for a London medal, and was a woman that Catharine Pendrel included in her list of seven women she considered her top competitors for a medal.
Her presence would likely have shaken up the race a great deal, and her absence was strongly felt.
2. Low: Absalon’s DNF
The two-time and defending Olympic champion is still strong, and certainly knows how to rise to the occasion for an important race. Fans eagerly awaited Julien Absalon’s Olympic performance in London to see what he had up his sleeve.
Unfortunately, two tires that held air were not among his assets up that sleeve.
Hearts sunk when the Frenchman flatted early in the race and he pulled out. “It’s the worst possible scenario for me, the one that I thought would be unlikely, a slow puncture in the first lap,” Absalon said after the race.
“I think I even started the race with a slow puncture. It’s the only explanation in my opinion because I didn’t hit anything on the course.
“On the start line I felt the tire and it did feel a little soft, but I told myself it was all in my imagination.”
The imaginations in the crowd had run wild with images of another medal for the Frenchman, but he didn’t get the chance to fight for his title on the Hadleigh Farm course.
1: Low: Fontana’s mechanical
Early in the men’s race it appeared that the medals had already been decided, but their order wasn’t certain until the line.
Besides a brief interlude when Burry Stander and José Hermida bridged up to the lead group, Jaroslav Kulhavy from the Czech Republic, Swiss Nino Schurter and Italian Marco Fontana led the race together, trading pulls and constantly attacking to no avail.
In the final minutes of the race, the group of three was still tight on each others’ wheels, having been unable to make an attack stick.
The race was shaping up to be a three-way sprint to decide the three medals and hearts were racing as cheers rose through the crowd.
Then, suddenly Fontana was off the back and Schurter and Kulhavy were sprinting for gold.
For those watching on the television, it happened so quickly it was hard to tell what had happened when the Italian dropped off, but a closer look revealed that it wasn’t the Italian that snapped, but his seatpost.
He coasted across the line, seated on his top tube and looking devastated.
The final men’s sprint didn’t lack drama, but that three-way sprint would have been one for the ages.
Stay tuned for the Five highs from the 2012 mountain bike Olympics
Emily spent her infancy in the back of a women’s team van while the team built wheels around her. She spent part of her pre-teen years in Europe following the major European mountain, road and gravity races and touring cycling product factories. College was the first time she lived in a home without a frame building shop in her garage or basement. Her favorite style of riding is getting lost in singletrack trail networks and taking her time finding her way back.