Vincenzo Nibali, an Olympic cyclist for Italy, crashed as he tried to break out of his group, resulting in a double fracture of his left collarbone. Nibali did not show further injuries as he was then returned to Italy to undergo emergency surgery.
Everyone expected the best out of Nibali. He posed a threat to the teams of Colombia, Belgium, and Poland as he tried to secure the last stretch of the race for himself. His audacity resulted in a crash with Colombia’s Sergio Henao.
Due to the incident, Belgium’s Greg Van Avermaet and Denmark’s Jakob Fuglsang caught up to Poland’s Rafal Majka, who took advantage of the crash to secure the first position. On the last segment of the race, Van Avermaet sprinted towards the end line to become the winner, while Italy remained in sixth place after Nibali and Sergio Henao could not recover from the crash. The podium featured Van Avermaet on first, Fuglsang on second and Majka on third.
A briefing of Rio 2016’s Men’s road race
The course stretched over 237.5 kilometers (147.5 miles) where the 144 cyclists went over the 5km of the race set throughout hills and slopes.
Olympian Van Avermaet has become the first Belgian gold medalist in the event since 1952. He stated that, when Nibali crashed, he saw the incident and wondered how many cyclists were still in the race. Because he would’ve lost if the accident had not occurred, Van Avermaet said that everyone had their hopes on other cyclists, but that he is still euphoric for the gold.
“Everyone was taking risks and some guys went a little over the limit. I took a little bit of risk, but not too much and I think this was the best decision. Because if you’re on the ground the race is over,” Van Avermaet stated.
His father was also a professional cyclist, as he competed at the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow, but young Greg Van Avermaet at first wanted to be a goalkeeper at the Belgian soccer club. Eventually, he was attracted by cycling and took it up as his sport of choice. He performed well at the last Tour de France where, coincidentally, Tour champion Chris Froome did not join the race leaders at the final stretch and did not earn a place in the podium. Britain’s Froome ended in 12th place as his teammate Geraint Thomas could not continue the race after crashing on the first segments of the track.
Hopes were high on Poland’s Michal Kwiatkowski, who spent most of the race as the leader before other cyclists caught up to him when there was a 25-kilometer stretch remaining. His teammate Rafal Majka excelled among the competition but suffered from hard cramps in his legs before others caught up to him.
Van Avermaet’s victory accounts for Belgium’s first Olympic gold since 1996, while also becoming the first medalist at the event after Axel Merckx, who won the Men’s road race bronze medal in 2004.