Tom Boonen skipped all three Grand Tours to focus his second half of the season on the Olympic Games and world championships, but came up empty handed in London after puncturing out of the dejected peloton with 10km to go.
The Belgian tactics, he said, were played out perfectly but depended on Great Britain chasing down any breakaways for sprinter Mark Cavendish. However, the catch failed to materialize after the home team ran out of fuel on the trip back into London.
"We did everything we planned, I felt better than the results show. I'm a little disappointed I didn't get a medal," Boonen said at the finish line on The Mall. He blamed the lack of Belgians on the final podium on the difficulties in communicating without radios on a narrow course with thousands of screaming fans.
"It was so hard to communicate. You had to stick with your first plan because you can't tell anyone anything. The moment the break is gone, it's finished, you have to stick with the tactics you planned and can't say I feel good so wait for me. That's what changed the race I think.
"We planned everything the way it went, the only thing that went wrong was that Great Britain didn't close the gap," Boonen said. "Everyone was waiting. It looked like they had situation completely under control and then everyone fell a little asleep I think."
On the nine laps of the 15.5km Box Hill circuit, the peloton seemed to be whittling down the lead of the 12-rider breakaway, reducing it from six minutes to less than one in the closing laps, but Boonen said they couldn't finish off the job.
"When we came the last time on the climb it was 50 seconds and it looked like they would close it any minute. Then we turned back here and it was a little bit of a headwind, and [Great Britain] are only human. If you pull like that for 200k, you get tired."
Germany also had a keen interest in pulling back the breakaway for a sprint, but Boonen said that the entire peloton was out of gas by the time they pitched in. "They worked for five minutes and then they blew – it was a hard race. Everyone was dead, eh. I had the sensation that everyone in the group was redlined. It was a very hard Olympics.”
The prospects of the peloton bringing the leaders back were over when Boonen punctured with 10km to go, and it was Kazakhstan's Alexander Vinokourov who would ride to victory over Colombian Rigoberto Uran, with Alexander Kristoff taking bronze from the chasing group.