Marco Fontana (Italy) won Italy's first and only medal in cycling at this Olympic Games with a bronze medal in the men's mountain bike event. The 28-year-old, who is the current Italian cross country and cyclo-cross national champion, attacked and got away with Jaroslav Kulhavy (Czech Republic) and Nino Schurter (Switzerland) in the early stages of the race.
Fontana rode intelligently in allowing the other two, who were the top favourites, to set the majority of the pace. In the closing stages, Fontana began to show his strength with a series of accelerations. However, any chance of the win evaporated when his seat post snapped on the final lap, and he was forced to nurse his bike home in third.
"I did a very smart race - always in the front (group). I planned everything with my coach and my psychologist," said Fontana. "I knew I couldn't lose energy. I didn't do turns (at the front) as I knew Nino and Jaroslav had to lead the race. They wasted a lot of energy and perhaps in the final part, I had something more. When I broke the whole seat in the last (passage through the) Rock Garden, I risked losing the medal, but I stayed calm."
Fontana was left to ride the final stages without a saddle. "It's really hard climbing the switchbacks without a saddle because you don't have balance." Then he gave himself a pep talk to motivate him to ride courageously to defend the third spot until the finish.
Fontana, who has never won a World Cup, was third in the recent World Cup event in Val d'Isère, proving that his form had been on the rise this year. "I'm not surprised (about the result). I always believed in a medal, I never hid myself. I always said I aimed for a medal and now this bronze for me is a gold."
With Italy leaving the Olympic Games with no medals in road, track or BMX, Fontana's medal looks all the more precious.
"Now the newspapers have to talk about mountain biking. I'm fed up with the media talking about other sports," said Fontana.