Despite a mountain of effort by teammate Luke Durbridge, outright favourite heading into yesterday's under 23 men's road race Australia's Michael Hepburn failed to figure in the final dash for the line in Copenhagen. Arnaud Démare led a French 1-2 to the line, with Andy Fenn (Great Britain) coming home in third.
Largely staying clear of any trouble as the race blew apart over the final two laps, the Australians moved to the front of the bunch with newly-crowned under 23 time trial world champion Durbridge driving hard off the front, with Tom Palmer protecting Hepburn.
"I think the chances of a medal is good as long as it doesn't come down to a bunch sprint since we really don't have a pure sprinter on the team," the 20-year-old had said following his bronze medal ride on Wednesday.
As the peloton hit the final rise to the finish line, Australia was left with just Hepburn and Palmer, and the pair became swamped by Italians, French and the team from Great Britain. With 200 metres to go, Hepburn succumbed to leg cramp and he was unable to compete. He finished in 21st place, the best of the Australians with Palmer next best in 88th and 20 seconds back, Jay McCarthy 104th, Rohan Dennis 105th and Durbridge 106th. Richard Lang failed to finish.
"I was in a perfect position and could not have been set up by my team any better," Hepburn said.
"I was really confident with 400 (metres) to go and then when I tried to step off I cramped up in both legs and went backwards.
"It's a long finish and all credit to the French riders."