After holding such promise before Rio, the Dutch team left the men's Olympic Games road race with their tails between their legs. On paper, the Netherlands had one of the strongest line-ups, with any one of their four potential winners on their day.
They were one man down almost as soon as they started, with Tom Dumoulin climbing off after just a few kilometres. Dumoulin, still recovering from a broken wrist he suffered in the Tour de France, was choosing to save himself for the time trial on Wednesday. Despite this, they still boasted San Sebastian winner Bauke Mollema, Wout Poels and Steven Kruijswijk. However, a mixture of bad legs and bad luck saw the cycling nation finish with just a 17th place for their efforts.
"We had a chance to medal. Unfortunately, Wout, Bauke and Steven didn't go how we expected," Dutch coach Johan Lammerts told De Telegraaf. "The funny thing was that everyone felt fine. Wout reported that even in the discussion yesterday. He was, however, dropped early for a rider of his level.
"I think Bauke didn't ride too badly. But it's frustrating to see that they didn't compete for the medals. Considering how he rode last week, Bauke just had to sit there."
With his recent performance at the Tour de France, which saw him in contention for the podium until the penultimate mountain stage, and his victory at Clasica San Sebastian, Mollema was the Netherland’s in-form rider. It seemed, though, that the luck wasn't with him as he suffered from a litany of mechanical issues.
Mollema had to change his bike multiple times as they entered the second, tougher circuit, and on each occasion was forced to use up vital energy in chasing the bunch. When the time came, those efforts left Mollema with no answer to the late attacks. He would eventually roll in 3:31 and in 17th place.
"I had expected more of this. I did not feel very bad, but I did not have super legs. I'm just disappointed," Mollema told NOS at the finish. "I tried to follow Froome, but that did not work and then it was done."
Mollema was the last of the Dutch to hold onto the main group, after his teammates Kruiswijk and Poels were dropped earlier in the final circuit. Poels had already looked in trouble on an earlier climb, but he had utilised the descent to keep in touch. His day was done almost as soon as he began climbing the ascent to the Vista Chinesa. At first, he was dropped but then a tangle with another rider finished his race. He avoided any serious injury but admitted that his time trial was at risk after falling on his arm.
Kruijswijk had kept his nose clean in comparison to his teammates, but the maglia rosa wearer suffered in the hot conditions and had to wave goodbye to the main group when he started to suffer from cramp.
"The light suddenly went out for me," Kruijswijk explained to NOS. "I got cramps in the penultimate lap, and unfortunately, there is nothing we can do. I don't say I was a favourite here at the Olympics, but I should have lasted longer in the final. It is very painful when you just being distanced from the wheels. For the team, this is a disappointing result."
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