Fabian Cancellara's (Switzerland) defence of his Olympic Games time trial title effectively ended on Saturday when he crashed during the men's road race. As Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and Tony Martin charged in to take the podium slots, and the medals, the 2008 champion was left to limp home in seventh place, 2:14 down on the winner.
Cancellara seemed in contention after the first time check at 7.3 kilometres, posting a time six seconds slower than the leader, Tony Martin. However by the next time check at 18.4 kilometres, the four-time world champion had started to crack, his injured shoulder from Saturday's crash affecting his rhythm and power as he battled over the London road surface. By the finish, all hope of a medal had slipped away and while Wiggins waved to the home crowds Cancellara slunk to the floor.
"I think I've just done my best and in sport that's what counts. Today and when you're competing in the Olympics, it would have been too easy to say I'd go home and watch from home. I prepared so much for these days and most of the last few hours I'd recovered well and I was in good hands, but to win and to win medals you need to have better days," Cancellara said at the finish.
"I started good but on the other hand I knew that the shoulder wasn't maybe how it should be. I did what I could, the maximum, and 100 per cent. That makes me happy. For myself, I have respect because it would have been harder being at home and watching instead of riding here."
Once Cancellara had been cleared by doctors after Saturday's crash, there was little chance in the rider returning home and missing the time trial. The road race provided a microcosm of Cancellara's season: fully fit and in contention, but brought down by bad luck. After jumping away in the main break on the final ascent of Box Hill, Cancellara found himself with three teammates at his disposal. However as he led the race through a right hand corner, he lost control and ploughed into the barriers.
"I just took a step back, said I'm just an athlete. I gave so much for this, I have so much support from my family from the team, and the supporters all around the world. You don't have a chance to represent your country every day at the Olympics so I just said to myself that I had nothing to lose. I lost everything on Saturday when it was almost on a golden plate with the situation we had with the Swiss team, but that's how sport and life go. Even a seventh place is not that bad."
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