Joaquim Rodriguez drew his final season as a professional cyclist to a close with his first, and last, participation at the Olympic Games. Rodriguez announced that 2016 would be his last during the Tour de France in July and decided not to race to the end of the year but hang up his wheels after finishing just outside of the medals in his Olympic debut.
"I have always said that I would like to retire here, not for the reward but for the whole Olympic experience," Rodriguez told the Spanish press following the race.
He later posted on Twitter: "Very proud with the result today! Thank you to my teammates for giving me the opportunity to fight until my final day of competition."
Spain went into the men's road race with serious medal prospects in the form of Rodriguez and Alejandro Valverde, backed up by Jonathan Castroviejo, Ion Izagirre and Imanol Erviti. Valverde had been, for many, the favourite to take the gold medal, the route seemingly designed for his skills. With this in mind, Castroviejo did a huge turn on the front for Spain, sharing the work with representatives from Italy and Great Britain.
When Italy and Britain went on the attack, the time triallist then dragged the gap back to within touching distance, but challenging for the general classification in two Grand Tours this season appeared to have taken their toll on Valverde, and he had to pass the baton to Rodriguez. Valverde did several turns on the front, along with Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland) before Rodriguez made a bid to bridge the gap to the leaders.
With the help of South Africa's Louis Meintjes, Rodriguez was successful in his ambition, but when the attacks started to come again he had no answer. He finished with a flurry, sprinting against Julian Alaphilippe, but it was only for the minor placings with fifth his final result.
"We knew that it would be difficult but not such a complicated one, with climbs, descents, pave, heat, humidity," Rodriguez explained. "It was a shame because I had the legs for a medal, but when you give the maximum you don't know if you can ask for more. I think that it wasn't only me, but the whole team. Alejandro told me on the penultimate lap that he wasn't going (well), and he gave me a helping hand."
Valverde, who had been the presumed leader in the build-up, was the only other finisher for Spain and crossed the line almost 10 minutes down on the winner Greg Van Avermaet (Belgium).