New Zealander George Bennett turned in a brave performance in the gruelling Olympic men’s cycling road race today, but was unable to get among the leading finishers.
Spanish-based Bennett finished 26th of the 127 starters and completed the torturous 234km race in 6h 11min 46s.
The 31-year-old, noted for his climbing ability, was well-placed and looked strong for much of the journey, but missed out on a crucial break about 25km from the finish and was consigned to riding home in a chasing bunch.
The race was won by Ecuadorian Richard Carapaz in 6min 05.26s from Wout van Aert of Belgium and 2019 and 2020 Tour de France winner Todej Podacar of Slovenia. Bennett finished 6min 20s behind Carapaz.
A tired Bennett was disappointed he’d missed out on the breakaway group.
“It was a tough day,” he said. “It happens. I just got squeezed at the bottom of the climb and then the gap opened. I was dangling on the back and just couldn’t make the front group.
“It’s disappointing, but it’s a bike race. Unfortunately it’s a really big one.”
He said the riders didn’t break up as much as he had expected at the start. “It was a lot bigger group coming into the last climb and it was far more explosive than I thought. I felt it was going to be more like a mountain day and then it turned into a real sort of classic race - it was super hard.”
The steamy conditions and challenging hills in the last half of the race were too much for many riders and 42 never finished the race, including the other New Zealand starter, Patrick Bevin, who pulled out at about halfway.