Cyclist Aaron Gate did the unthinkable and won a fourth gold medal in Birmingham after a courageous ride in the gruelling men’s road race.
Gate had already won golds in the individual and team pursuit races, and the points race, and had finished fourth in the road time trial for good measure.
Yet there he was out there at the front of the pack in the toughest race of all – 3½ hours of climbing, twisting, sprinting, climbing, sprinting, attacking, defending.
The 31-year-old won in a sprint finish from four others in 3h 28min 29s, having to ward off cramp in the closing stages of the race.
The result means that Gate now holds the New Zealand record for most gold medals won at one Commonwealth Games – he leaves behind him the three-gold efforts of Yvette Williams (1954), Gary Anderson (1990), Darrel Liddell (1998) and Ellesse Andrews (2022).
Amazingly, Gate was just as effective on the track as on the road, combining speed, strength and tactical acumen in a very rare combination.
In the road race he was part of a breakaway group of 15 with about 100km remaining and spent a lot of time and energy having to cover breaks by members of that group, notably by three Englishmen working in harness.
With 30km to go a smaller group broke away and Gate was among them, despite all the strength-sapping covering he’d had to do.
It seemed the four of them would dispute the medals, but with 10km remaining Fred Watson and Sam Culverwell of Northern Ireland snuck off on their own, only to be pulled it by Gate.
Among those prominent in the closing stages was recent Tour de France third place-getter Geraint Thomas, but no riders had had to do more work than Gate to cover breaks for the previous three hours.
As the leaders were whittled down to five for the final frantic sprint, still Gate was able to collect his thoughts. He timed his sprint perfectly, thrust himself into the lead at just the right time and the gold was his.
“It’s hard to believe,” he said moments later. “I put my arms up, but I didn’t know who’d won. It’s really happened… I’m lost for words.”
In the end the New Zealander got the nod from South African Daryl Impey and Scot Finn Crockett, with Matthew Teggart of Northern Ireland and Fred Wright of England also in top five.
Those who’d done all the hard work at the front of the field with Gate gradually fell away, spent. All of them except one super rider from New Zealand, who rebuffed every challenge and still had enough in the tank to win the sprint.
There were several other New Zealanders among the 123 starters. Jack Bauer was eight minutes back in 17th. Three New Zealanders, Patrick Bevin, Shane Archbold and Dion Smith finished in a bunch another 20 seconds back and Campbell Stewart was 59th in 3h 37min 20s.
The women’s road race was an unusual one in that the leading group never broke up and the leading 24 finished in a bunch.
New Zealand’s top finisher was Georgia Williams who was 13th. Niamh Fisher-Black was 17th.
The other three New Zealanders in the race, Mikayla Harvey, Ella Harris and Henrietta Christie, crossed the line 11 seconds back, in 30th, 31st and 32nd places.
The race was won by Georgia Baker of Australia in 2h 44min 46s. There were 55 starters.Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games