Cavendish, who dubbed the squad as a “dream team” before the event, finished the race in 29th place after a group of 33 riders escaped British clutches on the top of the final ascent of Box Hill.
Great Britain had aimed at repeating its performance from last year’s Worlds when Cavendish and his teammates controlled the peloton throughout.
However, the home nation was unable to control the escape group, with the Swiss, Spanish and Belgian teams having numbers in abundance in the front group. In the closing stages, Vinokourov broke clear with Rigoberto Uran (Colombia), with the Kazakhstan rider taking gold. Alexander Kristoff (Norway) won the sprint for bronze.
At the finish, Cavendish was full of praise for his teammates, who set the pace at the front of the peloton for the vast majority of the race. However he also singled out the Australians for their race tactics. The Australians had Stuart O’Grady in the early break and never looked like joining forces with the sprinters’ teams in a bid to set up their fast man Matthew Goss.
“The guys all sat there in the tent absolutely spent,” Cavendish said at the finish.
“We did everything we could. The crowd was tremendous the whole way around, but the Aussies just raced negatively. The team were incredible. They left everything out on the road. I am so proud of them. We didn’t expect any help. We rode the race we wanted to ride. We couldn’t pull the group back on Box Hill. Other teams were content that if they didn’t win, we wouldn’t win. We expected it. If you want to win, you’ve to take it to them.”