This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.
Great Britain has become one of the strongest nations in Elite men’s cycling in recent years and dominated the 2011 road race, with Mark Cavendish taking the rainbow jersey. Yet two years on, after back-to-back Tour de France victories, the team failed to finish a single rider in this year’s road race in Florence, Italy.
National coach Rod Ellingworth struggled to hide his embarrassment and anger and was not afraid to criticise the riders who failed to perform.
“All of them sitting on the bus with 100km of the race still to go is very disappointing,” Ellingworth told Cyclingnews.
Mark Cavendish and Luke Rowe rode on the front of the peloton for much of the 106km from Lucca to Florence but the rest of the team barely made an impact.
Bradley Wiggins won a silver medal in the time trial and dominated the Tour of Britain just a week ago but he struggled in the rain, bringing back the ghosts of his Giro d’Italia descending problems.
Chris Froome was designated team leader for Great Britain after spending several weeks training at altitude in Colorado. He’d claimed he had an outside shot a medal but was quickly isolated and then was dropped from the front group after 170km. He quickly threw in the towel when he realised there was no way back to the head of the race.
A total 61 riders finished the Elite men’s road race but there were no Great Britain riders amongst them.
“It’s a big disappointment, especially after trying so hard coming into it and making it a big objective,” Froome said. “It would’ve been fantastic to finish off the season with a result here. With these condition, it wasn’t to be.”
Froome was critical of his teammates’ performances and of his own ride in the rain.
“I think the only two guys who actually did anything on the GB side, were Cav (Mark Cavendish) and Luke Rowe, who brought us to the circuit. They’re the only ones who pulled their weight today. Myself included. I wasn’t able to do anything,” he said.
“Once we reached the circuit, it got blown to pieces and we lost guys all over the place, with the crashes, punctures. Pretty soon there was only myself and Geraint Thomas. That’s when I figured I was really going to have to fight for any position, being alone. I wasn’t feeling great, my back was feeling blocked up. I think being on the brakes, being nervous all day, made a lot of back pain.”
Where was Wiggo?
Wiggins was only notable by his absence. He quickly left the team bus, too, after climbing off.
When asked if Wiggins had done a turn on the front, Froome said: “Not that I saw. I didn’t see what happened to Brad.”
Other questions about Brad went unanswered.
Ellingworth played down suggestions that the road race marked a new low point in the fractious Wiggins-Froome relationship but he did not hold back when talking about his riders’ performances. Only Cavendish and Rowe were spared of criticism.
“I think Luke Rowe and Cav were ok, average. The other guys were well below average,” Ellingworth told Cyclingnews.
“I’m sure Brad will be disappointed with his performance. It’s not he hasn’t got the form. I think he had the same as in the Giro: he couldn’t go down the hill. He went out the back on (the early climb of) San Baronto. The writing was on the wall then, to be honest.
“Chris said he struggled with the cold and rain but it’s the same for everyone. It’s never going to be his strong point when the weather’s like that but that’s what makes the Worlds the race it is.”