Cycling: Van Avermaet strikes gold, agony for Nibali

Sat Aug 6, 2016 6:42pm EDT
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By Martyn Herman

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Belgium's Greg Van Avermaet snatched gold in a thrilling finish to the men's Olympic road race, out-sprinting Denmark's Jakob Fuglsang by the Copacabana after Vincenzo Nibali's hopes ended in a high-speed crash on Saturday.

Nibali was surging toward victory following a late attack after six hours of racing around Rio's exotic coastline when he careered out of control on the final descent.

A 237.5km course, taking in 5,000m of tough climbing through lush green hills next to the rolling Atlantic, promised unpredictability and it delivered in spades as nearly half of the 144 starters failed to finish.

Italian Nibali was taken to hospital with a possible fractured collarbone.

After mechanical mayhem on several loops of the hilly and partly-cobbled Grumari section the fireworks began in earnest on the Vista Chinesa circuit featuring a steep 8.9km climb the peloton tackled three times.

It was predicted the race would be won there, but it was where Nibali lost it.

He and fellow Italian Fabio Aru shredded the race with an audacious attack on the final ascent and Nibali looked poised to add an Olympic title to his Tour de France, Giro and Vuelta victories when calamity struck.

Accelerating downhill with Colombia's Sergio Henao and Poland's Rafal Majka for company, Nibali hit the tarmac hard, as did Henao, leaving Majka alone with 12km to go.   Continued...

2016 Rio Olympics - Cycling Road - Victory Ceremony - Men's Road Race Victory Ceremony - Fort Copacabana - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 06/08/2016. Greg Van Avermaet (BEL) holds the gold medal.   REUTERS/Phil Walter/Pool