Viviani wins gold for Italy, Cavendish adds to British haul
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Elia Viviani slammed hard into the wooden surface of the Olympic velodrome and thought, just for a fleeting moment, that perhaps his chances of winning a track cycling gold medal were over.
Then he stood up. He realized he wasn't hurt. And he saw that he was still leading the omnium.
So, Viviani hauled himself back onto his bike and proceeded to hold off stiff challenges from British cycling star Mark Cavendish and reigning gold medalist Lasse Norman Hansen of Denmark to win the multi-discipline event at the Rio de Janeiro Games on Monday.
''It's a bike race,'' Viviani said of the crash, caused when Cavendish collided with Korean rider Park Sang-hoon in the fourth corner. ''We're on a track, no brakes. When one guy changes directions in front of you and someone else is not ready to change directions, you crash.''
Talk about a pragmatic approach to a near-catastrophe.
The omnium is contested over six events, but it came down to the points race, the final event where riders sprint for points every 10 laps and can earn bonus points for lapping the entire field.
The tension was building when Cavendish, unaware of Park beside him, slashed down toward the bottom of the track. The Korean fell hard and lay motionless for several minutes while medical staff tended to him. He was eventually fitted with a neck brace and strapped to a backboard.
Race officials said later Park did not sustain any serious injuries.
''It was my fault. I should have been looking where I was going a bit more,'' Cavendish said. ''I hope he's all right. And I apologized to Elia, he went down too.''
Meanwhile, Cavendish finally claimed the Olympic medal that has long eluded him.
The winner of 30 stages of the Tour de France, Cavendish was the only British rider to miss out on a track cycling medal at the 2008 Beijing Games. He was also favored in the road race at the 2012 London Games but missed the podium.
''I did everything I could to prepare for this race. I did everything I could in the race,'' Cavendish said. ''Ultimately, I couldn't do anything more. So I have to be happy.''
Viviani was simply more consistent, winning the elimination race and finishing third in the individual pursuit and time trial Sunday. He then took second in the flying lap to start the final day of competition, building a 16-point lead over second-place Cavendish entering the points race.
At that point, all Viviani had to do was mark his rivals' moves.
Hansen will certainly rue his last-place finish in the elimination race. The Danish rider won the scratch race and individual pursuit to take a huge early lead, but the bronze medalist's stunning misstep in the third event of the program proved too costly to overcome.
''I think I just went too deep in the (individual pursuit),'' he said. ''All cross-eyed before the start and I knew I wouldn't have a lot in the tank. But I didn't expect to get last.''
Britain can conclude another monster performance in the velodrome on Tuesday night, when Becky James and Katy Marchant try for individual sprint medals, Laura Trott aims to defend her omnium title and Jason Kenny tries to win his third gold medal of the Rio Games in the keirin.
Their team is trying to match its feat of the past two Olympics, seven gold medals in each.
Britain has already won men's and women's team pursuit, along with men's team sprint and Kenny's individual sprint title. Three more golds would match Britain's effort from Beijing and London.
The potential for seven gold medals in 10 events is even more astounding when you consider the British squad didn't even qualify a team for the women's team sprint.
Oh, and James and Callum Skinner each have won silver medals, too.
The path to gold in the individual sprint became easier for James and Marchant when Olympic champion Anna Meares of Australia lost in her repechage Monday.
''There is no one who will criticize me more than me,'' said Meares, who wound up finishing 10th in the individual sprint. ''The perfectionist within me makes it hard to comprehend this result.
''For the first time in 22 years, I just couldn't get anything more out.''