G Strikes G – Commonwealth Games Road Race 2014

Biblical downpours had already formed an arena of a champion to take 2014’s Commonwealth Games Road Race title in epic style, even before the Men’s race had ridden a kilometre. A route familiar to viewers and competitors alike, due to its use in 2013’s British Road Race Championships, it spared no time in churning up the peloton with its San Francisco style roads. The little nations found themselves distanced and retiring after the opening lap, an obvious outcome when starting so ruthlessly hard on the unruly Glaswegian terrain – not so much ‘the friendly games’ after all.

Kennaugh’s Gambit:

Given the pugnacious form Peter Kennaugh has displayed since missing Team Sky’s cut for Le Tour de France (becoming British champion at Abergavenny and Silver medal in the Commonwealth’s points race) had made him the tearaway favourite for the day’s race. Kennaugh displayed his current cock-of-the-walk attitude with an outrageously early attack along the outside of the peloton as they climbed one of the many hills.

Possibly inspired by the fact the winner of the national road race came from an early breakaway here in 2013, Kennaugh repeatedly looked back to see who had joined him – but no luck. After several kilometres with no assistance, he had made his bed and was doomed to lie in it for the resulting 118km long solo breakaway. Despite having the added bonus of Mark Cavendish as Isle of Man directeur sportif for the day, it seemed Kennaugh was destined to ride solo regardless of what appeared to be Cav’s disagreeing gesticulation to his tactics. The solitary Manxman set a bold enough pace to cause confusion amongst the major chasing nations of New Zealand, Australia and Canada – all of which seemed the most unsure of whether they would ever see the British Champion again. The eventual catch was not made by an organised pact of nations however, instead it was Geraint Thomas, Scott Thwaites and Jack Bauer who broke free and swiftly ate into the Manxman’s lead.

Kennaugh succumbed to the chase behind with only 50km remaining of the race and found himself unable to follow his catching men for obvious reasons. The day for Peter Kennaugh will be seen as a terrible tactical decision for some time to come, with the steep Ardennes like stretches of road the perfect location for him to launch an attack with one lap remaining as opposed to one lap completed. Hiding in the pack for the majority of the race and rolling through the checkpoints between 10th and 20th benefited the eventual podium greatly and it must be said that Kennaugh is a fool for not doing the same, regardless of what he says afterwards.

Thomas Makes A Move:

While Peter Kennaugh drifted backwards to another chasing group, all focus was shifted to the leading three and how the finale was going to be contested. It only serves as a disservice to Jack Bauer and Scott Thwaites to say we watched solely for Geraint Thomas to make his move, but that was very much the case as the three guaranteed medalists navigated the final lap and its monsoon like conditions. With a little under 12km left to race, Thomas attacked upon one of the many short but steep climbs which littered the course, opening what at first appeared to be a small gap due to the foreshortening effect of the camera, but was clearly devastating once the viewpoint changed. By the time we were afforded an aerial shot of his subsequent descent only moments later, Bauer and Thwaites had haemorrhaged over 20 seconds in the blink on an eye, destined to contest silver between them only.

Focus Punctured:

It seemed by this point that Thomas’ only concern was to carefully sweep through the now flooded corners and bends of the Glasgow city centre and receive his deserved award for a man who is often working selflessly in the shadows. Yet, while these thoughts may have been sailing through is mind, a heart-in-mouth moment struck instead in the form of a front wheel puncture. If time has ever stood still, it was now as the neutral service mechanic toiled with the skewer on Thomas’ unfamiliar wheel. Thwaites and Bauer completely unaware of the serendipity which may confront them if they only upped the pace somewhat. With his lead now cut to 20 seconds, Thomas was on the move once more, surely indebted to the lack of race radio which had left the pursing duo in the dark throughout the entire debacle. Now gingerly cornering due to his new front wheel, Thomas successfully maintained his gap after restarting and eventually claimed his first Commonwealth Games title by more than a minute.

The proud Welshman finished with a gold medal and the honour of flag-bearer at the closing ceremony.

The proud Welshman finished with a gold medal and the honour of flag-bearer at the closing ceremony.

Duelling For Silver:

The medal winning move by Geraint Thomas left England’s Scott Thwaites and New Zealand’s Jack Bauer contesting the sprint for silver, of which the early stages seemed to favour Thwaites. However, with only 500 meters or so remaining, Thwaites relinquished his position on Bauer’s wheel to lead the sprint out – much to the delight of the Kiwi. Bauer took Silver and Thwaites’ unexpectedly strong performance was rewarded with a Bronze medal and a step upon the podium.

Millar’s Squib:

Whether it was the atrocious conditions or Peter Kennaugh’s bizarre tactics, David Millar never shone during his farewell race in the Scottish strip and rolled across the finish line in 11th having never made an impact upon the race. It certainly was a contrast to his performance on a very similar course in 2013’s British Road Race Championships, a race which ended with him 3rd after a barnstorming sprint from Mark Cavendish to take the bands. He will need to up his game if the final farewell at this year’s Vuelta is going to be worth mentioning in the next part of Millar’s biography.

Honourable Mentions:

The most astounding fact of the day must be that only 12 riders even finished the road race, but also that 9 of these 12 also have history in riding the British Elite Road Race Series – a series notoriously plagued by histrionic weather. Having this previous experience in the UK may well of contributed to the survival of the finishing 12 through this war of attrition in Glasgow. Two further noteworthy mentions are Dan Craven of Namibia and Australia’s Caleb Ewan; the former being the only man outside of the UK and Australasia to finish the race and the latter 20 year old being only one of two Aussies to finish at all.

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