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Vinokourov wins surprise gold in road race

London, England (Sports Network) - Kazakhstan's Alexander Vinokourov was the gold medalist in the men's road race Saturday at the London Olympics, outsprinting Colombian Rigoberto Uran in a surprise finish that didn't include Great Britain's Mark Cavendish.

Uran and Vinokourov attacked a small group of riders about seven kilometers from the finish, getting enough of a gap for them to hold. The chase group never got organized, leaving gold and silver for the two leading riders.

The 38-year-old Vinokourov then jumped with a few hundred meters to go, easily winning the sprint to take his second Olympic medal. He won silver in the road race at the 2000 Sydney Games.

"It's just unbelievable," Vinokourov said. "I finished the Tour de France a little tired, but the Olympics, I must go there."

Norway's Alexander Kristoff won the sprint among the chasers to take bronze, while American Taylor Phinney finished just outside the podium in fourth.

"Some would call fourth place the worst to arrive at the Olympics, but I won't focus on that," Phinney said.

The British team entered the race with intentions to deliver Cavendish -- the reigning world champion and 23-time Tour de France stage winner -- to a sprint final.

They bet all their chips on him, and Cavendish was considered a safe bet, the favorite.

Only the race never got to that point. Cavendish's team -- which included Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins and other strong riders -- managed to control the 250-kilometer race for most of the Box Hill circuits.

A small breakaway group, which included American Timmy Duggan, lingered off the front of the main field for most of those circuits. They built up a lead of a little more than four minutes, but the British kept them close.

However, several smaller groups attacked off the front, and some of them stuck. That's how Phinney and another American, Tejay van Garderen, along with Swiss star Fabian Cancellara and Belgian Philippe Gilbert, bridged up.

On the last time up Box Hill, the leading breakaway group led by about a minute, but the British team didn't reel them in. And they couldn't with so many strong riders working together.

Kilometer after kilometer, the gap stayed the same -- about a minute. With 25km to go, it seemed clear that the British strategy had failed and the breakaway would succeed.

"We rode the race we wanted to ride," Cavendish said. "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."

Cancellara lost his chance at a medal when he crashed while going around a corner with 15km remaining. He apparently misjudged a right-hand turn, going into it with too much speed, and went head-first into a barrier. Cancellara got back on his bike, but held his right arm off the handlebar. He appeared to have an injury that could thwart his chances at medalling in Wednesday's time trial.

After the crash, a group of about 25 went on toward the line. Several riders attacked, but only the one by Uran and Vinokourov stuck.

"I decided to attack out of the last group," Uran said. "It was the right moment to attack and I continued until the finish line."

The victory is a fitting one for Vinokourov, who has been an attacking rider his entire career and often takes opportunities when they present themselves.

But the result may give Olympic organizers pause, because Vinokourov has served a suspension for doping. He came out of retirement in 2009, and in 2010 won Liege-Bastogne-Liege, a prestigious one-day race.

He took that victory in similar fashion to Saturday's, attacking his breakaway companion close to the finish line. However, a Swiss magazine later reported that Vinokourov paid the runner-up and published alleged and damning emails between the two.

Vinokourov has said that 2012 would be his final season as a competitive cyclist, and hadn't won prior to Saturday. Now, he'll go out a gold medalist.

"I knew if I followed the group, I would have no chance in the sprint," Vinokourov said. "Uran and I worked well together. This victory to finish my career."

07/28 12:52:24 ET


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