Commonwealth Games: Geraint Thomas settles for time

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Geraint Thomas tries to remount after falling during the time trial

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Geraint Thomas has endured many bone-breaking crashes during his career but it was an innocuous tussle with a metal barrier which cost him a shot at Commonwealth gold in the Black Country. With around 50 technical turns to navigate, this was a time-trial course to reward those who risked pushing to its ragged edge, but Thomas was punished for overcommitting as he ran wide and lost his rear tyre before spilling over the feet of a steel fence early on the 37km route. The Welshman dusted himself down to win bronze, finishing half a minute behind Australia’s Rohan Dennis who took gold and a few seconds behind England’s silver-medallist Fred Wright.

The race against the clock was billed as a battle between Thomas, fresh from a podium finish at the Tour de France, and Dennis, twice a time-trial world champion, who won silver ahead of Thomas’s bronze at the 2014 Commonwealths in Glasgow, and organisers deliberately positioned the duo last down the start ramp.

But Dennis’s natural speed combined with his ability to stay upright proved a winning combination as around him rivals lost control on the twisting route from Wolverhampton’s West Park south to Dudley, across to South Staffordshire and back to the finish at the park. New Zealand’s Aaron Gate twice almost fell on a fast downhill section while England’s Dan Bigham went flying into barriers which clung on to his bike like a spider’s web despite his efforts to rip it free, forcing him into a bike change which cost precious time as he finished 12th.

Thomas had forgotten to take off his warm-up gilet before the Tour de France time trial last month, and this time he at least made sure not to cover up his bright red skinsuit. He negotiated the tight opening corner out of West Park which had forced a couple of early runners into hard falls, but just a few bends later he was down too after taking a tight bend a little too fast. He took time to stand up, dust himself off and remount, and as the seconds ticked his hopes of gold slipped away.

At that stage the 23-year-old Londoner Wright was the clubhouse leader, having been given an early slot with the also-rans. Organisers obviously hadn’t been watching the Tour de France: Wright finished second on a Tour stage and eighth in the final time trial, building a reputation as a strong all-rounder on the road, and he showed off that form to take up an unfamiliar position on the time-trial leader’s giant wooden throne. “Do we have to sit here all race?” Wright was overhead asking Australia’s Lucas Plapp, sitting in the second-place chair beside him. “I think so, mate,” came the reply.

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They would not be usurped until the very end. Dennis hit the first checkpoint with a 30-second lead to mark himself out as the man to beat, and although Thomas hammered out his first sector after falling, pushed on by an encouraging crowd lining the roadside, he could never close the gap, eventually finishing 28 seconds shy of Dennis and two behind Wright. Given his crash and the subsequent loss of momentum took roughly half a minute out of his time, it almost certainly denied a compelling showdown for gold.

Earlier, Australia’s time-trial champion Grace Brown won the women’s race over a shorter 28.8km route. Brown came in as the favourite having finished fourth in the Tokyo Olympic time trial, and lived up to that billing with a dominant win of more than half a minute over England’s silver medallist Anna Henderson, with New Zealand’s Georgia Williams winning bronze.

Henderson already has 2021 British time trial champion on her CV in her short career, and the 23-year-old now has her first major individual medal on the international stage. “It was mega, I’m really happy to feel good on the bike,” said Henderson. “You don’t realise you’re at a home Games until everyone is screaming your name and screaming for England. I kept thinking ‘oh wow, I am in an England kit so I better move’.”

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