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The Olympic velodrome descended into pandemonium on Tuesday after Denmark and Britain collided on track, with the Danes controversially advancing to the men’s team pursuit final on Wednesday.
GB head coach Iain Dyer said he felt “let down” by UCI commissaires who, he claimed, did not apply their own rules correctly following the crash and ought to have disqualified the Danes.
His allegation came just hours after British Cycling’s performance director Stephen Park told reporters that Denmark ought to have been disqualified for using illegal equipment in Monday’s qualifying round.
The collision occurred with around 500 metres to go in what was already an extremely ill-tempered clash given the allegations flying around.
The GB team, for whom three-time Olympic champion Ed Clancy withdrew earlier in the day with a back injury, ending a golden career, had begun well.
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But they soon started to fall back against the mighty Danes, who had lowered their own world record in qualifying on Monday and were aiming to nick it back off Italy, who had just lowered it still further in qualifying for from their semi-final.
With Denmark turning the screw, Clancy’s replacement Charlie Tanfield - who had been a reserve for these Games - began to fall off the back of the GB team, who were already down to three riders. Incredibly, it later emerged that Tanfield had been out riding his road bike for two and a half hours in the heat on Monday, thinking he would not be needed.
“He spent the week on the track here chasing a 4km individual pursuit time, and then went out on the road yesterday for two and a half hours which wasn't ideal,” Dyer admitted. “We didn’t plan for [him riding] so we just had to play the hand that we had.”
As the gap between Tanfield and his team mates grew, the Danish riders caught up to the Briton, and Frederik Madsen, on the front for the Danish team, slammed right into the back of him.
Both riders went down with Madsen clearly very angry, swearing loudly and gesticulating as if it had been Tanfield’s fault. The Danish rider was seen to shout 'f— them', presumably at the British team. He later apologised, claiming he had been "angry at the situation, not at Charlie" but the bad blood had clearly spilled over.
There was huge uncertainty over what should happen next; whether the ‘catch’ had already been made or whether the incident was the fault of the Danes for not looking where they were going since Tanfield had every right to stay on the racing line.
Eventually, after half an hour of deliberating, the UCI ruled that Denmark would go through to face Italy in the final.
Dyer said that did not follow the precedent set at a track meet in the Nations Cup in St Petersburg a month ago when Swiss rider Claudio Imhof caught up to his opponent, the Italian Davide Plebani, in an individual pursuit.
Imhof ploughed into his rival and was disqualified for causing the crash of an opponent, with Plebani advancing.
“That was my take on it because obviously it prevents us from setting a time and progressing to the correct heat in the next round still to come,” Dyer said. “They [the commissaires] didn't see it that way.
“When I raised the precedent and the regulation the commissaire's reply was that she was not the commissaire in St Petersburg. I said ‘The regulation hasn't changed but instead I've got a lot of carbon fibre shrapnel and an injured rider’.”
Britain’s defeat ended a proud 13-year reign as Olympic champions and they will now fight for seventh place on Wednesday against Switzerland. But for a squad who have won the last three Olympic titles thanks to riders such as Sir Bradley Wiggins, Geraint Thomas and Clancy himself, and who pride themselves on peaking at the Games, that will feel like very thin gruel.
And it capped a hugely controversial day with Park effectively accusing the Danes of cheating, arguing that they ought to have been disqualified for wearing illegal shin-tape and undervests in qualifying on Monday.
Park argued that the shin tape was illegal as it fell foul of the ruling that you must not apply “any material or substance onto the skin or clothing which is not itself an item of clothing."
The undervests, he said, were not publicly available on Jan 1 as UCI rules state they must be. And rather incredibly, he claimed that the “source code” online appeared to have been changed in the last 24hrs to make it look as if the garments had been available on Jan 1.
Park said that “multiple teams” had protested and described himself as “frustrated” that the commissaires had basically conceded the rules had been broken - with Denmark not allowed to use either the tape or the undervests in Tuesday’s ride - but that they would not apply the letter of the law and disqualify Denmark.
Park argued that was the “only option” for “deliberately turning up in breach of the regulations”.
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