In another display of solid team tactics, Australia’s cycling team handed victory to Allan Davis in the Commonwealth Games road race in New Delhi, India, on Sunday afternoon.
Davis overcame searing heat to stay in contention and outsprinting New Zealand’s Hayden Roulston and David Millar of Scotland for Australia’s second road victory of the day. Davis’ win comes on the heels of a women’s road race won by his compatriot, Rochelle Gilmore, giving Australia its 13th and 14th cycling gold medals of the Games.
The women raced eight laps for 112km while the men completed 12 laps for 168km with the start-finish line on Parliament Street.
It was a flat but technical course which set the scene for a sprint finish and so it panned out, with the medals decided in the last 100 meters in both events.
The men’s race started to break up around mid-afternoon, with less than 70 of the 133 starters remaining as the temperature soared to 42C (108F).
New Zealanders Hayden Roulston and Jack Bauer got away from the peloton with three laps to go, with Cavendish back in the pack.
Bauer attacked with just over two laps to go, opening a gap of 30 seconds, but was reeled in by a chasing pack led by Millar as the bell sounded for the final circuit.
The route was laden with sharp corners and sweeping turns which were ideal for sprinters like Davis to launch attacks as the course looped past such famous sights as India Gate.
The group began to splinter with half a lap to go, with Cavendish losing ground as Millar attacked several times inside the last 5km.
World championship bronze medalist Davis, protected throughout the final laps by his teammate Chris Sutton who finished fifth, broke from the chasing group and hit the front in the home straight.
Despite the heat he found the reserves for a devastating finish less than a bike length ahead of Roulston.
“I’m proud to represent my country and wouldn’t be here without my teammates,” Davis said.
Roulston, who had been suffering from flu-like symptoms in the days before the race, said the plan had always been to do one hard lap to take out Cavendish.
“It was a very hard race. The heat made it even more difficult. In the end it was just whoever had the power won,” he said.
The pan-flat course ought to have played into the hands of star attraction Cavendish, who went into the race as the clear-cut favorite having won 15 stages in the past three editions of the Tour de France.
But the Manx rider’s legs let him down and he finished in seventh, a minute off the pace.