Tokyo Olympics 2020: Crashing into the gold medal race

The final scoresheet had no timing put along with Denmark’s performance, but they did make it through to the gold medal race against Italy.

Crashing into glory

There was a period ahead of the Tokyo Olympics where each international sports federation had to figure out what was the protocol if an athlete/team tested positive for Covid-19. You’d think that when such rules are being contemplated, those federations would have a firm grasp of every eventuality in their own sport.

That’s not always the case. The Danes, in particular, got a good feeling for that confusion on Tuesday The Danish men’s team in the cycling track pursuit team event had broken the Olympic record in the qualification round at the Izu Velodrome, clocking 3:45.014 minutes on Monday. The Italians broke that a day later when they outraced New Zealand in 3:42.307 minutes, setting a new world record as well.

Denmark wouldn’t have been too worried about creating a new mark when they entered the venue on Tuesday. Their focus would have been on finding a way to beat the Great Britain team to earn a spot in the gold medal race on Wednesday. That was no easy task, given the Brits were three-time defending Olympic champions in the event The race began without much fuss. Both teams of four start on opposite ends of the track and must cover a distance of 4 km. The team that does it the fastest wins. Given the ‘pursuit’ nature of the event, there’s also scope for the race to end early if one team successfully chases down the other.

Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) – or simply the International Cycling Union in English – regulation 3.2.081 states that a “team is caught when the opposing team (at least three riders riding together) arrives at or within a distance of one metre of it. That’s where all the confusion started.

Rarely does a race last over four minutes. Denmark vs Great Britain took at least half an hour after the race stopped. The British team had started to unravel before the race started – as they lost three-time Olympic champion, Ed Clancy, to injury. Then they had just one rider left on the track towards the last few kilometers, and the Danes, with three on track, were closing in All set to overlap, Freddy Madsen, at the head of the trio, crashed into the slower moving Charlie Tanfield In an effort to reduce drag and add more oomph to the pumping legs, the lead rider is normally looking down, as replays suggest Madsen was. He wouldn’t have noticed Tanfield, nonetheless, that didn’t stop him from launching into a tirade of choicest words against the British team Now the question remained, who won the race? Who was going into the gold medal match.

Since the Danes did crash into the Brit, there was the argument that they did ‘catch’ the opponents. But as the rule states that three riders need to be within one meter of the opponent. If Madsen caught the back of Tanfield’s bike, his compatriots would have been few-cycle lengths behind.

The lone-brit eventually mounted his bike and finished the distance after 4:28.489 min on the clock while the Danes were invested in what was happening on the technical bench – where their fate was to be decided: were they disqualified or did they catch the opponent and make the gold medal cut.

The final scoresheet had no timing put along with Denmark’s performance, but they did make it through to the gold medal race against Italy.

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Incidentally, that wasn’t the only crash Great Britain was involved in the women’s team set a new world record and secured a gold medal race. A few seconds following the finish, Katie Archibald celebrated with a teammate without realising she was closing in on teammate Neah Evans. Archibald clipped the back of Evans’ bike and both crashed. They were quick to get up and downplay the incident. They’d eventually win silver, behind Germany.

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