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BRAVE KENNAUGH'S BOLD BID FOR GOLD

Brave Peter Kennaugh
Pain in the rain: Peter Kennaugh’s unexpected lone move in the road race prompted speculation that it might work, and he held a near two minute advantage before he was reeled in

Suicide mission had us on the edge of our seats in 2014

If they awarded medals for bravery in the Commonwealth Games (or foolhardiness depending on your point of view on his tactics) then Peter Kennaugh would surely have earned himself a gold one.

He tore up the agreed script, fashioned the previous evening by Mark Cavendish, the IoM’s director sportif for the 168km (105 miles) road race, and sallied forth all on his own into the great unknown.

On streets awash from rain, which was torrential at times, the Team Sky professional, virtually straight from winning the eight-stage Tour of Austria, produced a hugely watchable spectacle.

Whether you were roadside or glued to a television screen, we looked on enthralled as he gamely clung on to the notion of victory for all bar 50kms or so of the event on the final day of the Games.

With some of his fellow top professionals from the home countries and further afield as opposition in the field of 139, his lone bid for glory was never going to succeed, but boy it was compulsive viewing.

Kennaugh finally capitulated shortly after a worried looking Cavendish, still recovering from a shoulder injury sustained on the first stage of the Tour de France in Harrogate and unable to ride the race himself, drew alongside him in the team car and fed him a handful of energy bars.

Kennaugh’s tactics had taken the team by surprise, including himself.

Assistant cycling manager Gary Hinds was baffled by Kennaugh’s go-it-alone move: ‘It would have been a miracle had it worked. But the odds were stacked against him.’

‘I admit it was a bit of a suicide mission, but that’s the way it was. A space opened up on the outside [of the bunch] and I went away,’ said Kennaugh, who had been snubbed for the Tour de France.

‘I expected a few guys to come with me but it didn’t happen. No-one else reacted and I felt it would be safer to ride off the front on my own in the early stages as the roads were wet and I wanted to see where the bad patches were.

‘When I looked behind me I realised I had a quite a gap . . . ‘

One of those who might have accompanied Kennaugh in his escape was the eventual winner of the race, Geraint Thomas of Wales, a seasoned professional team-mate of the Manxman.

He had a problem with a drinks bottle at the moment Kennaugh quickened his pace at the side of the main group and pushed on ahead, the Welshman, who finished the Tour de France the previous Sunday, commenting: ‘I looked down to sort it out [the bottle] and when I looked up Pete had gone.’

But Kennaugh’s pain was Thomas’s gain.

After Australia and New Zealand kept the Manxman’s advantage to never more than two minutes, the hard-charging trio of Thomas, Jack Bauer of Canada and Sam Thwaites of England hove into view behind the rapidly tiring Kennaugh.

He was unable to stay with them for very long when they caught him and he drifted back through the remnants of the field, finally finishing eighth out of the 12 who went the distance, while Thomas survived a late puncture to take the race and end Australia’s domination stretching back four Games.

None of Kennaugh’s team-mates, the ones designated to assist him, survived the ordeal. Joe Kelly went out very early on after he skidded badly on a wet patch and never regained the bunch; Andrew Roche and Elliot Baxter both capitulated before half distance, while Mark Christian rallied for a time before he too quit on lap six.

This just left the promising Jake Kelly to provide possible assistance to his team leader. But as the pros got going and sensed their prey was tiring, he also called it a day.

Peter Kennaugh
Super support: Castle Rushen High School teacher Cliffy Dunn and his family – seen encouraging Peter Kennaugh during his epic lone break - were among the hundreds of vocal Manx supporters during the road race