Australian cyclist Alex Porter suffered a nasty crash at the Tokyo Olympics as his track bike fell apart mid-ride during the men’s team pursuit.
The 25-year-old was straining every sinew to keep on the back of the four-strong Australian team, but came crashing down on the track when his bike collapsed underneath him after his handlebars ripped clean off.
“The Australians got up to speed and about three laps in, the rider at the back’s handlebars broke,” Eurosport cycling expert Bradley Wiggins confirmed from track-side in Tokyo.
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“Luckily he was in position four – I say that because had he been in position two or three he’d have taken the team down with him.
“They had to pull themselves together, mechanics change handlebars etc, and they then got a restart 30 minutes later."
The Australians were given that second run later in the evening’s track schedule.
But, with Porter sporting a number of visible injuries, they failed to make the top four fastest times and will no longer get a chance to ride for the gold and silver medals.

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'One of the huge favourites'

“Australia were one of the huge favourites to take the gold medal in the final on Wednesday,” Wiggins said.
“It means that Great Britain who qualified fourth will now race against Denmark, first meets fourth, they will have to ride the world record holders and I can’t see them getting through that unfortunately, but they’re still in the game.”

Australia's Alexander Porter falls during the men's team pursuit qualifying cycling track event during the 2020 Summer Olympic Games at the Izu Velodrome

Image credit: Getty Images

But how exactly can it happen that a pair of handlebars break in an Olympic event?
Wiggins explained that it is partly due to the nature of the track in Tokyo and partly due to the short-term life of the equipment itself.

'They do tend to crack'

“Those handlebars are 3D laser handlebars that are made to measure for each rider. They are quite flimsy, they do tend to crack,” he said.
This is also a very short track in terms of the banking, it’s called a Schuermann track, shorter banking and longer straights. And the g-force in those banks at the speeds these riders are riding at now is quite extreme so that puts a lot of force through the handlebars.
“I can only imagine that the bars just snapped under the extreme pressure."

Australia's Alexander Porter falls during the men's team pursuit qualifying cycling track event during the 2020 Summer Olympic Games at the Izu Velodrome

Image credit: Getty Images

Denmark set a new Olympic record to qualify fastest on the day, with Italy, New Zealand and Great Britain making up the top four who remain in gold medal contention.
The British squad were scheduled to ride last, but had their start brought forward at late notice following the Australian crash.
But rider Ed Clancy told Eurosport that the change did not overly impact their performance.
“You never want to see that, but it’s not easy to sit in the holding chairs at the best of time and it got the nerves going, but honestly I don’t think it affected us,” he said.
“In the five seconds we’ve had between getting off the track and getting here to debrief it, I just don’t think we quite had what we were hoping for. We were going really well in Newport, our traditional holding camp, but that hasn’t translated into speed just yet.
“The good news is that we’re still in the game.”
The next round of the men’s team pursuit will take place on Tuesday, with the medal races scheduled for Wednesday morning.
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