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The first round of the men’s Olympic team pursuit ended in dramatic fashion on Tuesday with Denmark and Great Britain colliding late in heat four.
Denmark was on course to cruise into the gold medal final. The British team was in disarray, having lost Ed Clancy to injury before the start and having losing not one but two riders as the teams approached the final kilometres. Denmark on the other hand still had three riders together, they were about to lap the British team, and seemed on course to reclaim the world record they had lost to Italy moments earlier.
Then disaster struck. As Freddy Madsen lead the Danish trio into the final kilometre bearing down on the British team, he rode into the back of Charlie Tanfield who was dropped by his British teammates but had to continue racing as Britain had already lost a rider earlier in the race.
Madsen was furious after the crash and was seen roaring at Tanfield who lay shellshocked on the floor. Replays suggest Madsen, who adopts an extremely aggressive position, most likely didn’t see Tanfield moving much slower in front of him. Madsen’s position allows him to tuck his head behind his hands and in line with his torso for an extremely aerodynamic position. However, visibility is hampered at best and seems entirely non-existent given the nature of the crash.
Tanfield did remount his bike and finished the 4 km, although, understandably with the slowest time. It is unclear whether Denmark is considered to have finished the race or not.
Although it initially appeared Denmark were out having not finished the ride, the commissaries may deem that Denmark completed a catch of Great Britain having literally caught Tanfield. The rules for team pursuiting deem a catch completed when one team closes to within one metre of their opponents. Having completed the catch the race was effectively already over when the crash happened, handing Denmark perhaps the most bizarre route to an Olympic final.
The UCI’s own track cycling feed, and the Tokyo 2020 website list Denmark as finalists, however, this is unlikely to be the last we hear of the story. Expect appeals from other teams if Denmark does go through to Wednesday’s gold-medal race against Italy.