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Aaron Gate (New Zealand) was the surprise winner of the men’s road race at the Commonwealth Games on Sunday. The New Zealander timed his sprint to perfection to edge out a host of WorldTour riders and take his fourth gold medal of the Games after winning a trio of titles on the track.
Gate beat Daryl Impey (South Africa) and Finn Crockett (Scotland) to the line to decide the medals.
The 160km race through Warwickshire, England saw a host of major names on the start line, including Mark Cavendish, Luke Plapp and former Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas.
Cavendish’s race effectively ended when he missed the first major split with around 110km to go as 15 riders, including Gate, Thomas, Plapp and Impey went up the road and quickly established a two-minute lead over the remnants of the main field.
The large break worked well together for the majority of the race but with 46km to go it was Plapp who put the hammer down with the first of several key attacks. The young Australian was quickly joined by Sam Watson (England) and Morné Van Niekerk (South Africa) but with so much firepower still in the race, and a number of fresh contenders in the hunt for a medal, the three-man move was quickly reeled in.
With 36km to go Watson had another go and England – with three riders in the lead group – tried to established their authority over the rest of the race. This time Impey, Gate and surprise package Matthew Teggart (Northern Ireland) made it into the mini-break, and with 35km to go the gap held at 23 seconds.
Geraint Thomas could sense the danger and quickly mounted a chase with Plapp on his wheel, and with 28km to go the race was back together. Ben Turner fired off another attack for England almost immediately with Thomas once more chasing.
Fred Wright (England) countered almost straight away but once more a combination of Thomas and Plapp shut the move down.
With one lap to go it was Thomas’ turn to kick clear with Turner, Gate and Impey on his wheel but with Plapp closing the break down once more it looked as though the race would end in a bunch sprint.
Ben Watson and Sam Culverwell threw one more roll of the dice with just over 10km to go and it looked as though the pair would survive until the line as they established a 25 second advantage but Impey still had a teammate by his side and it was Van Niekerk who put in a huge turn to bring the pair back to within a few metres.
With 1.8km to go Thomas kicked for a final time and it briefly looked like the former Tour winner would hold on but an acceleration from Plapp effectively closed the gap and lead the sprint out for England. Fred Wright hit the front first but it was Gate who had the freshest legs and the most powerful kick to win the race ahead Impey.
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