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Emma Pooley and Lizzie Armitstead won the women's road race

There was also relief for Wales’ Geraint Thomas, who suffered a nerve- and tyre-shredding puncture with 6km remaining while apparently coasting to victory in the men’s road race. As Thomas waited for a replacement wheel a 50-second lead to New Zealand’s Jack Bauer and England’s Scott Thwaites counted down to 40, to 30, to 20. It felt, he admitted afterwards, “like an eternity” and he was swearing blue murder. It mattered not. Thomas remounted to win by over a minute from Bauer, with Thwaites third. Beforehand the 14.2km road race circuit around Glasgow’s west end and city centre was expected to be tough. It had plenty of cobbles, dicey corners and choppy climbs – and barely a metre of flat. But the drenching rain, particularly during the men’s race in the afternoon, added another layer of treachery. Of the 140 cyclists that started the men’s race, only 12 finished. Thomas was not only the Commonwealth champion: on this day he was the first survivor too. It was much more straightforward for Armitstead, who justified favouritism for the women’s road race with what she called a “textbook” victory. Early on her England team-mates expertly policed any breaks while also increasing the tempo and by the fifth of the seven laps only seven women remained in the leading group.

Among them was Armitstead’s colleague, Emma Pooley, who attacked on the sixth lap, pulling about 100m clear of the field, asking what they had left. The answer for most of them was not a lot. Armitstead waited until the short climb up Great George Street with 8km remaining and then went: away from the chasers, away from Pooley, away into history.

“This means I can call myself a champion and not a runner-up,” said Armitstead, a silver medallist at Delhi in 2010 and the London 2012 Olympics. “I’m always on the podium but I don’t win that many races. It’s just a confidence thing.

“The psychologists tell you it should never be a relief when you win a race but to tell you the truth it is.”

As she made her decisive break, she was thinking of her family. “When the rain started I knew they’d all be thinking, ‘Yes, this is good for Lizzie.’ A little smile came on my face and I just thought, ‘Yes, this is perfect.’”

Beforehand Armitstead had promised a bottle of champagne for the 33-year-old Pooley, who retired from cycling after this race, as a thank-you for all her efforts down the years. She should upgrade it to a magnum. Pooley had her own reward, though, finishing 25 seconds back to win silver, with Ashleigh Pasio of South Africa taking bronze.

Understandably Pooley appeared in the early stages of shock. No wonder. She suspected she would be nowhere after flogging herself on behalf of Armitstead; instead she had an accompaniment for her time-trial silver medal earlier in the Games. “I expected to be worked into the dust and finish last so it’s pretty special,” she said. “Don’t ask me if I’m disappointed with silver – I’m not!”

Thomas, meanwhile, won Wales’ first Commonwealth road cycling gold in a race where few will forget a performance from Peter Kennaugh that veered between bold and foolhardy.

Kennaugh took the lead three kilometres into the 168km race and stayed out for 116km as the elements threw their worse at him. It will go down as the longest suicide move in Commonwealth Games cycling history. Watching it unfold was his fellow Manxman Mark Cavendish, his directeur of sport for the day, although he was as confused as everyone else.

Kennaugh admitted: “He was just saying, ‘What are you doing?’ I thought someone would come with me. I knew I was going to get caught at some point; I didn’t think I’d stay out there as long as I did.”

Soon after Kennaugh was caught, Thomas – along with Thwaites and Bauer – escaped. The favourite, Mark Renshaw, was not in the picture having punctured, so it was between those three for gold.

Thomas knew his rivals had the bigger finish, so he chose the climb up St Vincent Street with 11.5km remaining to slip away. Despite the puncture the air never left his challenge.

“To be honest, I felt terrible at the start,” admitted Thomas. “I was thinking of stopping I was that bad. But when I made my move I was surprised how easily I went away.

“Fortunately when I got the puncture I had a decent enough gap to win the race. I was tired coming off the Tour. I never expected it, to be honest.”

Thomas, who had further reason to celebrate as he was Wales’ flag bearer for last night’s closing ceremony, admitted it had been a tough day. “It was grim,” he said. “There were so many corners and some real shiny surfaces, manhole covers, a lot going on. It was hard work.” But his mud-splattered face and medal around his neck told one something else. It had been rewarding work, too.


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