The Australian cycling team has promised a full investigation after a snapped handlebar cost the men’s team pursuit the opportunity to ride for gold at Tokyo 2020 and left Alex Porter nursing injuries.
Porter was riding with his teammates at 65kph in the early stages of Australia’s team pursuit qualifying ride on Monday evening when his handlebar appeared to snap and sent Porter tumbling to the track.
“To be honest, my brain is still trying to kind of work it out,” said Porter in an interview with Channel Seven on Tuesday. “At first I thought it was a dream because my brain couldn’t work out what was quite happening and just before I hit the track it kind of clicked that something in the front of my bike had just fallen away and then before I knew it I was sliding.”
The 25-year-old suffered burns and skin damage on his face, arms and legs in the fall. But after passing concussion protocols, Porter and his team had to ride again – permitted a second opportunity under a UCI rule that does not punish certain categories of mishaps during qualifying rides.
“I was really angry, I was really frustrated – we had all put in so much hard work,” said Porter. “I had this feeling before the start that we were going to be able to go out there and do something special. It was purely just frustration and anger at first. But, yeah, then I had to come in and refocus so we could go again.”
But with the Australian team having already ridden 1,000m in the first attempt, and following the shock of Porter’s crash, the pursuit squad were unable to qualify within the top four following the second attempt. They finished just a second off the time of fourth-placed Great Britain.
The result means that Australia can no longer race for a gold medal; their best hope now is a spot in Wednesday’s bronze medal race, with a fast time in the first round on Tuesday.
In a statement, peak body AusCycling acknowledged the “shock and disappointment” for all involved. The statement added: “Discussion concerning what caused the incident is understandable, but it is clear that it will take some time to establish exactly what happened.”
AusCycling said that the part involved in the crash was not manufactured by Argon 18, who supply the team’s bikes, but a comprehensive investigation will be undertaken.
“While the immediate focus is on the success of the Australian cycling team across the remainder of the Olympic program, there will be a thorough investigation and review of the factors involved in the incident,” the statement said. “To ensure the fairness of this process, we will make no comment on the detail of the investigation until it is complete.”
Although AusCycling’s statement did not confirm the manufacturer of the part that caused the crash, Bastion Cycles issued a statement on Tuesday indicating that they had supplied the handlebar unit.
In a statement, a spokesperson said: “The team at Bastion Cycles is working with the Australian Olympic team to understand the cause behind the failure of one of its handlebar units during the four-person, Australian pursuit challenge at the Tokyo Olympics overnight.”