How times change. Nowadays a single silver is a disaster. Bradley Wiggins’s runner-up spot in the time trial was the saving grace at the World Championships but apart from that flicker of hope, it was a lapse back to the bad old days of underachievement and excuses.
The trouble is, we’ve proved we can do so much better. Britain has been the world’s top track nation for seven years and Sky have been the best team in stage racing for at least two seasons.
At last summer’s Olympics cyclists were the toast of the nation. Last Sunday the BBC must have regretted allocating the afternoon slot to the men’s road race.
Never mind not being in contention, our heroes weren’t even in the race. Chris Froome climbed off with 100 kilometres to go and last man standing Geraint Thomas lasted little more than another 20 kilometres. The only time we saw the Brits on TV was when they were interviewed after they had abandoned the race.
Don’t get me wrong, these were probably the worst conditions since Lance Armstrong slipped and slid to victory in Oslo in 1993. You wouldn’t have caught me out riding a bike in that weather – Fabian Cancellara reckoned it to be the most dangerous race he had ridden.
It wasn’t a day for the faint-hearted but a little more commitment from the Brits was needed. Team boss Rod Ellingworth shares our frustration. “They’re all disappointed and they need to be,” he said.
“A lot of people were talking the talk beforehand and didn’t see it through. No excuses, each and every one of them underperformed.”
Robert Garbutt is editor of Cycling Weekly