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Cancellara denies Froome time trial gold at Rio Olympics

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) – Fabian Cancellara bounced onto the Olympic podium with a little extra hop on top, for a fleeting moment making everyone forget the 35-year-old cyclist is on the brink of retirement.

He looked more like a Swiss schoolboy.

Cancellara powered over a hilly, rain-slicked course at the Rio de Janeiro Games on Wednesday to win his second Olympic time trial, denying favorite Tom Dumoulin and British rival Chris Froome. His time of 1 hour, 12 minutes, 15.42 seconds was 47 seconds better than anyone else in the field.

“For me, what is important is to enjoy this gold medal,” Cancellara said, “today, tomorrow, when I go home to my family, because this is what is important to me.”

Dumoulin finished second despite breaking his hand in the Tour de France last month.

Froome was trying to follow in the footsteps of compatriot Bradley Wiggins, who won the Tour in 2012 before capturing time trial gold at the London Games. But he was never able to match the pace of Cancellara, falling behind at the first check-point and finishing 1:02 behind.

Cancellara began weeping the moment Froome, the last rider of the day, crossed the finish line. He announced more than a year ago that this would be his final season as a cyclist.

“Fabian was definitely the strongest rider out on the road today,” Froome said.

Jonathan Castroviejo of Spain was fourth and Rohan Dennis of Australia was fifth, left to rue the bike change he needed to make 56 minutes into the race. The change was calm and quick, but the precious seconds that Dennis lost likely cost him a medal.

He was just 23 seconds behind Dumoulin and nine seconds behind Froome.

All of them paraded over to congratulate the 35-year-old Cancellara, long one of the sport’s most popular riders, who quit the Tour early last month to save himself for his final Olympics.

He blistered to a big lead by the first check point, tucked into the familiar aero position that has served him so well. The big workhorse hardly lost a second while churning up the Grumari and Grota Funda climbs, then tucked back into his time-trial position and lit off for the finish line.

Cancellara rolled through as fans pounded the barricades lining the road.

“Reaching this today means for me a lot because to participate on the sport’s highest event, that the world presents, and you win a gold medal – you do this in your retirement year – I think I’m just super proud,” he said. “What do I want more than this?”

The man nicknamed “Spartacus” won his third Olympic medal – the two time trial golds and silver in the Beijing Olympic road race. And he will leave Rio much more satisfied than he did London four years ago, when Cancellara crashed out of the leading group late in the road race.

He painfully tried to defend his time trial gold from Beijing days later but finished seventh.

“I had a tough 2012,” he said, “and coming back now to Rio and reaching this, I mean, yeah, there are no words to describe what happened to me.”

Dumoulin and Froome were considered the favorites heading into the race, and the Dutchman didn’t look bothered by his ailing hand. But he also didn’t seem to have Cancellara’s power, especially on the flats, but still managed to give the Netherlands its first Olympic men’s time trial medal.

“I’m more or less quite disappointed,” he said. “Everyone is telling me I should be very proud of myself, especially with the last couple of weeks, how it was after the injury. And I know I should be, and I know I will be tomorrow, but yeah, at the moment, I cannot control my feelings.”

As for Froome, the last two months appeared finally to catch up to the British star.

His strong performance in the Tour time trials made him a trendy pick in Rio, but the work he put in to win his third yellow jersey – not to mention the grueling Olympic road race on Saturday – left him drained of energy, and he could only manage to slip onto the bottom step of the podium.

“I wasn’t going to be making up a minute on Fabian,” Froome said. “I’m really happy with a medal again. The focus of my season was the Tour de France and to come here and medal again for a second time is amazing. I have no regrets.”

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