We just witnessed one of the craziest days ever in Australian cycling with Matthew Glaetzer winning gold in the men’s 1000m time trial.
The Australian team was expected to be wiped out of the medals when they were inadvertently sabotaged by their own team in another farcical equipment error that unfolded hours before the event.
AusCycling officials announced that its handlebars for the event were unsafe at the eleventh hour, forcing Australian riders to use lower, bulkier and slower handlebars at the Lee Valley VeloPark.
Australian cycling legend Katey Bates says the decision to use heavier, less aero handlebars could cost riders up to 1.5 seconds in the event which takes 60 seconds to complete.
No one could have predicted what would happen next.
Despite last-minute equipment sabotage, Glaetzer produced one of the great rides to claim gold in the final race of the event, knocking out Australian teammate Tom Cornish to silver.
A fifth Commonwealth Games gold medal saw Glaetzer tie Australian cycling icon Anna Meares for career gold medals.
Australian Matthew Richardson, who won gold in the men’s sprint on Mondaywas relegated to fourth place after Nicholas Paul won bronze for Trinidad and Tobago.
Richardson almost certainly would have won the bronze medal had he been able to use the handlebars he expected.
That’s why Bates was absolutely stunned when Glaetzer clinched the gold medal.
“I can’t believe my eyes. I can’t believe what I see here,” she said.
“It was absolutely stunning. It becomes the velodrome where memories are shattered and dreams are made.
Previously, an AusCycling handlebar review was only done at the last minute. The review found that the bars couldn’t handle the force riders put on them, especially when they exploded off the start line.
Australian legend Scott McGrory said the decision was a “devastating blow” for the Aussie trio.
“It’s a major hurdle,” I told Channel 7.
“The aero bars are so much faster.
“It’s a devastating blow for Australians.”
AusCycling’s executive general manager of performance Jesse Korf spoke to Channel 7 ahead of the event and defended the late decision. He said the review began earlier this year but could not have been completed sooner due to testing issues with its vendors and other officials.
Korf said in a statement released by AusCycling that the decision was made after tests revealed the riders would generate significantly more power than the bars could handle.
“We recognize that this decision has created some disappointment, but the riders and the entire team understand that safety is our top priority,” Korf said.
“We have made significant changes to procedures, team structure and process since the Tokyo Olympics and this decision reflects a new and in-depth approach to long-term technical excellence, competitive success and athlete well-being.
Bates said the decision would be a hammer blow for Australians, who have dedicated their lives to times like this.
“We’re talking 1 second to 1.5 seconds, it’s not just going to cost a gold medal, it’s going to cost a medal,” she said.
“It’s devastating. When you look back on your career, those are the moments that define it, for good or bad. I really feel for the athletes, to be honest.
McGrory suggested there were other options the Australians could have used, including equipment readily available on the track, rather than opting for such heavy handlebars.
Richardson was the first Australian to hit the track and he left McGrory and Bates stunned when he shot straight to first place on the timesheets with a 1:00.152.
Tom Cornish then took first place with a 1:00.036.
Glaetzer then won the gold medal with a 59.505.
Glaetzer was robbed of a bronze medal on Monday after being relegated in race three of the bronze medal event following marginal contact with his opponent in the men’s sprint race.
The handlebar disaster in Birmingham comes after Australian equipment failed Tokyo Olympics.
Richardson was seen in distress after his ride and collapsed to the ground while appearing to suffer from cramps and other issues. Bates suggested he was about to vomit from exhaustion and lactic acid buildup.
It was truly an unforgettable day in Australian cycling.
Originally published as “I can’t believe my eyes”: absolute madness at the Commonwealth Games