Aaron GOAT: Cyclist wins 4th gold with road race sprint finish

Brodyn Knuckey
Source: 1News

Aaron Gate has won a fourth gold at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games after timing his sprint finish to perfection to win the men's road race and in the process made this year's campaign the New Zealand team's most successful in history.

In a thrilling race around Warwick that featured numerous break attempts from a peloton of experienced riders, Gate - who had three gold medals before the race from the track earlier in the Games - managed to stay in the action before contesting an epic finish to the 160km race.

"Our plan was to race aggressively and follow the moves because on this sort of circuit you've got to be at the front of the race to be in contention," Gate told 1News.

"When it started kicking off with three laps to go I knew I was outnumbered but I just had to be attentive; I knew there were certain riders and nations I couldn't let get up the road so there was a lot of following."

The group, which also featured the likes of former Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas of Wales, broke away from the rest of the field early in the race and by the time they had reached the final lap were ahead by over eight minutes from the majority of the field.

Multiple riders attempted small breaks to seal themselves a place on the podium heading around the Warwick circuit for the final time - Gate even getting involved in one of them - but each time they were absorbed back into main lead group, setting up a chaotic finish of 12 riders looking to sprint for the line.

That was until Thomas made his own break with 1.8km to go but his desperation ended up costing him as he too was reined in and had to watch on as Gate and others past him with 500m to go to decide the gold.

The 31-year-old Kiwi managed to pip South Africa's Daryl Impey and Scotsman Finn Crockett at the line with the other two taking silver and bronze respectively. Gate's official time for the gruelling race in the UK heat was three hours, 28 minutes and 19 seconds.

"When it came down to the sprint, I knew I had a good line, I stepped out with about 200 metres to go and then with 100 metres to go I couldn't see anyone in my peripherals and I was thinking, 'is this really going to happen?' and then I managed to get my arms up at the finish line," he recalled.

"I couldn't believe it - I was wondering if I'd stuffed it up somehow because it was so unreal."

Adding to Gate's remarkable race was the fact he was the only Kiwi in the leading group with the next best finisher being Jack Bauer in 17th over eight minutes back.

The win gives New Zealand an 18th gold medal in Birmingham, surpassing the previous record of 17 golds set by the 1990 team at home in Auckland and also made Gate the first New Zealander to ever win four gold medals in a single Commonwealth Games, adding to his team pursuit, individual pursuit and points race titles from last week.

"It's a special thing I'm going to have to definitely treasure," he said of the new record.

"Hopefully it gives a challenge to some more Kiwis to go for that record in the future!"

Earlier, New Zealand's female road cyclists have missed out on a medal in the women's road race on Sunday evening after a sprint finish of over 20 riders in Warwick.

The largely uneventful 124km race was decided late with the peloton opting to stay together for the majority of it. The exception to this was a crash early on which saw four riders go down, although even then the quartet were able to get back on their bikes and rejoin the group.

With the race reaching it's final leg Australia were in prime position to dominate, with their full team of six still in the picture and able to shut down any attempts for a late breakaway by gutsy riders.

New Zealand also had a large squad at their disposal with Henrietta Christie, Georgia Williams, Niamh Fisher-Black, Ella Harris and Mikayla Harvey all still sitting inside the peloton.

As the race entered its final lap, the peloton still had 34 riders in it, although the Australians were starting to make their way to the front.

Aside from Australia and New Zealand, England were the only other nation to be well-represented still in the peloton with five riders of their own.

With three kilometres to go, riders started to jostle for positioning for the sprint finish with Australia's team of cyclists firmly holding the front of the peloton and England on their flank. The Kiwis were tucked in just behind along with Canada.

The picture remained the same heading into the final kilometre with Canada shifting forward to attack Australia. But in the end it was Neah Evans of Scotland who denied the Australians a sweep of the podium, taking silver for her third medal of this year's Games.

Georgia Baker won the sprint to the line to claim the gold while fellow Australian Sarah Roy joined her with a bronze.

Williams was the best result for New Zealand in 13th with Fisher-Black also crossing the line in 17th as part of the sprint finish.