The Isle of Man’s cycling road racing team claimed their third gold medal of the week in the men’s criterium at the NatWest Island Games on Thursday in what turned out to be hugely controversial circumstances.
Nathan Draper sprinted to his second silver medal in the 16th biennial Games - having finished second in Tuesday’s road race - after a little over an hour’s racing around a 1.5-kilometre circuit in St Helier.
However, it proved to be a testing day for officials and commissaires as there was controversy in both the men’s and women’s races..
It all began prior to the start of the women’s contest at 1pm when the Jersey team were seemingly penalised for taking an extra lap of practice before the race.
This meant that one of the their riders would have to lap the field if they were to contend one of the podium places.
An interesting battle soon unfolded as Team Isle of Man’s Lizzie Holden and Jersey’s Kim Ashton - who twice beat Holden in the time trial and road races earlier in the week - broke clear and built up a considerable gap.
There was drama when Holden came off her bike on a slippery patch going round a corner, thanks to the morning’s rain, but she was soon back on her bike and chasing hard, albeit roughly 10 seconds behind Ashton.
Try as she might, Lizzie was unable to close the gap on the Jersey rider over the remaining laps and the latter crossed the finish line celebrating her supposed win, seemingly not knowing that her team had been penalised.
Holden was awarded the win but the Jersey team protested the decision. A few hours of uncertainty followed with no news forthcoming, until it was unveiled that an official appeal is due to be heard on Friday morning, leaving Lizzie still in limbo as to which medal she will receive.
The drama continued in the evening’s men’s criterium race during which the riders from Saaremaa were allegedly involved in several unsavoury incidents with Isle of Man riders, resulting in a number of clashes including IoM’s Robin Garry who was injured following a spill.
Despite the chaos around them, the Manx team pushed on in force and had at least two riders in the leading group throughout nearly the entire race.
Indeed an interesting battle unfolded at the front with Isle of Man’s Leon Mazzone and Nathan Draper causing problems for their rivals.
With just a few laps to go, a Saaremaa rider broke clear off the front and opened up a small gap but, by the start of the next lap, the leaders were all back together again.
And it stayed that way until the final metres of the race when a Bermudan rider shot off the front late on to claim a fine win.
Little did he know of the drama unfolding behind him though. As they burst for the line, Draper was involved in an incident with a Saaremaa rider before sprinting to a clear second place.
Mazzone then went toe-to-toe with the Saaremaa rider in the battle for the bronze medal and appeared to just edge out his opponent by the narrowest of margins.
The drama was not done there though as the Saaremaa rider was penalised 30 seconds for his earlier actions which took him out of the equation in the running for third.
However, a transponder error meant that Mazzone’s bike didn’t show up in third, thus giving the bronze to a rider from Guernsey.
Vehement appeals soon followed and, after a painstaking wait while commissaires reviewed photographic footage of the final dash for the line, the bronze medal was eventually awarded to Mazzone again.
There was further drama still when it turned out that, in protest to their rider’s 30-second penalty, Saaremaa refused to attend the medal ceremony for the team bronze which they won.
Two teams that did attend though were Jersey in silver and the Isle of Man with the gold medal, completing a memorable clean sweep in this week’s cycling team events.