First a handlebar snapped and then the wheels came off Australian cycling’s Tokyo Olympics.
Logan Martin’s imperious BMX freestyle gold medal, plus bronze medals to time trial star Rohan Dennis and the gutsy men’s team pursuit squad, saved the sport’s blushes.
Damningly, it was the worst performance on the track at the Olympics since Australia didn’t win a cycling medal in the 1980 Moscow Games.
Overall, it wasn’t the disaster of the Rio Olympics, where anything and everything seemed to go wrong.
But Tokyo again leaves AusCycling with many burning questions – and only three years to answer them.
Put bluntly, with some outstanding exceptions, Australian cycling now has a history of underperforming at the Olympics.
The outlier was Athens, when Australia won six gold medals and seemed on the cusp of a dominating era.
But the sport’s administration failed to seize the moment and Great Britain tore the mantle from Australia’s grasp.
In every other Olympics since Moscow, Australia has not won more than one cycling gold medal.
That’s a big black mark against a sport that has produced a Tour de France champion, has become a powerhouse in men’s and women’s road cycling and routinely wins track world championships.
After Rio, Simon Jones was brought in from British cycling as Australian cycling’s performance director.
His brief was to sweep through with a new broom and clearly, Jones was a hard taskmaster.
He made a big call for the world track championships early last year, deliberately having the riders train through the event with any eye on Tokyo.
It created a lot of controversy when Australia underperformed at the worlds and no-one will know whether it worked, because COVID-19 happened instead.
Jones resigned a week out from the Olympics and perhaps the true test of his legacy will be how Australian cycling performs at the Paris Games.
Australian cycling was on target in Tokyo when Dennis won his bronze and Martin dominated in BMX freestyle’s Olympic debut.
Richie Porte was cooked after the Tour de France, fellow road cyclist Amanda Spratt is struggling to work out why she also under-performed and mechanical issues dogged mountain biker Rebecca McConnell.
Saya Sakakibara was stretchered off the BMX racing track when she crashed, while teammate Lauren Reynolds made a point with her fifth place, a few years after being cut from the national program.
But the track was the big unknown heading into the second week of the Games – with no competition since last year’s worlds, how would Australia perform?
When the handlebar inexplicably snapped off Alex Porter’s bike in team pursuit qualifying – AusCycling rightly has launched an inquiry into the debacle – it was a shocking portent of what was to come.
Porter and his teammates rallied for an excellent bronze, but there would be no more track medals and too often, the Australians just looked off the pace.
Matthew Glaetzer showed great heart to reach the keirin final after being diagnosed with thyroid cancer two years ago and then needing to sit out the match sprint, because the team sprint had cooked him.
There were other mitigating factors – the retirements of Amy Cure and Steph Morton last year hurt and Cam Meyer’s late withdrawal to be with his gravely ill father was a significant blow in the track endurance events.
The revamped omnium especially was tailor-made for Meyer’s peerless track craft.
But everyone went to Tokyo with challenges, be it COVID-19 or life as an Olympic athlete.
The Australian swimmers and rowers shone. Australia equalled its best overall Olympic gold medal haul.
Whoever takes over from Jones has work to do.