The hills surrounding the Acropolis and the tight, narrow streets through the city centre proved too much of a hurdle for Hong Kong cycling ace Wong Kam-po, who retired in the 11th lap of the gruelling 224-kilometre road race yesterday.
Italian Paolo Bettini won the 17-lap lung-buster in a time of five hours, 41 minutes and 44 seconds to tearfully accept his country's first gold medal.
In second place was Portugal's Sergio Paulinho, one second behind. Leading the peloton and grabbing bronze was Belgian Axel Merckx, eight seconds behind the winner.
But for Wong, the race was over by the 140km mark. Up against superior European riders, the local rider knew he never stood a chance. He preferred to pull out and conserve his energy for the track events - the 40km points race.'Our main focus is on the track event as it will be less competitive. I didn't want Wong to expend all his energy and we decided to pull him out once the leaders had built too much of a lead,' said coach Shen Jinkang.