Gutted George Bennett admits he "didn't have the legs" to challenge for a medal in the Olympic cycling road race.
The Kiwi rider was always considered an outside shot at a podium finish, but personally held high hopes of a magical Olympic moment for himself and his country.
The 234km race was won by Ecuador's Richard Carapaz, with Belgian Wout van Aert pipping Tour de France winner Tadej Pogacar for the silver medal.
Bennett was in contention for a majority of the six-hour race, but was dropped on the final climb up Mt Fujiyama about 50km from the finish and finished 26th, six minutes behind Carapaz.
The 31-year-old says he just couldn't push through the pain.
"I'm pretty disappointed," Bennett told Sky Sport. "I'm pretty sure New Zealanders just wasted six-and-a-half hours watching that.
"I just didn't have it. It was a tough day, I had bad legs.
“I got really squeezed at the bottom of the final climb and I ended up dangling off the back, and we couldn't make it back to the lead group.
"I was in a good group behind, but we just didn't have enough to get back."
Bennett praised teammate Patty Bevin, who paced the chasing peloton for periods, helping erase a 21-minute lead from a breakaway group of eight riders.
The plan was for Bevin to break the field, so Bennett could attack late, but that proved a tough task in arguably the strongest Olympic field ever assembled.
"The field didn't break up as much as I thought it would at the start, so there was a much bigger group heading into the final climb than I thought. It was an explosive group as well and I didn't see that coming.
"It was super hard, super long and super hot, and it's a shame I couldn't be better.
"Patty did a great job, and we put him at the front of the group to try and whittle it down before the final climb, but it wasn't to be and I am super disappointed.
"Plenty more bike races in my future, so we will try again."
Bennett's Games campaign isn’t over, with the Nelson rider competing in the time trial next week.
Bennett is confident Bevin can shine in an event where he finished fourth at the 2019 world championships.
"Just gotta try and recover the best we can over the next three days,” he says. "Patty will be really good there and hopefully we can redeem ourselves a little bit.
“I think Patty is in with a shot."
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