LONDON (Reuters) - With no radio communications allowed, and a maximum of five riders per team, Alexandre Vinokourov knew that Britain's well-oiled machine could go wrong in the Olympic road race. He was right.
The Kazakh managed to escape Team GB's attention in the final lap around Box Hill before proving the strongest rider in a breakaway group as Britain failed to rein in the fugitives to set up a massive sprint for world champion Mark Cavendish.
Radio communications between sports directors and riders through ear pieces are allowed on Pro Tour races such as the Tour de France, but they are banned in championship races.
Britain certainly managed to control the race at last year's world championships but there were seven of them to help Cavendish out and lead him to a sprint finish.
Vinokourov, however, is one of the old school riders who do not need their sports director to tell them how to race, when to attack or when to ease off.
"Ear pieces are not of much use. I see the race from the inside," Vinokourov, who was suspended for two years for blood doping in 2007, told a news conference.
The Kazakh managed to slip into a leading group of 32 riders by the end of the last of nine climbs to Box Hill, and with no sports director to alert Britain or Germany, who were also looking to set up a massive sprint for Andre Greipel, their reaction time was too slow.
"The fact they had no radios caused problem to the British and German teams," he said.
"They were thinking about Cavendish all the time, and they had no radio to react," said silver medalist Rigoberto Uran of Colombia.
Vinokourov, however, also had to stay alert himself.
"It was 250 km of stress. I was looking for an opportunity to attack," he said, adding he narrowly escaped a crash after Swiss Fabian Cancellara rode into the safety barriers just in front of him.
"In the last lap (around Box Hill), the tempo was not too high, and I saw (Spaniard) Luis Leon (Sanchez) and (Alejandro) Valverde were there, so I went with them."
With other strong riders such as Cancellara, France's Sylvain Chavanel, American Tyler Phinney or Czech Roman Kreuziger in the leading group, four Team GB riders to bring Cavendish back was not enough.
"If it had been a world championship, there would have been a massive sprint," said Vinokourov.
The win is likely to put an end to Vinokourov's long and troubled career.
"I said I wanted to win a stage on the Tour de France this year. I did not but today it's a dream come true," he said.
Asked if he would quit for good this time, after reversing his decision to end his career after crashing out of last year's Tour, he said: "Like (Laurent) Jalabert or (Richard) Virenque, it's a nice way to end it."
Vinokourov now has the time trial to ride on Wednesday.
"I will just go there to spin my legs," he said with a broad smile.
(Editing by Alison Williams)