By Steve Downes
LONDON (Reuters) - Not for the first time at the London Games, the host nation's best-laid plans to help one of its world champions collect Olympic gold failed to deliver in the women's triathlon staged in and around Hyde Park on Saturday.
Helen Jenkins came into the race as world champion, with the British trio including a specialist swimmer in Lucy Hall and an expert bike rider, Vicky Holland, to help drain the rest of the field of energy and set up their team mate for victory.
Other teams had been critical of the British team's scheme, with Australian, Erin Densham, who won bronze, having accused the hosts of "putting all their eggs in one basket".
In the end, Jenkins, the 2011 world champion and winner of the world series race on this course last year, crossed the line a dejected fifth, in a race won in thrilling fashion by the Swiss, Nicola Spirig.
Just like the British efforts in the men's cycling road race seven days ago, when even Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins could not help world champion Mark Cavendish take Olympic gold, so their triathletes' plan came to nothing.
Hall, 20, had duly led all her rivals out of the water after the swim, having stretched out the field in the hope of preventing too large a lead group forming on the 43km bike phase.
But a multiple-bike crash on the roads outside Buckingham Palace prevented Holland from playing her key role in the cycling.
"We had a Plan A, a Plan B and a Plan C, but in the end I think we were operating on Plan G," Holland said. "It was like a piece of flat-pack furniture that we couldn't put together properly."
She said she had been there to do everything she could to help Jenkins. "But after the crash, I didn't want to work to rejoin the lead group, in case I brought some other girls with me, because there were some strong runners there," she said.
It is the second time that Jenkins has come into an Olympic Games as the reigning world champion but not managed an Olympic medal. In Beijing four years ago, she finished 21st.
"It's not their fault," Jenkins, has been hampered by a knee injury suffered during swim training 10 weeks ago, said of her team mates. "They delivered me to the right place. I just did not have it in my legs."
Holland said she felt sorry for Jenkins. "There was a lot of pressure on her to win, with the team here built around her," she added.
Today's women's race was the seventh triathlon at the Olympics since its introduction at the 2000 Games in Sydney. Despite producing a succession of world champions, no British triathlete has won an Olympic medal of any colour.
In the men's race, over the same central London course on Tuesday, the host nation will field the world's two top ranked triathletes in the Brownlee brothers, Alistair and Jonathan.
They will be hoping that their race plan holds together more robustly than their team mates' did.
(editing by Michael Holden)