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Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 20 Preview

Course:

The penultimate day of 2017’s centenary Giro d’Italia is one final opportunity for the mountains to cause a change in the order of the current general classification before Milano. Starting in Pordenone, the day’s first summit comes a few kilometres before the 40km marker, the 1.1km Category Muro di ca’ del Poggio is a steep affair which averages 12.7% and has a sharp maximum kick of 18%. The terrain proceeds to roll onwards for a sustained period, eventually striking upon the first of two Category 1 ascents in the shape of the imposing Monte Grappa. The rather irregular nature of the ascent past the midway point can cause problems for riders who prefer to settle into a steady rhythm, making the 24.2km ascent a potential banana skin for those with bad legs on the day. With an average gradient of 5.3% and a maximum of 11%, it may not prove enough to entice the big name maglia rosa contenders to commit much in the way of attacking though. An extended descent lasts for just over 20km and places the riders on a short section of flat roads with around 40km left to race, of which includes the final climb of 2017’s Giro d’Italia; the Category 1 Foza. These 14km of uphill racing are the last opportunity for those pursuing the maglia rosa to utilise the slopes to drive open gaps amongst the frontrunners and place themselves in an encouraging position with only Milano’s individual time trial remaining. The average gradient is 6.7% and offers a steepest increase of 11% for potential attackers to make their move; knowing that the final descending kilometres into Asiago offer little in the way of opportunities to attack before they complete Stage 20’s 190km.

Giro d'Italia 2017 Stage 20 Preview

Contenders:

Thibaut Pinot lived up to expectations during the final ascent of yesterday’s stage, proving to be the strongest and most animated of the main general classification favourites. This final week has seen the Frenchman improve his form considerably, and having now moved into touching distance of a final podium position, Pinot will surely view Foza as an ideal springboard to victory. With a downhill run into the finish, it is possible that the FDJ captain could arrive into the finish with rivals alongside him, from where the expectation would be for Pinot to win a sprint.

Mikel Landa has finally collected a stage victory at this year’s Giro d’Italia after having seen two previous day’s slip through his fingers in the final metres. However, the Team Sky rider is unlikely to believe his hunger for victory has been satisfied after yesterday’s win, especially when enjoying such a rich vein of form. As stated previously, he offers little in the way of danger to the general classification and should once again be allowed a great deal of freedom to contest stage honours on the penultimate day. Expected to attack from long range, Landa has shown to be hard to match on the climbs in the last week, making him an obvious pick here.

Ilnur Zakarin was one of the few general classification riders to attempt several moves upon Stage 19’s final climb, walking away with a small time gain over the podium favourites, but was unable to ditch his nearest man on the GC Domenico Pozzovivo. Similar to Pinot, the Russian has ridden himself into his best form during this decisive concluding week of the Giro d’Italia and certainly looks dangerous on this terrain ahead of the following day’s individual time trial. A good performance here, combined with another in the race against the clock in Milano, could secure him fifth place on the general classification and potentially even challenge for fourth.

Domenico Pozzovivo sees himself caught up in this battle for places 4th – 6th in the concluding stages of the race, showing a consistent tenacity to follow the moves which matter to him most. He has managed to avoid investing too much energy in recent stages, focusing on staying buoyant amongst the general classification and ensuring he does not suffer from as a result of a costly swashbuckling attack. However, this really is the final chance he will have to make a difference (if he wishes to improve his placing that is) and could take advantage of his lack of importance to the podium places in order to steal stage honours in Asiago.

Vincenzo Nibali attempted a handful of attacking moves on yesterday’s concluding climb, yet did not truly show the level of cutting endeavour which we have previously become accustomed to from The Shark of Messina. He will probably produce a couple of efforts on the day’s final climb, but given the current stalemate with Nairo Quintana, it would be no surprise to see the Italian prove risk averse yet again.

Nairo Quintana seems unlikely to win the stage today, though possesses a great chance of winning the maglia rosa regardless. Life is looking particularly tough for Tom Dumoulin right now, with Quintana knowing that even a sub-par performance compared to his own standards, could still obtain a margin of around a minute back to the current pink jersey holder. If the Dutchman looks to be on the rocks late in the day, then Quintana will pounce to take full advantage, regardless of potentially towing other riders to the summit in the process.

Those who may take the day’s win, from either a breakaway or late move, include; Pierre RollandRui Costa and Adam Yates.

Outcome:

1st Thibaut Pinot 2nd Domenico Pozzovivo 3rd Ilnur Zakarin

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Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 17 Preview

Course:

After the general classification soap opera of yesterday’s stage, today’s 219km route from Tirano to Canazei should offer a quieter day for the major names, favouring the breakaway riders and their stage winning exploits. Beginning with an almost immediate uphill section, Stage 17 opens proceedings upon the slopes of the Category 2 climb of Aprica, lasting 12.3km and offering a relatively steady 6.3% gradient to be tackled; the steepest sections of which are 11%. The peloton will then drop downhill once again, before beginning the second of the day’s two Category 2 climbs, the Passo Del Tonale. Officially recognised as being 11km in duration, the average gradient here is 5.7% and reaches 10% around the midway point of the climb. A sustained descent then follows, leading onwards through the town of Cles and finishing at the bottom of the Category 3 Giovo climb. This short challenge could inspire some decisive moves by the leading riders, 5.9km of undulating climbing, averaging 6.8% and tilting upwards to 12% at times. Once tackled, it is a constant rise to the day’s finish at Canazei, a simple finale which is unlikely to cause any great stress.

Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 17 Preview

Contenders:

Pierre Rolland chanced his hand alongside a couple of Cannondale – Drapac teammates in the day’s early breakaway yesterday, but ultimately finished well behind the leading group which contained another teammate in the shape of Davide Formolo. Stage 17 is another opportunity for the Frenchman to try and convert his encouraging form into a stage victory at this year’s Giro d’Italia though. Thus far, those days which many have earmarked Rolland to contest have either ended with rises too steep or simply benefitted those who can sprint faster. Today’s finale looks ideal in comparison, though he will need to be on his toes to make sure he is at the front of the race as the break potentially forms on the Aprica climb.

Omar Fraile may have seen his chances of securing the mountains classification take a heavy hit recently, but the Dimension Data rider definitely has an opportunity to double his victories at the Giro d’Italia with a strong performance today. With the day’s mountains unlikely to prove too gruelling for him to stay in contention, the greater issue will instead be ensuring he is present in any move which takes off during the ascent of Aprica after less than 3km of racing. If Fraile does make the cut, then there is a good chance he will either be able to go solo late on in the day or potentially arrive in Canazei as the fastest man within the lead group.

Rui Costa is another rider who has often proven to be animated on days like these, the Portuguese rider eager to collect a win at the race, having now seen his general classification hopes crumble. Given his strong sprinting capabilities, Costa is likely to want any such breakaway to work cohesively and deliver him into the finish relatively fresh. Of course, this is very unlikely, as few riders will fancy their chances against the former world champion and willingly tow him a free ride. If present in the final moments of the race, it will be a tough task to distance him before the finish line beckons.

Luis Leon Sanchez was present in the group of general classification contenders for longer than expected yesterday, once again reminding us of the form which he possesses at this year’s race. With the steep opening and constant rise to the finish after the riders pass Giovo, Sanchez certainly fits the bill of a rider strong enough to make the early selection and then dominate the final kilometres into Canazei. If yesterday’s efforts have not drained him too greatly, then it will be no surprise to see the Spaniard fighting for the day’s win.

Laurens De Plus has been riding well at the race on these mid-mountain stages, marking him out as another rider who could prove strong enough to accelerate away from his rivals en route to the finale. However, this is his first grand tour and it is unclear as to how well he is currently coping with the attritional nature of a three week race.

Giovanni Visconti would have been the pick for many pundits on Stage 17, but with the unexpected ascension of Vincenzo Nibali to maglia rosa contender yesterday, he may now find his movements hampered by responsibilities to his team leader. However, with his blend of climbing prowess and strong sprinting after tough days, his team may utilise him by placing Visconti within the breakaway in order to reduce their commitments to chasing.

Other riders who may feature strongly are Maxime MonfortDario CataldoRubén Plaza and Enrico Battaglin.

Outcome:

1st Omar Fraile 2nd Pierre Rolland 3rd Luis Leon Sanchez

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Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 15 Preview

Course:

A day which could be a headache in waiting for the general classification riders, the main consensus however, is that a breakaway is mostly likely to decide the outcome on Stage 15 of this year’s Giro d’Italia. Starting in Valdengo, the route totals 199km as it makes its way to the finish in Bergamo, taking in a couple of sharp categorised climbs within a short space of time to animate the race. A somewhat rolling opening to the day, an essentially flat start will make it a hotly contested affair to join a move with the potential to survive into Bergamo. The first of the two main challenges of the day comes once the riders hit the Category 2 Miragole San Salvatore, an 8.7 km climb which averages 7% and possesses maximum ramps of 11%. Though the ascent is steep, especially towards the summit, it is regular enough to try and tap out an even pace all the way to the top. A brief downhill section then leads straight into the base of the Selvino, a Category 3 climb which is easier than its predecessor, lasting for 6.9km with an average gradient of 5.4% (max 9%) and could allow a degree of regrouping amongst the frontrunners. The race subsequently drops downhill quite rapidly, before then opening out onto relatively flat terrain once again, with everything likely to be decided by the unrecognised Bergamo Alta rise with under 5km left. The historic climb twists its way through the streets, offering a cobbled section early on and reaches 12%, before a short downhill section finishes within touching distance of the flamme rouge.

Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 15 Preview

Contenders:

Luis Leon Sanchez was a common provocateur during the first half of this race, appearing to be in strong enough form to make days such as these a realistic goal for a stage win. He has since become considerably quieter, yet is likely to simply be keeping his powder dry ahead of days he feels are worth investing his efforts into winning. The Spaniard will be confident of finding a place for himself amongst the key breakaway, focusing on pacing himself upon the Miragole San Salvatore, aiming to stay within reach of his rivals and put them to the sword with his sprinting capabilities.

Omar Fraile produced a monstrous effort to secure his first grand tour stage win earlier in the week and will view Stage 15 as having great potential of allowing him to double up at the Giro d’Italia. There is no question as to his form right now, putting in strong efforts as part of the breaks, while sailing up the climbs with real venom when necessary. The finale in Bergamo is ideal for Fraile to attack in order to drop remaining rivals, already demonstrating how hard it is to close him down once he commits to a move.

Diego Rosa is the rider most likely to be backed by Team Sky today, joining in with the moves on Stage 15 as they continue to try and salvage their Giro d’Italia. The Italian is a big fan of this part of his homeland and could prove interested in trying to showcase this by taking the win in Bergamo. Overall, the day does suit him rather well, but there shall be reservations as to how well he will be able to contest the less well fitting finish.

Laurens De Plus seems to be enjoying a strong run of form right now at the race and could be another rider capable of making it into Bergamo as part of a race winning move. The Belgian rider has shown enough already to make it hard to question his climbing abilities right now and would be best advised to utilise these in order to overcome his disadvantage in any potential sprint for the line.

Other riders who are worth watching for are Rui Costa, Giovanni ViscontiDylan TeunsWinner AnaconaMichael Woods and Davide Villella.

Outcome:

1st Omar Fraile 2nd Diego Rosa 3rd Luis Leon Sanchez

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Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 11 Preview

Course:

Stage 11 promises to be a day for the breakaway to lay claim upon stage honours, after yesterday’s individual time trial was dominated by Tom Dumoulin in monstrous fashion, as he sailed into a potentially race deciding time gap over Nairo Quintana. Starting in Firenze, the day just about delivers 15km of flat riding before the roads tilt skywards for the majority of Stage 11, beginning with the Category 2 Passo della Consuma which lasts 15.9 km (avg 6.1% max 10%) before dropping down to the foot of the Category 3 Passo della Calla (16km avg 5.3% max 9%).  A long downhill section then follows, before sending the riders up the 11.4km Category 3 Passo del Carnale (avg 4.5% max 11%) and the longer 23.1km Monte Fumaiole, averaging a tame 3.7% average with maximum gradients of 12%. The road then rapidly falls away, leaving the frontrunners to hurtle into the finale at Bagno di Romagna after 161km of racing. The shorter overall distance and high probability of a breakaway surviving the day is bound to make the opening hour of racing frenzied, making the first couple of ascents even tougher than they look on paper.

Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 11 Preview

Contenders:

Omar Fraile has yet to truly cash in on the form which we saw from him during this year’s Tour of Yorkshire and could choose today as a good opportunity to do so, if able to make the cut on the opening climb. Though this is not a perfect fit for Fraile, it cannot be forgotten that he won the mountains classification at last year’s La Vuelta a España, so is talented when it comes to hunting the right move to join on a day built for the break. He has the strength to succeed on Stage 11, but the biggest question mark hangs above his ability to make it into the right attack.

Mikel Landa shall be another of Team Sky’s options to salvage their appearance at the Giro d’Italia in the wake of their general classification ambitions taking a heavy blow. The Spaniard loves a long range attack, so may well be allowed off the leash to try his luck once again in the breakaway, hopefully chalking up the team’s first win at the race. The testing start will play into his hands, even if the rest of the day is not ideal, while he will need to attack solo over the final summit if he is to take the win; Landa not known for his sprinting abilities after all.

Pierre Rolland is likely to have glanced over the day’s profile as a chance for stage honours, with the length of the climbs hopefully dispatching the quicker rivals who may finish alongside him. The Frenchman has already been combative, but was not able to help deliver Cannondale – Drapac their first WorldTour victory since 2015’s Giro d’Italia. He will want to go it alone in the latter stages, but the climb to Monte Fumaiole might not prove tough enough to allow that.

Rui Costa may have once held ambitions of producing a convincing general classification campaign at 2017’s Giro d’Italia, yet will now realise that his best bet for glory is to try and join the day’s breakaway on stages like today. The terrain should not prove too difficult for Costa, while his descending abilities will allow him to conserve a degree of energy, if able to bridge back to more talented climbers during some of the climbs. He will hope for a sprint finish at the end, as few others likely to work alongside him all day, possess an acceleration able to match the former world champion rider.

Adam Yates could still be focused upon climbing his way up the general classification, but if the race is close to coming back together on the final climb, he has all the skills required to attack over the summit and rapidly descend his way to a stage victory. A fast finishing rider too, if an unexpectedly strong group of general classification contenders end up deciding the day’s outcome, it is also likely that Yates will be the fastest present from that scenario.

Valerio Conti was struck by misfortune when crashing within the final kilometre of Stage 8, having produced a brilliant display of strength as part of the day’s main breakaway. The incident is bound to have stoked the fires of the Italian rider, eager to overturn his bad luck and aim to conjure up another brilliant effort to be in with a chance of victory in Bagno di Romagna. 

Luis Leon Sanchez is an interesting prospect who could be motived by either the mountains classification points on offer here, or the prospect of a group making it all the way to the finish, from which he is almost guaranteed to be the fastest sprinter present. He will no doubt be curious to see who may join the moves, potentially forcing him into action, assuming that Sanchez realises he now has a chance of collecting a jersey in Milano.

The mix of riders who have a chance here is broad and essentially a lottery, keep an eye upon the likes of Alberto LosadaMatej MohoricDaniel TeklehaimanotKenny ElissondeTom-Jelte SlagterJosé Gonçalves and Hugh Carthy.

Outcome:

1st Omar Fraile 2nd Pierre Rolland 3rd José Gonçalves

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Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 8 Preview

Course:

A difficult day to predict, Stage 8 is another intermediate challenge for the peloton ahead of their arrival upon the footsteps of this year’s first serious mountaintop battles. Totalling 189km as it makes its way from Molfetta to Peschici, the route features both a Category 2 and Category 4 ascent to punctuate the racing, though some of the most intense riding is expected during the opening 85km as the breakaway attempts to form. With a punchy finale which would normally suit the classics specialists, in their absence, it will be somewhat of a lottery as to who will be in contention as the race comes down to the final kilometres.

Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 8 Preview

Contenders:

Omar Fraile may prove to be the best bet for Team Dimension Data now Nathan Haas looks to have become ill in the last day or so. Fraile arrives here off the back of an extremely strong performance at the Tour of Yorkshire, suiting this rolling run into the finish line at Peschici. Strong enough to attack solo from a breakaway, he will be a dangerous rider if allowed to open up too great a gap upon his rivals.

Dario Cataldo could be given the chance to throw his hat in the ring on Stage 8, his explosive finishing abilities being hard to match on the uphill drag to the line. Astana are certainly on the hunt to secure a stage victory as soon as possible, with the profile of today an appealing prospect for Cataldo to potentially perform upon.

José Gonçalves would normally have been a regular face in the breakaways by now, but his recent move to Team Katusha – Alpecin has clearly reduced his freedom to animate contests like today. Regardless, this might not even prove a tough enough challenge to catch his eye, though he remains a strong contender if able to join the breakaway.

Enrico Battaglin once possessed a strong reputation for competing convincingly on parcours such as these, but at this year’s Giro d’Italia, the native rider appears to be happy to focus upon contesting the reduced sprint finishes when possible. Should he manage to feature as part of a racing deciding move, then Battaglin certainly has the experience to convert his presence into a stage win.

Michael Woods shall be fired up to join the move today, especially as Cannondale – Drapac were surprisingly absent from the move on Stage 6 which eventually decided the day’s winner. The Canadian rider has a developing talent for the steep gradients which feature late on in the race and could prove unmatchable if at the fore during the final moments of Stage 8.

Other riders who could feature in this lottery are Adam YatesLuis Leon SanchezRui Costa, Pello Bilbao and Adam Hansen.

Outcome:

1st Omar Fraile 2nd Michael Woods 3rd Enrico Battaglin

Outsider: Fernando Gaviria 

Liége - Bastogne - Liége Race Preview 2017

Liège–Bastogne–Liège – Race Preview 2017

Course:

The week of classics racing in the Ardennes reaches its crescendo with the year’s fourth monument of the season, Liége – Bastogne – Liége; the penultimate chance to win a monument until the Giro di Lombardia in late September. Known as La Doyenne or ‘The Old Lady’, the race’s 103rd edition since its founding in 1892 totals 258km from Liege and back again to the suburb of Ans. A predominantly tame opening half will do little to worry the bunch, allowing the day’s futile breakaway to obtain their time on TV for the sponsors, before being drawn back in by the peloton during the much harder second half of the race. Once the riders begin to turn back towards the fringes of Liége, where the finish line in Ans awaits them, they shall hit a gruelling sequence of nine climbs intended to send plenty of riders out the back door. The introduction of a short cobbled section towards last year’s finish has been removed, which should mean that the familiar triumvirate of Côte de La Redoute, Côte de La Roche-aux-Faucons and Côte de Saint-Nicolas shall be the officially recognised battleground as they bear down upon Ans. However, as we have seen previously, it is the unclassified rising road into the finishing straight which has become a key springboard for remaining riders to make their move for the win. The rise lasts for almost 1.5km and hits a gradient of 10%, a challenge which will feel more like a mountain after more than 250km worth of racing.

There are many critics of The Old Lady, labelling it as a race where nothing much really happens for the most part, but in an era of teams throttling the life out of stage racing and several monuments, La Doyenne remains a contest few would wish to stake their savings on predicting.

Liége - Bastogne - Liége Race Preview 2017

Contenders:

Alejandro Valverde has once again entered the week of the Ardennes classics in the type of form which surely leaves some rivals pondering if it is even worth them showing up to contest these races. The Spaniard is in imperious form so far in 2017, the peloton all too aware of this fact when reaching the Mur de Huy during Wednesday’s La Flèche Wallonne, left to simply watch Valverde sail uphill to yet another victory. His Movistar team will seek to control the bulk of the day’s racing once again, confident that their team-leader will be able to follow the most important moves late on solo, finally putting his rivals to the sword with his customary burst of pace.

Dan Martin is still smarting from his crash in the final corner of 2014’s edition, appearing on course to defend his 2013 title and no doubt believes there to be a great deal of unfinished business with Liége – Bastogne – Liége. He was once again unable to beat Valverde at La Flèche Wallonne, though did suffer from undesirable positioning when his longterm classics rival finally attacked for the line. Martin will want to make the final kilometres as hard as possible, hoping to blunt the speed of faster finishing rivals, most likely doing so by attacking on the final rise into Ans as he did in 2014 before crashing. His buildup to 2017 has been one of his most impressive in his career, but unfortunately for the Irishman, Valverde’s has been equally eye catching.

Sergio Henao‘s progress at the Ardennes classics has been hampered over the years by unfortunate injury and all the hassle surrounding his native blood values, but the Colombian rider finally looks en route to success in 2017. The Sky rider worked hard for teammate Michal Kwiatkowski during Amstel Gold and followed it up with a convincing fourth place atop the Mur de Huy at La Flèche Wallonne. He looks strong enough to follow all the right moves and possesses a faster sprint at the end of a race like this than many would expect.

Michal Kwiatkowski is the other option for Team Sky and forms a seriously strong two man attack alongside Henao for the British outfit at Liége – Bastogne – Liége. The former World Champion has one of the fastest sprint finishes for a race like this after Alejandro Valverde, however, it seems that his growing penchant for late attacks is the method which the Polish rider is most likely to utilise in order to secure his second monument victory of 2017.

Greg Van Avermaet will be eager to eke out every last watt of his incredible Spring form, lining up at La Doyenne with serious ambitions of challenging for the win. His consistency during the cobbled classics has been extremely impressive, but this contest is an entirely different affair altogether for the Belgian and it seems unlikely that this year’s Paris – Roubaix winner will also be champion of Liége – Bastogne – Liége. With nothing to lose and no real pressure upon his shoulders, Avermaet is a very dangerous rider in relation to the hopes of day’s bigger favourites and will demand the respect of typical Liége contenders; as the Belgian will punish anyone who gifts him too much freedom.

Michael Albasini has always performed well at one day races, yet at the age of 36, still lacks the palmarés to demonstrate his talents for these gruelling events. The Swiss rider was one of the few to benefit from the introduction of the short cobbled sector of Côte de la Rue Naniot during last year’s race, utilising it effectively to really put his rivals under the hammer and thus making Albasini one of the few riders to truly miss the sector this year. His strength this year should assure him of being in the mix once again, but it often feels a struggle to back Albasini over more successful riders when it matters most in a major race.

Warren Barguil continues to improve at the Ardennes and secured himself sixth place during Wednesday’s edition of La Flèche Wallonne despite a far from ideal run into the Mur de Huy. The combative Frenchman may be more synonymous with grand tour mountain stages, yet he also finished sixth at last year’s running of Liége – Bastogne – Liége, suggesting he does favour these longs days in the saddle with plenty of climbing. He appears to be the best bet for Team Sunweb, as Michael Matthews has not really displayed enough convincing form to suggest he can take the win in Ans.

Romain Bardet spoke recently of his love for this race and its importance to lithe limbed climbing specialists like himself; La Doyenne being their best hope of a monument victory. Bardet is an aggressive rider who appears to relish the intensity of these single day races, finishing second in 2011’s U23 edition of Liége and now possessing four top 15 finishes as a senior rider; two of which being top ten placings. Bardet’s best hopes of victory will come from attacking either on the final uphill section into Ans or going much earlier during the sequence of Côte de La Redoute, Côte de La Roche-aux-Faucons and Côte de Saint-Nicolas. 

Other riders deserving of attention during the year’s fourth monument are Rui Costa, Alex HowesDylan TeunsTosh Van Der SandeSamuel SanchezJakob FuglsangEnrico GasparottoDiego UlissiRigoberto Uran and Tom Jelte-Slagter.

Outcome:

1st Romain Bardet 2nd Sergio Henao 3rd Dan Martin

Rio Olympics Individual Time Trial 2016 Preview

Olympic Road Race 2016 – Preview

Course:

Whereas Olympic host cities often struggle to create a testing affair for the road race, 2016’s Rio Olympics have put together the toughest course in living memory to crown one of the first gold medal champions of this year’s games. The course snakes a total of 237.5km, starting and finishing at Avenida Atlantica, though much of the racing will comprise laps of the Grumari circuit and then the tougher Canoas Vista Chinesa climb which concludes the day’s racing before heading back to the coast. To emerge victorious from this gruelling affair will carry immense respect from within the peloton, one of the few races this year which can rival a monuments victory upon a rider’s palmarès.

Rio Olympics Road Race 2016 Preview

Contenders:

Alexis Vuillermoz and Romain Bardet finished first and third in this year’s test event, no doubt entering today’s race with a great amount of confidence to repeat their success when it matters most. The possibility of a long-range attack making it to the line will appeal greatly to Vuillermoz, the AG2R rider well experienced in performing upon rolling terrain such as this. Bardet on the other hand is more likely to bide his time, poised to make a move on the final laps of the race with a focus upon the steepest gradients of the race. Julian Alaphilippe continually performs beyond expectation and will look to cause another upset today by striking out late to take the win as part of a small move or solo breakaway.

Alejandro Valverde and Joaquim Rodriguez have experienced a fractious relationship since their combined failing to win 2013’s World Championship Road Race for Spain; resolving such issues today could deliver gold for their nation. Valverde is the favourite for many here, renowned for his ability to stick with the strongest climbers and then descend like a stone, making him a clear favourite to attack over the top of the final climb in an attempt to steal the win during the downhill run to the line. Rodriguez concluded this year’s Tour de France in good condition, though it will be uncertain as to whether or not he will have managed to retain this form heading into the Olympic road race.

Chris Froome is taking much of the attention in regards to Great Britain’s chances of taking a medal here, but it will take a very hard race on the steepest sections to bring the Sky captain to the fore today. Instead, attention might well be better placed upon Adam Yates, arriving here in the scintillating form which secured him the first ever white jersey for a British rider at Le Tour de France. While Yates will be looking to follow the wheels of the day’s big names, teammates Stephen Cummings and Geraint Thomas might well choose to attack late on the climbs in pursuit of a medal placing.

Esteban ChavesSergio Henao, Rigoberto Uran and Jarlinson Pantano provide an embarrassment of riches for Colombia during 2016’s Olympic road race. Chaves may not have raced competitively for sometime, though shall be extremely motivated to perform on terrain which plays to his love of attritional days featuring plenty of steep gradients. Henao has looked strong throughout 2016 and will be eager to cash in on a year of great condition, though of little success. Uran and Pantano offer great alternatives in the shape of two talented riders who know how best to contest a breakaway move in order to make it to the line first.

Wout Poels has enjoyed a spectacular season thus far, emerging as an indomitable lieutenant in the highest of mountains for Chris Froome, while also collecting a monuments victory in the shape of Liége-Bastogne-Liége during the spring. He will be the strongest card to play for a Dutch team also featuring Bauke MollemaSteven Kruijswijk and Tom Dumoulin, providing Poels with a greater degree of protection than other big names here. Poels’ aggression is often disguised by his duties within Team Sky, but when offered the chance, he is an incredibly strong rider who could prove impossible to reel back in once the peloton has been reduced to its bare bones here.

Vincenzo Nibali still has what it takes to win gold despite a disappointing Tour de France last month, though one which did finish with a stronger third week for the Italian rider. Nibali often performs well on attritional courses such as these and the final downhill run to the line will have caught his eye as the ideal opportunity to attack over the final summit, then descend aggressively to the line in an attempt to arrive solo. Teammate Fabio Aru will be a strong auxiliary option if Nibali finds himself too tightly marked to attack successfully, Aru favours these inclines and will appreciate an aggressive race on the harder sections.

Dan Martin has established a strong reputation for peaking specifically for one-day races and will be eager to perform upon a course which plays to his strengths. This year’s Tour de France demonstrated a greater level of consistency throughout the mountains than we had ever seen before from the Irishman, something he achieved without lessening his attacking style. He tried on several occasions to secure a stage win at Le Tour, but with Team Sky’s chokehold on the general classification diminishing any freedom, Martin never succeed in maintaining a gap. With no general classification or finishing times to worry about today, the race for gold will be a much more open affair and this will suit Martin well.

For those riding as part of small teams or even on their own, there shall be no other option than to ride aggressively and attack the race, as attempting to control the day’s proceedings will be impossible. Tim Wellens, Rafal MajkaJakob FuglsangRui CostaRamunas Navardauskas and Andrey Amador are all expected to animate affairs at some point; riders lacking teammates who will be happy to cooperate in order to improve their chances of winning.

Outcome:

1st Romain Bardet 2nd Vincenzo Nibali 3rd Dan Martin