Tokyo 2020 Preview: Road Cycling – No yellow bricks on the way to gold

The Road Race is a sea of colour
The Road Race is a sea of colour. Credit: Union Cycliste Internationale/Twitter

Road Cycling is one of the events that attracts plenty of attention in Australia, with a proud history, unpredictable racing and four gold medals up for grabs at Tokyo 2020. For all your Olympic coverage, stay tuned to The Inner Sanctum’s Olympic hub and the Olympics Central.

While Australia has not medalled in the road race recently, there is a proud history, particularly in the women’s events, that Australia is hoping to revive. The Olympic Road Race, in particular, is notorious for surprises and upset victories, and Tokyo 2020 looks no different.

The Races

The Road Cycling is split up, with a road race and a time trial for the men’s and women’s competition. The Road Race is a mass start event, where the first rider across the finish line is awarded the gold medal.

The Time Trial is slightly different. Riders are sent off individually onto the course and timed for how long they take to complete it. The winner is the fastest time, but may not be the first or last rider to leave the start house.

The men’s road race is 234km long, with 4865m of elevation, while the women’s road race is 137km long with 2692m of elevation. The time trial course is a flatter race around a 22.1km circuit. The men will complete two laps, while the women will complete one.

The highlight of the men’s road race will be the climb over the top of Mount Fuji, while all races will finish in the picturesque Fuji Speedway.

Teams are much smaller than professional riders are used to, the maximum per nation is just five riders in the men, and four in the women, and most nations with less. The other difficulty presented is that there is no race radio, so all communication is left to the riders, with no tactical assistance from coaches in the cars behind.

Last Time Around

In 2016, Greg Van Avermaet (BEL), Anna van der Breggen (NED), Fabian Cancellara (SUI) and Kristin Armstrong (USA) took home the gold medals. Van de Breggen is the only one who is any chance of victory unless Van Avermaet can pull off the upset.

Van der Breggen is one of the favourites for both the women’s road race and time trial and is one of the most dominant riders in the world. It’s likely that her challenges will come from within her own team, with Annamiek van Vleuten and Marianne Vos two other contenders. Australia’s best chance is likely Grace Brown, but it will depend on how the race unfolds.

The men’s race is more open, there are more than a dozen riders who could plausibly win, due to the difficulty of the climbing, and the flat finish. After the last three weeks in the Tour de France, two favourites have come firmly into view.

Tadej Pogačar (SLO), after winning the Tour by a distance is the hot favourite, but it is impossible to discount the finest one-day racer at the moment, Wout Van Aert (BEL), who won a flat stage, a mountain stage and a time trial stage in the last ten days of the Tour de France.

Van der Breggen will be looking to repeat her World Championships of doubling up the Road Race and Time Trial from 2020. Chloe Dygert (USA) and Sarah Gigante (AUS) will be hoping to cause an upset in the time trial.

Van Aert is one of the favourites for the time trial too, with Rohan Dennis (AUS), Rio 2016 silver medalist Tom Dumoulin (NED) and current world champion Filippo Ganna (ITA) hoping to cause an upset.

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Aussie Teams

The men’s team has recently undergone significant upheaval, after injuries and personal issues forced three riders to withdraw since 1 July. Richie Porte will be the team’s hope in the road race, with Lucas Hamilton, Luke Durbridge and Rohan Dennis to support him.

The women’s team underwent recent turmoil at the Giro Donne, but the quartet emerged unscathed, and Tiffany Cromwell and Amanda Spratt will ride with Brown and Gigante.

RiderExperienceRaces
Lucas HamiltonDebutRoad Race
Luke DurbridgeDebutRoad Race, Time Trial
Richie PorteRio 2016Road Race
Rohan DennisLondon 2012, Rio 2016Road Race, Time Trial
Amanda SprattLondon 2012, Rio 2016Road Race
Grace BrownDebutRoad Race, Time Trial
Sarah GiganteDebutRoad Race, Time Trial
Tiffany CromwellDebutRoad Race

The Men’s Road Race is on 24 July, and the Women’s Road Race is on 25 July. The Time Trial is on 28 July.

About Daniel Coppel 166 Articles
Daniel is a lawyer by trade. He covers netball and Olympics/Paralympics for The Inner Sanctum from Sydney. He has a particular focus on empowerment of sporting leaders off-field, and highlighting off-field contributions of athletes. He also appears on podcasts for a variety of sports.

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