2016 Olympic Road Race Preview

Updated Thursday 4th August 2016, 12:01 PM

The Rio 2016 road cycling action kicks off this weekend as the men and women of the peloton line up at Flamengo Park for a shot at glory. The route is expected to suit strong GC and Classics contenders as it includes several circuits of some intense hills, including a climb of the Vista Chinesa that averages out at 6.2 percent. Who is expected to go for gold in the Olympic road race?

How the Bookies See it

  • Men’s Road Race: Alejandro Valverde (ESP) 4/1, Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) 7/1, Chris Froome (GBR) 8/1, Julian Alaphilippe (FRA) 12/1 - Bet365
  • Women’s Road Race: Anna van der Breggen (NED) 4/1, Marianne Vos (NED) 4/1, Lizzie Armitstead (GBR) 9/2, Megan Guarnier (USA) 11/2 - Sky Bet

Men’s Road Race

Saturday 6th August

237.5km, 144 riders

Alejandro Valverde is the the favourite to win gold and will lead the Spanish team at the race, supported by Joaquim Rodriguez, Imanol Erviti, Ion Izaguirre and Jonathan Castroviejo. This will be Valverde’s fourth Olympic Games, and, having never finished higher than 13th place, he will be gunning for victory on a course that seems to be custom-made for his skill set. Valverde came in first overall in the UCI World Tour ranking system in both 2014 and 2015, but has seemingly placed a pursuit of a third title aside as he chases Rio glory.

Vincenzo Nibali blasted critics for his performance at the Tour de France last month, stating that he chose to work for Fabio Aru there and wanted to prepare for Rio instead of wearing himself out beforehand. He’ll be surrounded by an excellent national team that includes Aru as well as Diego Rosa, Alessandro de Marchi and Damiano Caruso. He’s won all three Grand Tours at least once, and will certainly be hoping to add an Olympic medal to his list of achievements.

2016 Tour de France winner Chris Froome is third on the list where the odds are concerned; in fact, it’s not even clear as to whether or not he will be leading the Brits in the road race. While fellow Sky rider Geraint Thomas is expected to help him along, there appears to be no hierarchy in the five-man team, which also includes Adam Yates, Ian Stannard and Steve Cummings. However, Thomas insists that this flexible approach - and the fact that all of the riders apparently get on well - will give them a distinct advantage in the race.

A dark horse to watch will be France’s Julian Alaphilippe, who is a fine climber and has a lot of potential both on the Rio course and in his professional career. He won this year’s Tour of California, came in second at the Fleche Wallonne and held the white jersey at the Tour de France for several stages before Adam Yates took it from him. Alaphilippe might just have what it takes to conquer the hilly Rio course and could leave several elder statesmen of the peloton crying into their caps come Saturday evening.

Women’s Road Race

Sunday 7th August

136.9km, 67 riders

The women’s road race in London 2012 was a sight to behold as Marianne ‘The Boss’ Vos and Britain’s own Lizzie Armitstead duked it out in the pouring rain, attacking each other again and again only for Vos to cross the line first with an amazing, last-gasp sprint.

Four years on, it’s a different story. Vos has only just come back from a year off due to injury, while Armitstead has suffered an emotional blow in the past week as it was revealed that the current world road race champion was facing a ban from competition after missing three doping tests in the past year. She has successfully contested one of them and is clear to go to Rio, but the drama that the rainbow jersey holder has been embroiled in may have a marked effect on her performance this weekend. If she does pull it off, her gold medal will be received under a cloud.

Vos is in great shape this year, winning a stage in the Women’s Tour of California and taking the points classification and a stage at the the Aviva Women’s Tour, and has several other high-place finishes under her belt since returning to the peloton. Unaffected by scandal and already revered by many across the world for her accomplishments, she could be aiming for back-to-back Olympic golds to truly confirm that she is the woman’s answer to the great Eddy Merckx. However, there’s a small spanner in the works.

Anna van der Breggen poses a powerful threat to both Vos and Armitstead, and the bookies seem to consider her to be the favourite to win the women’s road race. Van der Breggen is a solid all-rounder who has not been affected by illness or injury recently, and took another victory at the Women’s Fleche Wallonne this year. She and Vos might be riding on the same national team, but this time around, van der Breggen is the leader and Vos is riding for her. It’s entirely possible that Vos, who commented to Dutch media recently that she didn’t see herself as the favourite and that ‘it didn’t matter’, could decide to shepherd her former Rabo-Liv team mate to victory instead of choosing glory for herself.

It’s also entirely possible that USA rider Megan Guarnier will power her way to victory at Rio. The 31-year-old has been a dominant force in the women’s peloton this season, winning the Women’s Tour of California (as well as the points jersey) and the general classification at the Giro Rosa - women’s cycling’s sole Grand Tour. Her third-place finish at last year’s World Road Championships guaranteed her place at Rio; now it’s up to her to make the magic happen. She certainly seems to have the legs to do so.

  • Sports.net’s top tip: Anna van der Breggen to Win Women’s Road Race - 4/1 with Sky Bet

*Please note, odds may fluctuate in the lead-up to the event(s).

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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 August 2016 12:01:36+00:00
Published By Sports.net

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