Olympics Men’s Road Race Preview

We’re set for a strange edition of the Olympic Games. Unlike other sports confined to empty arenas the men’s road race is this Saturday will showcase plenty of the best of rural Japan with a mountain course featuring Mount Fuji.

Familiar names from the Tour de France like Tadej Pogačar, Wout van Aert and Richard Carapaz take on others take on Remco Evenepoel, João Almeida, the Yates brothers and more.

The Course: 234km and over 4,500m of vertical gain with two set piece climbs before a flat finish on the Fuji speedway motorsport circuit. It’s almost all on big wide roads but alas much of the route is closed off to locals although this was in the plans long before today’s pandemic appeared.

The start is in Tokyo, just. By some measures Tokyo is the world’s largest city and while the start is 30km away from the city centre it’s still Tokyo, albeit suburban “bed town“. After an 8km neutralised section the Koremasa bridge over the Tama river is KM0. Instead of going straight to the countryside it lingers, twisting around residential roads of the Tama hills and then it’s out past the urban sprawl of baseball fields and golf driving ranges towards Sagamihara with several short climbs.

The Yamabushi pass, labelled as Dōshi road, is for most of the time a gradual ascent on a wide road but on the way to Dōshi village there are sections steep enough to change chainrings. After the village, things get more Alpine in feel. It’s scenic but often lined parts with waffle-like concrete lattices that reflect back the heat. The final 5km are in woodland at 6% with a hairpin just before the top and the pass is via a flat tunnel.

There’s only a short descent and moments later Mount Fuji looms into view and it’s around the shores of Lake Yamanaka and take the gentle Kagosaka pass, just 2.3km at 5% to the top. There’s a long descent down past tea plantations and wasabi farms, it’s a chance to cool down and all on a wide road.

Fuji Sanroku is the big climb of the day, literally “the foothill of Fuji” and a chance to scale the lower slopes of Japan’s most famous, and tallest, mountain. It’s 14km with an average of 6% but more often 8-10%. The upper two thirds are normally a toll-road for motorists and cyclists are banned, it is a wide road you can drive a bus up and if there are hairpins, they are gradual. It’s followed by a fast descent with a few tight corners and on grippy Japanese tarmac if it’s dry but if wet then it’s tricky and there’s a chance of rain.

It’s over the Fuji speedway motor racing circuit. Here there’s one lap involving a drag of a climb before crossing the flat pits and finish line and then it’s out for a tricky loop of the TT course in the nearby hills before another lap of the motor racing circuit and then it’s out of the compound for the decisive climb.

Mikuni mountain is the key point on the men’s course. It is 6.75km long and averages 10.5% and because of a gentle start it’s often 12% or more along the way, all on preheated south-facing tarmac. You might see talk online of 20% but it’s never that steep, but there are sustained sections at 14-16%. Any climbers wanting to win the race need a fast pace here to crack rivals and then to attack so they can force a split and keep any heavier, faster sprinting riders out of the picture. From the pass over the top there is still 34km to go.

Over the top and there’s only a short descent back to Lake Yamanaka and a rush around the lake to the gentle Kagosaka Pass again with 23km remaining. A descent on roads where it’s hard to chase and it’s back to the Fuji circuit with a lap which starts with a climb and ends with a long flat finishing straight.

The Contenders: it’s the Olympics so we have national teams and they’re small, the best nations can field a maximum of five riders. This matters because even the strongest squads will be lucky to have three riders in the final hour. Just 130 riders start which is small for an international race, and while it’s the Olympic spirit to have riders from, say, Panama, Burkina Faso and Greece taking part, they’ll be taking part in the start rather than the finish; anyone more than 12 minutes behind the peloton will be asked to quit. It should make for an interesting race with different tactics than usual although look out for team mates on pro teams and any alliances. Then add in questions about form, with Tour de France finishers, some who will be flying and others in a catabolic catastrophe going up against fresher riders who haven’t raced for weeks and are unsure about their form…. then layer on a 12 hour flight, severe jetlag and the heat.

A brooding, looming presence over the race and not, it’s not Mount Fuji but Wout van Aert (Belgium). Second in the worlds last year, he’s just come off the Tour de France with three stage wins and now Mikuni is his new Ventoux. Get over this pass with or within reach of the leaders and he’s going to be very difficult to beat. Everybody knows this and rival teams will set to work on Fuji to soften him up and however well he was climbing in the Tour, Mikuni is a big ask. Even if he can limit the damage over the top, rivals left with him will expect him to lead the chase. Remco Evenepoel is also an obvious contender who can attack while van Aert sits tight, he might not have the sprint – clinical finishing is something he needs to improve – but if he gets a gap he’s gone.

Tadej Pogačar (Slovenia) is the obvious pick, the Tour de France winner finds a mountainous course to suit and he’s got a decent sprint out of a small group. He may not like the heat of this course, some say heatwaves are his weak spot and we’ll test this hypothesis here but this is also an issue for his team, Slovenia aren’t going to have helpers all around the course to hand up ice packs. Primož Roglič is an interesting team mate too, form unknown but said to be over his injuries.

Alexey Lutsenko (Kazakhstan) is an archetypal rider for a course like this, strong on the climbs, powerful on the flat and he can sprint well out of a small group. Seventh in the Tour de France almost by stealth, he only had one top-10 all month but is arguably much better at one day races. Vadim Pronskiy is making a name as a good climber too.

Richard Carapaz (Ecuador) has all the ingredients to win here, he copes well with the heat, climbs well, the form is there and even trains at home on a volcano so maybe Fuji will feel familiar. He’s at his most dangerous if he can get a gap while others look at each other to chase.

Form is unknown but João Almeida (Portugal) is a pick on reputation alone, the same age as Pogačar and often rivals in the junior and early U23 days and more relevant he was climbing with the best in Giro on the longer ascents.

Bauke Mollema (Netherlands) is the all or nothing candidate who will wait for the field to be reduced and then hit them with an attack when they least expect it and quickly build up a lead to make all the others doubt. Wilco Kelderman and Dylan van Baarle bring more options while Tom Dumoulin is a wildcard, form unknown.

Italy have a very strong team but lack a boss to finish the job. Gianni Moscon can climb and sprint well but Mikuni could be too much while Giulio Ciccone is form unknown. Vincenzo Nibali is not going to find descents to exploit and isn’t climbing as fast any more, his crash in Rio must haunt him as an opportunity lost. Alberto Bettiol is a dark horse contender, he can handle 20 minute climbs when he’s at his best.

Simon Yates must be the best pick for Britain on paper but crashed out of the Tour de France, although without serious injury but is a harder pick now. Adam Yates is form unknown but if he’s aiming for the Vuelta as well must be in shape and is ideal for a course like this while Geraint Thomas hauled himself around France and could still be a contender now if he’s recovered.

Spain bring Alejandro Valverde who would have been ideal for this course a decade ago but doesn’t win so much now. Still with the Tour in his legs he’s a wily rider to watch while Omar Fraile is an outsider if he can make it to the finish contention.

Colombia have several outsiders. Sergio Higuita is handy in a group although would prefer uphill finish. Rigoberto Uràn is partly famous for losing the sprint in London but otherwise handy in group while Esteban Chaves had a discreet tour but often pops up when you least expect it.

The French team is missing their three best riders in Bardet, Pinot and Alaphilippe leaving David Gaudu and Guillaume Martin as outsiders for the win. Gaudu packs a decent sprint for someone with but a medal is a big ask, especially in the heat.

A year ago Marc Hirschi (Switzerland) looked like a hot tip for the Olympics but he’s had a rotten year so far, still don’t count him out but Gino Mäder is having a better season and a stronger climber anyway.

Michael Woods (Canada) has made this race a big target. A medal winner in the Innsbruck worlds, he used the final steep climb as a launchpad but how to win here? A big move on Mikuni pass with other climbers as allies and won’t have to worry about difficult descents but a sprint in a group is a tough one. George Bennett (New Zealand) got frozen out of the Giro and could find the heat better but the course but like Woods, how to win on a flat finish?

Dan Martin (Ireland) had great legs on Luz Ardiden and is clever in one day races too while Eddie Dunbar gets a chance to race for himself too. Michał Kwiatkowski (Poland) can sprint well from a small group and has a chance to race for himself but can he cope with Mikuni? Max Schachmann (Germany) is similar, if he can get to the finish then he’s very good for a sprint. Pavel Sivakov (Russia) has gone under the radar this season after his Giro crash but can feature, he can climb and roll well. Jakob Fuglsang (Denmark) should be a good pick but had an invisible Tour, blaming a Covid vaccine but saying this meant he never raced as deep so with some recovery he could do well, he’s become a better one day rider than stage racer.

Tadej Pogačar, Richard Carapaz
Wout van Aert, João Almeida
Remco Evenepoel, Max Schachmann, Adam Yates
Mollema, Fuglsang, Woods, Lutsenko, Roglič
D Martin, Uràn, Valverde, S Yates, Higuita, Ciccone, Konrad, Bettiol, Moscon

Weather (updated): a mix of clouds and sunshine for the start, 31°C and medium humidity but the clouds should by midday. Towards the finish there’s a small chance of rain again.

TV: there’s coverage from 10.50am – 6.15pm JST NHK Plus and Gorin, full live coverage and broadcasters around the world should have the video, if it’s not on your TV then visit your broadcaster’s website instead.

The race starts at 11:00am JST and is due to finish around 5.30pm. The Fuji climb is forecast to start soon after 2.00pm, Mikuni pass around 4.15pm.

For European readers subtract 7 hours, UK 8, for the US 13 which makes the finish at around 10.30am CEST in Europe, 9.30am BST in the UK and 4.30 EST for those in the US on the east coast.

Local terms:

  • Yamabushi pass gets its name from the ascetic mountain priests and hermits of Japan. yama means mountain, bushi to prostrate oneself, it’s for those who bow before the mountains. There’s a following today in Japan, lay practitioners dress in the white robes and have an intense and comprehensive appreciation of the mountains
  • Lake Yamanaka, yamanakako, means “in the middle of the mountains”, an obvious name, think “Rocky Mountains” and so on
  • Kagosaka pass probably means “basket hill” although the origin of kago is disputed. What’s more likely is this was the location for one of Hokusai’s 36 views of Fuji, an album of prints from the 19th century that went global, inspiring impressionist painters in Europe soon after
  • Mikuni pass takes its name from nearby Mikuniyama, the three (mi) provinces (kuni) mountain (yama) as its summit is the point where the three prefectures of Shizuoka, Yamanashi and Kanagawa meet.


123 thoughts on “Olympics Men’s Road Race Preview”

  1. Glad you mention Mollema. He is also my favourite outside pick. I will be suprised to see one of the prerace favourites take the win, as it will be to difficult to control

    • It’s allways mentioned World Championships or Olympic races are difficult to control. Don’t they very often end up with the usual formula of lesser countries creating an early break, a closed pack reeling them in in a controlled manner, selection by attrition, a few shadow leaders making attacks in the penultimate lap and the leaders keeping their powder dry for the attack in the place where everybody knows it is going to come?
      Worlds in Harrogate was different because of the weather. I am curious if this Olympics race will be an outlier too.

      • It’s very different to the the worlds where you have all the strong nations with 8 riders each, the same as a World Tour race. The Olympics has only a five teams lucky to have five riders and amid this you have some odd riders, eg track rider Havik for the Netherlands, Cavagna who is aiming for the TT for France etc. Normally in situation like this the best riders try to set a pace that ejects all the weaker riders, but this race is too long and hot to risk lighting it up from the start.

          • Exactly. And if you want to skip the road race in order to concentrate on the time trial – well, you can do it, but it will leave your team one rider short.
            Rohan Dennis will be a case in point: the Australians will start the road race with three instead of four riders, but everyone will be happy when he steps on the podium during the medal ceremony.

          • Or you can do the track, eg Ganna. It seems the idea is to keep athlete numbers down so don’t get people coming for one cycling event. Obviously this contrasts with other sports and so on but in order to include the TT as a relatively new discipline in the Olympics it seems they had to agree to use the existing quota of cyclists.

          • Interesting, didn’t realise this quota can be shared with discipline outside road cycling. So potentially for Pidcock in 2024, he can do ITT, MTB and doesn’t need to take up a RR spot if he doesn’t need to?

          • Yes, the quota is for the entire cycling team of that sex.

            In 2016 Australia had their MTB rider Scott Bowden do the Road Race and swapped the place to the men’s track endurance team.

            Whether Pidcock could do that in 2024 will depend on whether the MTB race gets shifted back to its previous spot late in the program.

            I wouldn’t mind guessing that the UCI will like having the MTB race early on this year, giving them another medal event televised in the first few days when the blue ribbon sports are all doing opening heats of haven’t even started yet.

  2. Simon Yates left the TdF though injury on stage 13. If the injury was not too severe the extra days of rest might be just what’s required.
    Geoghegan Hart showed some slight signs of improvement late in the Tour, if not Carthy might have been better suited. Is he building for the Vuelta like A Yates?

    One for Valverde: he can hang on though the climbs and sprint and win from a small bunch of climbers. He knows how to prepare for a big objective!

  3. Wow! That was a really thorough briefing, and I now feel well abreast of the situation.
    My only pointer for this race is that length and humidity probably leads us to a hard man one-day winner, rather than a multi-stage contender. Valverde over Ciccone, for example, or Martin over Almeida. Beyond that, it’s so unpredictable. That’s why I’m really looking forward to it!

    • The heat won’t be as bad as it could have been, but teams able to station lots of helpers around the course with ice, or a team with a rider able to drop back to the team car several times, has an advantage here. One rider from a small federation will have it much harder.

      • In the past small teams have sometimes co-operated, the support crews have joined forces. Obviously in the case of a puncture or a mechanical, the rules are stricter, but drink bottles and energy bars can find their way to the rider who needs them.

  4. Why only 2 chainrings for Roglic?
    Lingering concerns over his TdF crash & injuries?
    Or is it assumed he will be super domestique for Pogacar?

    • Reading this, and with the expected heat and humidity, my thoughts passed to Roglic too.
      I think the climate will be a telling factor, and for that reason I’m ruling out van Aert and Evenepoel and, indeed, the other Northern European contenders.
      I think Pogacar might try to set Roglic up if he can also, didn’t he try something similar at the last World Championships?
      A definite watch though, I’m getting up whatever time it’s on 😅

      • Heat adaptation is mostly a product of physical build and training, AFAIK. Birth place not so much. It’s definitely “trainable”. Can be improved significantly in weeks.

    • Somewhat necessary given the lack of knowledge we have compared to normal season one day races and the unpredictability of the Olympics and small teams.

      Of course INRNG could have just put down 1/3rd of the start list to confuse the bookies and create some value in the market 😉

      • It’s a strange race, a small field of which half have no chance and the other half will all fancy their chances of a medal. Plus a race where finishing third is probably more important than any other race of the year, there’s no prize for it in a Tour de France stage or a Monument.

  5. How technical is the decent? This comes into play as people like Woods will suffer if its to hard for them.
    I like Columbia because there is so many decent light weight climbers plus uran can play the wild card leech as he has shown a decent sprint in the past.
    I prefer roglic as he will be more rested, fast descender and has a great sprint. I would not be at all surprised if the POG goes into the finish as the helper.
    A wild card in this race is what teams are all in for the team with riders sacrificing for another. Riders that have to much rivalry to help a teammate may affect the calculations.

    • Yes, national strategies will no doubt highlight this race.
      But really, would anyone who made it to Tokyo sacrifice for someone else?
      The accutrements of Olympic Gold are always long-lasting.

      • I don’t share your optimism. I recall seeing people ride on the front for a teammate of there pro team and i seem to recall suspicion time when a certain Kazakh rider may have let a German rider win. I can certainly imagine some riders not really giving there all for another rider who they do not like or have a big rivalry. Not the Olympics but many felt that valverde did not give his all to defend Rodriguez in the worlds but who can tell what went on but Valverde himself.

        • Valverde blatantly shafted Rodriguez – he seems to have always regarded him as ‘his domestique’, while Rui Costa was a loyal team mate.

          As for Olympic wins being gifted, take a look at the Vino versus Uran ‘sprint’ and then ask yourself how it is that Uran seemingly has no peripheral vision. No other explanation for Uran apparently not noticing that Vino has begun his sprint and is some way ahead. Before that, you can see Uran – for no sensible reason at all – looking behind for a very long time, but looking over his left shoulder while Vino is on his right. And then when Uran does finally ‘see’ that Vino is quite a bit ahead, his sprint is virtually slow motion. One of the most ridiculous finishes of all time – and once seen cannot be unseen.

          • Of course it was a farcical finish, but what exactly happened?
            (1) Uran looks behind his right shoulder to check on Vino
            (2) Immediately after that Uran looks behind his left shoulder to check on the chasers
            (3) Uran moves to the left to make sure that Vino stays on his right
            (4) Uran notices that Vino has begun his sprint
            (5) Uran begins his sprint

            To be worried about a group of chasers catching you just before the finish line is not at all unusual. You can argue that Uran could and should have checked earlier or that he should known that the chasers were no longer a threat, but too much nervous energy, too many thoughts…
            “A very long time” is relative, but if Uran expected or indeed was pretty certain that Vino would begin his sprint as late as possible, he was in no particular hurry. It could be that Uran had failed to see how close to the finish line they really were – or some kind of brain fart made him think it was further than it was?

            My scenario is quite unbelievable, but it is not impossible. Stranger things have happened in riders’ minds under pressure.
            In any case, while I can accept the theory that Vino had bought the win or that Uran had sold it, I can’t believe Uran couldn’t have faked it better. I mean how difficult it would have been to lose by a wheel?
            Or are we to believe that Uran actually wanted to telegraph it to the whole world that he had been bought? Or somehow pressed into losing on purpose?

          • Rewatching that it’s not the sprint that would concern me, but the bit after about 15 seconds where they have a little chat. Knowing what we know about Vino now he was probably offering him half a million Kazakh roubles and a fishing lodge on Lake Balkhash.

          • Eskerrik, it’s a full 2 seconds that Uran spends looking forward (and only forward) while Vino begins his sprint. That’s a long time in a sprint finish.
            And we all know – because we have pretty similar eyes – that Uran would have seen Vino in his peripheral vision because he is ahead of Uran for some time before Uran responds.
            We’ve all watched hundreds of sprint finishes, and we all know that this one is in no way normal.
            They never look over the shoulder away from the other rider.
            They never take their eyes off the other guy.
            They don’t continually check for chasers having already established they’re too far behind.
            They never veer to the opposite side of the road, many metres from the other guy, all while not looking at that guy – not even a glance.
            Also, as Richard S points out, they have a chat shortly beforehand. Again, we all know that riders never talk to each other a few hundred metres from the line.

          • Eskerrik, I’ll happily admit than when I watched the race, I simply thought ‘That’s the worst sprint I have ever seen’. Then, I forgot about it and never watched it again. A few years later I did watch it again, and that was when I saw all the issues with this spring and realised that the likelihood of all of these different actions of Uran’s being accidental was very, very slim.

          • It’s very odd and very sloppy from Uran. He sort of does the weirdest lead out for a sprint of all time and drops off as if he’s finished his job and then reacts. The commentators seem to pick up on all the weirdness too. “Goodness knows what they’re saying to each other” “Unbelieveable Uran didn’t look his way”. Now that I think of it I was surprised at how stupid it was at the time. It wasn’t like Vino sprang like a cat either. It is more like “oh, that’s my cue!” Vino doesn’t look in the best shape either.

    • Colombia were in better shape before dani martinez got covid, so they are now a 4 man team and without a decent contender. Chaves doesn’t seem to have the jump he used to but he may surprise.

      I would love to see G win but seems a bit far fetched (a crash seems more likely…) and the brits probably ought to go all in for one of the Yates brothers.

      If Pogacar isn’t too knackered, I think he’s the big favourite. WVA can climb like a demon but he won’t hang with the pure climbers going full gas on the Mikuni. Ventoux was impressive but won from a breakaway not with the gc group. Still, it would be a great story if he can do it.

    • Completely non-technical, Woods or anyone else won’t have problems… as long as it’s dry. There are some corners paved with concrete with odd groves to drain water etc that are odd to ride but ok. If it’s wet the roads are so smooth – Japanese roads rival Switzerland – they can be slippery.

  6. Really surprised by the lack of Alaphilippe. He cited the World Champs as a target, but surely the Olympics was well within reach given he still has Tour form and it’s a one-day race? The course seems nearly ideal. Surprised there’s no Vingegaard for Denmark too. In terms of contenders under the radar, the quasi-Russian team look strong.

    Curious about the team dynamics – I’d imagine that the small teams and the lack of obvious domestiques will make it tough to control. Could a strong break make it from Dōshi or Fuji?

    • Generally the breaks in this race are filled with the smaller nations riders with no genuine chance other than some tv time. With a hard finish any teams with strong flat riders can afford to sacrifice them to ensure no really capable riders get in the break.

      • Just wondering what would happen if a group of strong guys who don’t feel they’ve got a chance against Pogacar, Carapaz etc on the Mikuni climb instead go early, especially if a few of the larger teams want options in a breakaway. Riders like Moscon, Van Baarle, Konrad, Kwiatkowski, Izagirre, Foss, Benoot. Then again, perhaps there are enough riders that back themselves on the Mikuni climb (especially with the long descent to bring things back together) that the larger teams will do everything to keep it together until then.

  7. FORZA AZZURRI! How early will I climb outta bed tomorrow morning to watch? Perhaps not that early, the last 2-3 hours should be enough though I may be eating my breakfast in front of the TV.

    • The Italians again Larry?
      That Theobald name is of Germanic origin, northern European.
      You’re perilously close to being a true Anglo Saxon there Larry? 🤣

      • “…name is of Germanic origin, northern European.” My father was adopted by a man with that name, BUT even if it were my true heritage, does that mean I have to live in northern Europe or the USA and have an “Anglo-Saxon” attitude? Instead I’m an unabashed Italo-phile who lives (and pays taxes) in Sicily and feels Italian…at least in heart….and stomach. As they say, “La vita e bella! 🙂
        Forza Azzurri!

    • Yes, lucky to have ridden most of it several times now and loved it, coming around a corner to see Mount Fuji appear is stunning. You can’t ride the Fuji climb used in the race, the Evergreen line as it’s called, is a toll road and the motor circuit is private too. Hope the sun shines enough tomorrow to allow the views, I can’t think of a more spectacular route for TV.

      Tokyo is a giant city but head west and there’s a line of hills and mountains where the city just stops and you are suddenly in the wilds with some amazing roads, I can’t think of another capital city quiet like it. The Olympic race sticks to the main roads and drivers are fine and courteous in case anyone wants to try the route for themselves one day… but there are lots of scenic side roads too.

      • You’re good to us, INRNG San.

        Sonny Colbrelli so should be on the Italian team.
        Was thinking James Knox ought to get a start, before learning he’s there as a reserve.
        Looking forward to seeing whether Pogacar and Roglic work well together, plus Tratnik and Polanc make them a strong team.

  8. On the timings. I have BST as 8 hours behind JST. So start in UK is 3am and expected finish around 9:30 in London (10:30 in Paris and so on).

  9. “ Rigoberto Uràn is partly famous for losing the sprint in London”

    This finish is highly recommended to newer fans of the sport who missed it in 2012. An, erm, interesting tactical decision by Uran. Almost inexplicable…

    • Doh! I wrote my comment about this above before seeing your comment here. Now I ‘feel like a rider who celebrates a win when there’s still a lap to go’.

    • It does look terribly suspicious, but I just can’t work out why you’d throw a race like that. Up to that point, Colombia had won one Olympic gold (ever!). Beyond the huge desire to win, I would have expected any sponsorship or contract negotiations off the back of Olympic gold to be more lucrative than whatever Vino could have offered.

      • But those South Americans! They are like the children who, in the famous psychology lab experiment, were given a choice between eating a candy right away or, if they could resist eating the candy for a few minutes, two candies a bit later.

        I seem to recall that the argument was that an Olympic gold is worth millions only if you’re from the US or one of the bigger (West) European countries. Uran thus made a rational decision. I thought it was bollocks then and I haven’t changed my mind.

        • “But those South Americans”
          Are you’re graduate of racist kitchen psychology courses from Trump University or just a regular moron?

        • I don’t claim to know what happened or why. I just can’t watch that sprint and believe that Uran genuinely stared over his left shoulder for ages (having checked on the chasers only seconds before), then somehow didn’t see Vino attacking right next to him, then veered sharply to the left for no reason whatsoever, pointedly not looking in Vino’s direction, before finally giving chase, slowly.
          Nothing to do with nationalities or anything else.
          And as Richard S points out, they have a chat 15 seconds into that video. How often do you see riders chatting with a few hundred metres to go in a two-up sprint?

          • Try to forget your own version. Then watch the video again. Your version has improved upon telling.

            Quite frankly I don’t see why you felt you had to assure that your interpretation of what happened has nothing to do with nationalities. Who suggested it had? I certainly didn’t.

            A chat? If that’s how you see it. I don’t. Has anyone attempted to imagine the conversation between the two?

        • Seems rather harsh to write off the whole of South America as child-like. (Bit like the way Europeans used to justify their treatment of indigenous people wherever they went!)

          • Good grief! Wasn’t there a single reader who could read it in the context it was written? Was it really that difficult to see the sense and purpose of it?
            But I suppose I can only blame myself for forgetting that this is 2021 and the age of instant you-know-what.
            My sincere apology to our host! I shall make myself scarce.

  10. Should be an interesting race. Like in Rio it’ll be nice to watch a race in totally unfamiliar surroundings. In my experience in these sort of races it’s always over exaggerated how hard the course and always the riders at the heavier end of the expected spectrum who end up winning. See Rio and nearly every worlds there has ever been as examples. To that end I’m plumping for Van Aert. It does feel strange that Alaphilippe isn’t there, the course is a perfect suit evs the worlds won’t be. Plus he’s already world champion. Also why no Bardet and Pinot? It’s almost like the French are boycotting the race! I expect the race to be similar to the Imola worlds and be decided from a wily bunch of 5 or 6 hardened big names. I expect Pogacar, Carapaz and Kwiatkowski to be there. Probably Schachman, Mollema and Lutsenko too. Not sure I’m going to see much of it live though!

    • With the French there are different reasons, Pinot is on the mend, Bardet probably wanted to go but looks like DSM said no because they want him to do the Vuelta. Alaphilippe said no because of the birth of his son, he did the Tour but having been away for almost 4 weeks he didn’t want to add an extra 10 days on top, good for him in a way although he’d be a 4-5 chainring pick if he was riding and aiming for it and the Paris course the next time in 2024 is going to be boring in comparison.

  11. Mikuni climb can be the triggering point of a 2-dynamic race, where some lighter riders try to form a breakaway seeing there’s no other way for them to win a sprint, even from a small group, while the heavier ones (all-rounders, lighter puncheurs etc.) will chase on the descent and – especially – flat finish. I agree with Richard S that the final kms can be similar to last year’s Worlds. Would love to see Kwiato in the mix – if the likes of WVA and Schachmann are tipped to be there, he’s more than competent even on a steep climb like Mikuni. The difference is that he’s often designated to set a high pace in the GC group and ride to exhaustion.

    • For once we here in australia have the great viewing time. midday instead of midnight.
      Mind you i hate the broadcasters attitude to sports coverage and commentators in general.
      Sports coverage is solely for the purpose of ramming advertising of its normal programming down the viewers throats with nauseating inserts during the commentary. At least we will be spared the frequent cross overs to the crowd where surprise surprise there will by chance be a star of one of there programmes because COVID have saved us that indignity. We will not be spared however from the total fixation on only the australian competitors such that you wonder if the events without an australian are actually occurring.
      Its a good time but will i be able to watch it without feeling sick.

  12. Interesting and unexpected to see Carapaz sitting proudly alongside Pogacar! The reasoning certainly makes sense but I feel like lots of things have to align perfectly by chance for him… whereas some of the other chainringed riders are probably more capable of aligning their own stars.

  13. For those of you on FulGaz the Mikuni pass is available to ride (called “Mt Fuji Road Race Loop”) and it is definitely tough. Admittedly at 85kg my experience will have been rather different to a pro’s, but it really is relentlessly steep and I would be very impressed if any but the best climbers survive it in the lead group.

    • Did not see Carapaz winning. Or Remco getting dropped. Pogacar did some nice blocking for McNulty. Glad Wout beat Pogacar in the sprint.

  14. Does Valverde dominate how the Spanish team works like he seems to have done at Movistar for so long? Otherwise, how was Bilbao not picked? Herrada and the Izaguirre brothers have not looked good this season. Are they all there just as support riders for Valverde?

    • Valverde is either incredibly charismatic in a way we don’t pick up on in English, or holds something over everyone involved at Movistar and the Spanish Federation.
      On a serious note though, he probably still is there best one day rider, which is a pretty sad state of affairs when you consider how strong Spain used to be and that Valverde is probably 10 years past his peak.

      • Deservedly or not The Green Bullet is “Teflon Don” Alejandro in Spain. I thought (wished) he was done after the Puerto fiasco but look what he’s done since then!
        I wonder if he’ll be running-the-show at Movistar once he finally hangs up the wheels? From what we see on those Netflix documentaries he looks better than the guys they have running it now, (I’ll admit that’s a low bar) perhaps with the exception of Max Schiandri?

        • Actually I think he is the worst thing about Movistar. He undermines the DS’ and Eusebio is too sycophantic towards him. Years of ‘Valverde will win a stage’ has reduced the power of the group, just as Brian Lara did to the West Indies in the 1990’s. Just my two cents.

      • ‘Valverde is either incredibly charismatic in a way we don’t pick up on in English, or holds something over everyone involved at Movistar and the Spanish Federation.’

        I think the former is largely the case. He seems to hold enormous sway over all things Movistar and, by extension, Spanish cycling. There’s an extraordinary scene in the second series of the Movistar Netflix show where he essentially gives Eusebio Unzue a dressing down for the team’s failings. Although watching the full series, he could probably done with having issued a few more.

        For what it’s worth, he is also supposed to be hugely popular in the peloton, anglophones included.

  15. No mention of Richie Porte? For Australians, even many cyclists, the Olympics are the pinnacle. I wouldn’t be surprised if Richie held back a bit in the last week of the Tour with this in mind

    • If there was a week long Olympic stage race around Japan he’d have 3-4 chainrings below Pogačar and Roglič… but I don’t think he’s ever won a one day race? It would he huge if he could do it tomorrow.

      • Nah, just having the word OLYMPIC and a gold medal riding on a week long stage race in Japan would be enough pressure to crack him. The guy is just not a charismatic team-leader who can hold it together under any serious pressure. Have a week-long race in January in Japan with nothing-much at stake and I’d given him 4-5 chainrings…even Campagnolo ones!

    • He does not really have the kick for one day racing. That said he has a good time trial so if he managed to be in a front group is the last flatter sections and got away he would be difficult to catch if there was any looking around going on in the group.
      But unlikely for a few reasons not the least being that he does not race one day races and lacks the skills / training required for the repeated accelerations and the kick to attack at the best time.

  16. Inrng’s exploration of the local toponymy made me realise the etymology of another Japanese word that has entered the Western lexicon while being little understood: Bushi-do. So it’s the way of the prostrate/reverent. Neat!

    • If only it was that easy… yamabushi is 山伏 with 伏 as -bushi. But bushidō is 武士道 with 武士 as bushi, the two characters meaning “armed gentleman” as in a swordsman warrior and dō meaning way so a good translation would be “the way of the warror” or “samurai way” etc.

  17. “Geraint Thomas hauled himself around France” (after crashing) and came to Japan to … crash again. To misquote Lady Bracknell, to crash once may be regarded as a misfortune, to keep on crashing looks like carelessness.

  18. Brilliant ride by McNulty. I would have loved to see him upset the near perfect chain-ring picks by our host. He appeared to cramp up a bit, since he didn’t totally bonk and had some juice for a bit of a sprint at the end. Overall it was a great race to watch, fun seeing all those riders in unfamiliar kit and with new teammates (or no teammates at all).

    Thanks again for the preview and writeup, it really added to my enjoyment.

  19. Please don’t anyone say that race was so fantastic ‘because there were no race radios’. Riders literally could not have done any more than they did. Instructions from outside would have been superfluous.
    They could have done with a moto time board, though.
    Best one day race in a while, that.

    • Nah, just a coincidence that there were no race radios……radios are here-to-stay….for “safety” don’tcha know? But at certain events we don’t care about “safety” I guess?

      • Oh stop baiting Larry. What possible difference would radios have made? Just because they weren’t allowed in this race had no bearing on the spectacle we were treated to. What could any DS have possibly said that would have made the slightest difference? And no, this is not a reason to ban radios.
        One thing they could do for safety is to sort out feed zones. Each team should have its own pit bay behind a line parallel to the centre of the road where only riders of that team come in. Woe betide any soigneur that steps outside the bay or any rider who strays into the wrong bay. You possibly also need a length of road between each bay to prevent cross-traffic. Certainly should not have soigneurs stepping out into the flow of riders because they sited themselves on the inside of a turn.

        • “In-race communications2.2.0241.The use of radio links or other remote means of communication by or with the riders, as well as the possession of any equipment that can be used in this manner, during an event is prohibited except in the following cases: A.Men Elite: UCIWorldTour, UCIProSeries and class 1 events; B.Women Elite: UCIWomen’s WorldTour, UCIProSeriesand class 1events; C.time trial events. In the cases above, a secure communications and information system (the «earpiece») is authorised and may be used for safety reasons and to assist riders under the following conditions:-the power of the transceiver may not exceed 5 watts;-the range of the system shall be limited to the space occupied by the race;-its use is limited to exchanges between riders and the sports director and between riders of a same team”
          – So if you’re in possession of one of the headsets that enable SMS messaging, are you in contravention?

        • “Oh stop baiting…” writes the guy who posted: “Please don’t anyone say that race was so fantastic ‘because there were no race radios’”
          I don’t want this to turn into cyclingnews, do you? Post LeTour we were all celebrating this blog, let’s keep it civil, OK? I’ll start by scrolling past your (and Ecky Thump’s) posts like I’ve been doing with Colin N’s rather than replying to them 🙂

  20. Just a question on effect of Olympics and the world’s on uci team rankings. Do points riders accrue whilst racing for their countries count towards the points for their trade teams, eg will carapaz win count towards ineos total

  21. Delighted for Carapaz.

    WVA is a monster, absolutely flying at the moment, and certainly looks like Pogacar can still ride a bike pretty well even in hot, humid weather.

    • Pogacar certainly wasn’t bad in the heat, but he did look a little more human today than in France, struggling to close wheels and contribute much in the last 10-20km…probably just tired from winning in France though, rather than heat related!

  22. Thought about this line as McNulty and Carapaz went away: “[Carapaz] is at his most dangerous if he can get a gap while others look at each other to chase.” Giro replay. Satisfying win!

  23. If I was WVA, and I really wish I was, I’d be a bit miffed at getting pipped for silver after being made to do pretty much all the chasing. He’ll probably end up going one better and get the silver in TT.

  24. From reading Carapaz’s post-race comments, it seems he and McNulty knew precisely the time gap they had on the chasers. Were they being given these times by the commissaires/race car? I never noticed any motos with chalk boards or anything like that.

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