≡ Menu

The Moment The Olympics Were Won

Embed from Getty Images

Kagosaka Pass was the smallest marked climb of the day and just enough to launch the winning move as Brandon McNulty and Richard Carapaz managed to break free from a group that had been bossed by Tadej Pogačar and Wout van Aert. This was the moment the men’s Olympic road race in Tokyo was won.

Embed from Getty Images

These are difficult Olympics. A portion of the Japanese public doesn’t want them and the portion that does knows it’s not the joyous festival it should have been. Even Emperor Naruhito, who weighs words with the care of a central banker, spoke of “commemorating” the games rather than celebrating them. The road race though is a unique event, it’s the longest for starters but more importantly it’s free and goes to the public. No empty stadiums, instead it went past cheering crowds – including some protests – but the public a mix of who’d been anticipating the day for years and those out doing their Saturday shopping.

Embed from Getty Images

A neutralised start through a shrine provided a vivid reminder this was a race in Japan, as did the ensuing procession through the suburbs past giant signs for ramen noodles and sushi rather than pizza or pain although thanks to globalisation old and new there was a Jolly Pasta en route too. Right from the kilometre zéro a breakaway of eight riders went clear and as they posed no threat the peloton behind was left to cruise around the Tama hills. After the Tour de France’s daily ding-dongs to get in the breakaway this felt like a change. Alas the sight of Geraint Thomas crashing was all too familiar too, this brought down by team mate Tao Geoghegan Hart but as ever he was back up and riding.

Embed from Getty Images

The sight of Greg Van Avermaet working on the front showed the Belgians wanted to contain things and marked a brutal passing of the baton between generations with the reigning Olympic champion assuming the role of worker. Still the breakaway was well ahead as they climbed the Yamabushi pass, so much they could have stopped for roadside ayu no shioyaki. In fact with 20 minutes there was time to catch the sweetfish, grill it and eat it. But the likes of Nic Dlamini and Juraj Sagan weren’t touring and if the peloton rarely gives a breakaway four minutes these days was this an Olympian mistake by the bunch?

Embed from Getty Images

The breakaway began to split at the top of the Yamabushi pass, surprisingly Eduard Grosu, a talented rider at Pro Conti level was being dropped, somewhere inside a red light with a thermometer pictogram was flashing. While the group behind was diminishing, Slovenia’s Jan Tratnik was relentless, a man who, at least when compared to his peers in the peloton, looks like he’d be more at home in a mawashsi than on a mountainous pass. He was imitating the Ineos mountain train all by himself, a ワンマンカ for locals.

The slow burn phase ended on the slopes of Mount Fuji when the Italian team brought fireworks with Giulio Ciccone accelerating and setting a pace that shrank the peloton, riders were being dropped one by one and if some would get back on the descent it was proof they were cooked, notably Alejandro Valverde and home hope Yukiya Arashiro for whom there would be no Bahraini miracle.

There were several moves on and around the Fuji speedway laps. Remco Evenepoel, Vincenzo Nibali and Eddie Dunbar was the most dangerous but nothing could stick. With Mikuni Pass looming it was “use or lose” for some teams and the French and Dutch in particular were using any remaining helpers while they still could.

Embed from Getty Images

Belgium set the pace on the lower slopes of Mikuniyama with Wout van Aert towering over the group, it made sense to be at the front but he was trying for a goldilocks pace, not too fast nor too slow. Only Tadej Pogačar wanted his porridge hotter and launched. This wasn’t the stinging attack of the Col de Romme three weeks ago, more a measured change of pace and he was joined by Brandon McNulty and Michael Woods. This trio was promising, a medal for all if they collaborated and McNulty was both a strong rouleur who would help on the descent, plus a workmate of Pogačar.

Embed from Getty Images

Only they struggled to pull out a lead, van Aert and then Alberto Bettiol toiled to close the gap. Then Michał Kwiatkowski and Richard Carapaz made Supermario jumps to hop across. At this point everyone looked on the limit, Bauke Mollema was rocking on his bike as usual only everyone else was in mimicry. Towards the top of Mikunitoge the road flattens out and there was just enough hesitation upfront for van Aert to get back, towing Mollema, Gaudu and Fuglsang across. It looked like it was down 11 riders: Kwiatkowski, Woods, Pogačar, Uràn, Gadu, Carapaz, Mollema, Fuglsang, van Aert, Bettiol and McNulty. Woods was the first to attack, presumably desperate to use what was left of the climb. But van Aert jumped on him and this was the first of the Belgian’s moves, he was closing more gaps than a Tetris player on Level 20. Over the top of the climb Schachmann and Adam Yates just made it across to form a lucky group of 13. Woods was still dangling out in front and van Aert brought him back. Mollema made his move but this was punctual and everyone jumped on his back wheel. Then Schachmann and Kwiatkowski had a quick go. Fuglsang countered but Pogačar in person brought him back.

Embed from Getty Images

At the foot of the Kagosaka pass McNulty attacked with exactly 25km to go, diving down the right and Carapaz jumped to the left. Behind, a moment of hesitation as Wout van Aert looked down at the road, Fuglsang sipped on his bidon. Max Schachmann hit the front but unable to drive on, he was like an owl twitching his head backwards to look for help. Down the descent and the American tandem had 40 seconds.

Often at this point the suspense begins to drop, if it was held in a stadium the first fans would start getting out of their seats in order to get an easy exit. We’ve seen it before, the classic game theory stand off: everyone wants to chase, but everyone wants to keep something in reserve so that when things come back together they’re able to benefit which means the group just can’t work. This time it was different, viewers couldn’t leave their seats. There were some lone efforts but amid them van Aert and Pogačar just kept going regardless and the gap was halved to 20 seconds entering the Fuji circuit for the last time.

Embed from Getty Images

Perhaps sensing McNulty was weakening and with the chasers closing in to 15 seconds Carapaz struck out solo on the climb in the Fuji Speedway to go clear. He was away, the others could see it on the wide track and the race for the other medals began with marking and attacks. Carapaz took gold, van Aert launched a long sprint and needed the photofinish to be sure of second place with Tadej Pogačar in third.

Embed from Getty Images

The Verdict
A superb course with scenery at the start to compensate for the early lack of action, the Dōshi valley put on a show and all that was missing was Mount Fuji which had began the day in sunshine but hid behind the clouds once the race started. The early breakaway wasn’t a threat but when they got almost 20 minutes a frisson of suspense appeared, a shiver on a hot day. The Belgians and Slovenians did much of the grunt work but the Italian team supplied the fireworks on Fuji and the race reached a frenzy on Mikuniyama, a place that in one day has already earned itself a spot in cycling’s history. Yet Mikuni was necessary but not sufficient, it shrank the cast of contenders kept enough suspense to the end. Ordinarily the drama might have gone out from the race but Wout van Aert was relentless, the final half hour was a Toho production, think Yojimbo on wheels.

One day races, even on hard courses, can throw up surprises and in a race watched by millions who don’t usually tune in for Liège or Lombardia a cult win à la Zaugg wouldn’t have been a result for anyone except compatriots of the eventual victor. The men’s road race in the Tokyo Olympics delivered a comforting result rather than a cult cut and all the better for it. Perhaps Van Aert was the strongest and if the race could replayed over and over he’d surely strike gold. But Carapaz hunted down the medal as a reward for his audacity and endurance while van Aert on one side of the podium and Pogačar on the other made for a galactic photo and their medals were satisfying rewards for their efforts.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Augie March Saturday, 24 July 2021, 6:52 pm

    Great move and deserved win by Carapaz, he chose his moment perfectly, but I also can’t help but think he was the beneficiary of other riders’ unwillingness to tow Van Aert to the line where he would outspent any of them, and so it proved (even if only by a tyre’s width).

    A good race, but a few negatives, the motor racing circuit wasn’t the most visually beautiful location, likewise we get spoiled with the helicopters showing viewers some of the local sights while there’s a lull in the race, but there was none of that here so a lot of the lovely scenery, including Mount Fuji was only glimpsed in the background occasionally. Also not the organisers’ fault in any way but where I was watching we were stuck with Phil Liggett in commentary, he referred to “Tadej Sagan” leading the bunch and then later shouted that there were only thirty riders left in the peloton when there were clearly more than 60. Someone please put him out to pasture.

    • The Inner Ring Saturday, 24 July 2021, 10:50 pm

      I know the TV commentators can have a big influence on our enjoyment of a race but remember it’s a bit like the weather at home, saying “it rained today” is alright but lots of other readers might have enjoyed sunshine all day where they lived, or rather they had different audio. Spare a thought for the coverage in Japan, six hours of live video but no live commentary at all. Or maybe some might prefer this?

      • Augie March Sunday, 25 July 2021, 6:38 am

        I know, it’s a minor complaint, but honestly silence would have been more edifying than Liggett, I can follow along with live blogs or tweets for race updates.

      • David Monday, 26 July 2021, 8:21 am

        That’s exactly how I’ve been watching most of my cycling (and other sports) recently – sound on mute, just watching the pictures, often with text commentary on a second screen to pick up the odd detail. Honestly, it’s almost always a better experience.

    • Dynamo Sunday, 25 July 2021, 5:26 pm

      In the UK, BBC cut away from the action just as things started to light up with 40km to go for a One Show style interview with Mark Cavendish. Not ideal timing after 6 hours of waiting for some action!

      If you aren’t familiar with the One Show, you’re better off not knowing.

  • Ba-Ba Saturday, 24 July 2021, 6:59 pm

    My favourite bit, watching on the BBC, was when they cut away to show a replay of some gymnastics and came back to find the race in bits on Mikumi pass and not knowing what was really going on. 2nd best bit was attacks going on whilst Cav was chatting to the presenters – at least there was a split screen so we could sort of see what was happening.
    For a once in a while commentary pairing that has to explain things to the general viewer, whilst keeping the knowledgeable happy, I find Brotherton and Boardman are pretty good though.

    • Richard S Saturday, 24 July 2021, 8:43 pm

      Not even the final of the gymnastics, but a gymnastics qualifying round! Superb

    • Michael B Saturday, 24 July 2021, 10:38 pm

      That was really annoying.

      Suppose it shows the weird audience they have to cater for during the Olympics though as my wife, who after years of cycling by osmosis even knows who GVA is, thought the Cavendish interview was great.

      I explained what a crucial part of the race it was, and why Cavendish’s generalities were next to meaningless in that context, even if he was a cycling legend. It was so distracting.

      She told me to stop moaning and get over it, basically, which I found hard to argue with.

      • Georges Guêpe Saturday, 24 July 2021, 11:13 pm

        I alternated from BBC/HD to GCN. The latter was mercifully free of ‘The Carlton Kirby Comedy Show’ commentary.

        • hoh Sunday, 25 July 2021, 11:07 am

          Who’s commenting GCN/Eurosport yesterday?

        • keith warmington Sunday, 25 July 2021, 3:03 pm

          agreed Georges, the lack of CK made it watchable with the sound up. Matt Stephens and Brian Smith made an excellent pairing.

    • Michael Tarrant Sunday, 25 July 2021, 12:05 am

      Agreed, the Cav interlude was pretty pointless coming at a time when the race was lighting up.
      Agreed re Simon Brotherton/Chris Boardman commentary pairing, always find them informative and seldom cause for audio angst.
      As an aside, Simon Brotherton is no ‘Johnny come lately’ when it comes to cycling. I remember him buying some Pantani Fan Club stuff from my ‘pop up’ Prendas stall at an event over 20 years ago. He has also MC’d at the ‘Dave Rayner Fund’ annual dinner/fund raiser.

      • Michael B Sunday, 25 July 2021, 12:30 am

        Boardman is easily the best UK based analyst in my opinion, and I’ve always quite liked Brotherton. Nice tone of voice and doesn’t get too carried away with his own thoughts. Good to read he’s a proper fan of the sport too.

      • Wipperman_15 Sunday, 25 July 2021, 2:49 pm

        Brotherton is very good, despite only sporadic outings doing cycling. BBC 5 Live no longer cover the Tour with live commentary anymore , which they first started in the mid 90s. Another example of their dumbing down….

    • Veggie Legs Sunday, 25 July 2021, 8:11 am

      I found that Cavendish interview remarkably badly timed as well, but I do have some sympathy for the BBC. In previous years they could have had a dedicated feed just for the race on the red button/iPlayer, but this year they’re limited by losing the full rights.
      I’m watching the women’s race on GCN though.

      • Frood Sunday, 25 July 2021, 9:48 am

        Agreed, the BBC have been absolutely shafted by the new rights deal the IOC have foisted on them. This year they’re permitted something like 350 hours total live coverage, which means one or two channels max and, as it turns out, interminable VTs and “features”.

        I actually thought their coverage yesterday was rather good – the Cav interview was poorly timed but we had the split screen at least and, as others have said, Boardman and Brotherton are very decent commentators (who aren’t wailing like stuck pigs at the most minor events).

        Also, a tremendous, feel-good win from carapaz – a win in the mould of many from small groups in the tour a la mohoric, pollit, konrad.

        • Rooto Sunday, 25 July 2021, 4:27 pm

          Am I the only one who assumed the poor timing of the interview was because… er, Cav had just got up ?

    • Dynamo Sunday, 25 July 2021, 5:33 pm

      I should read the comments in full before adding my own banalities from now on 😉 Glad I wasn’t the only one perplexed by the Cav interview. I think he wanted to get it over with so we could all go back to the racing.

  • Pete Saturday, 24 July 2021, 7:03 pm

    Mr. Ring shall be nominated for a Pulitzer.

  • James Saturday, 24 July 2021, 8:01 pm

    Fantastic write up of a fantastic race. One small correction I believe it was Adam Yates who got across rather than Simon. Thanks for the exceptional content week in week out.

    • Tricky Hawes Saturday, 24 July 2021, 9:03 pm

      Despite them being on different bikes, I got thoroughly confused about which Yates was where today. For a while it seemed neither of them were there. And at one point I was sure Simon was nearer the front group. I think they’ve got some kind of scam going.

    • The Inner Ring Saturday, 24 July 2021, 10:47 pm

      Quite right, I thought it looked like Adam but I saw the bike and it didn’t look like an Ineos Pinarello. Will fix the text above.

      • Michael B Sunday, 25 July 2021, 12:40 am

        I found the Pinarellos confusing today as well. They’d painted them silver hadn’t they, including Carapaz’s. For some reason it almost made them look like they were riding disc brakes from the rear camera shots. Yet again a rim brake rider triumphs though, thank god he survived the descents eh…

        • KevinR Sunday, 25 July 2021, 11:03 am

          I believe it’s legs that win races, not brakes

  • Nigel Saturday, 24 July 2021, 8:03 pm

    Spot on with the moment – quite often these pieces (rightly) say the race was won on the line or when the eventual victor went solo. Having two out front was crucial as no one really wanted to work behind only to got smoked by Van Aert for bronze and that meant Carapaz still had 15 seconds in the bag once he jumped McNulty. Once there were two medals to play for, the group behind were content to let Carapaz go and fight it out. Thought the last couple of hours that I made it out of bed to see were great racing and good to see the sharp end defined by (largely) the relative ‘galaticos’ of the field. As Inrng says there can sometimes be a feeling of anti climax if the ‘wrong’ group goes up the road. Great preview and write up as ever.

  • Anonymous Saturday, 24 July 2021, 8:19 pm

    the way Carapaz rides really bothers me. He Always just sits on and then launches big attacks after others have done all the work. This is the way he has always raced, as far as I can remember (and yes, I’m sure there are one or two exceptions). Yes, he’s a very strong rider, but the way he rides just annoys the sh*t out of me.

    • Richard S Saturday, 24 July 2021, 8:41 pm

      If he’d sat on all day and won a small sprint ‘a la Valverde’ I’d say you had a point. But criticising a guy for shirking the work who attacked with 25km to go and then won solo seems a bit harsh.

      • KevinR Sunday, 25 July 2021, 11:06 am

        Exactly that. And what’s he supposed to do if he’s planning a winning move? Exhaust himself first?

    • hoh Saturday, 24 July 2021, 8:46 pm

      He contributed fairly today and didn’t ride when he didn’t need to in the Tour.

      At the end of the day, Pogacar and Vingegaard were happy to tow him to the line in order to show their dominance. They could stop riding and counter-bluff Carapaz.

    • Tricky Hawes Saturday, 24 July 2021, 9:00 pm

      He was one of only two riders who actually attacked Pogacar in the Tour that’s *just* finished? And he won his only grand tour thanks to a long-range attack?

      This is a an odd take. If anything he tends to attack a bit more than his legs really justify.

      • Anonymous Saturday, 24 July 2021, 9:42 pm

        I never said he never attacks, I said he never works. He let’s others do all the chasing (while usually feigning fatigue) and then attacks. Today was just another example. He attacked once, to drop McNulty. One could argue he “attacked” to reach McNulty, but that won’t be me.

        • Davesta Saturday, 24 July 2021, 10:08 pm

          So your gripe with him is that he intelligently uses good tactics?

        • Tom Saturday, 24 July 2021, 11:31 pm

          Dude, are you new to this cycling thing?

          • Anonymous Sunday, 25 July 2021, 12:52 am

            No. Are you?

          • Graham Sunday, 25 July 2021, 10:34 pm

            Are you sure about this? I mean, he wasn’t a favourite and had no team support, seems like he played his cards well. Romandie and the Vuelta he didn’t ride quite like you describe. The am dram at the Tour was lame but this guy is a racer and deserved the win. What should he have done ?

        • Canocola Saturday, 24 July 2021, 11:38 pm

          Weird viewing of it. Until McNulty started to tie up Billy Carpets was working perfectly well with him.

        • Zellwood Kelly Saturday, 24 July 2021, 11:45 pm

          If you want to know who the strongest guy is, they can figure that out in a lab. This is racing. It’s not really the same thing.

        • KevinR Sunday, 25 July 2021, 11:10 am

          He attacked after McNulty went clear, knowing that Pogacar probably wouldn’t chase as he’d just done an effort closing down and WVA had done several. So tactically good. Then he attacked McNulty (in truth he didn’t need to do much as McNulty ran out of steam but at least he knew he had to go)

          • Cycling Nut Sunday, 25 July 2021, 12:42 pm

            I think Mcnulty went clear as a set up for Pogacar, his trade team captain. Pogacar blocked at the front a few times for Mcnulty during the lackluster chase. But mcnulty ran out of gas and Pogacar wasted energy on that pointless attack on the hill so he couldnt try to chase down Carapaz.
            I like that they didnt have radios. Riders had to think. And some riders couldnt think but Carapaz did.

    • dft Saturday, 24 July 2021, 9:56 pm

      Maybe my memory’s playing tricks but I think Sagan won the Richmond world title by being pretty much anonymous until basically the last sprint. It’s the smart way to do it. In fact if Van Aert/Pogacar had bothered to read Inrng’s blog they’d have known that Carapaz at 25km was the one attack they absolutely did need to cover. The best rider won IMO and he won it majestically.

      • Larry T Sunday, 25 July 2021, 8:09 pm

        Well, Sagan WAS kind of anonymous until he attacked on the steep climb a few kilometers from the line. No sprint in 2015 he just powered away once he had the gap at the top of the hill. A great win, one I’m happy to have in my “seen it live” memories 🙂

        • Ruziklan Monday, 26 July 2021, 7:45 am

          Perhaps the Bergen 2017 was more like “anonymous until sprint” style of win. Surely so until infamous TV signal blackout after which the world could only see last few minutes. They say Sagan was active during that blackout… but who knows?

          In any case that’s the way how small countries (in terms of cycling strength) usually have to approach the international races. If they cannot field so many cyclists as large countries and they lack the depth, their riders cannot be expected to work hard much of the time. Their best riders have to play their cards smartly.

    • Michael B Saturday, 24 July 2021, 10:41 pm

      You’ve basically outlined why I love him. Loads of riders sat on today and made one attack. But he made THE attack… and now he’s the Olympic champion.

      • Michael B Saturday, 24 July 2021, 10:45 pm

        And as Richard S says, it was hardly a Valverde style win. He went 25km out on a climb, after choosing the right wheel to follow, didn’t shirk a turn, and then rode McNulty off his wheel fair and square. WVA was the strongest, Carapaz won. Kudos to both for being amazing riders.

    • The Inner Ring Saturday, 24 July 2021, 10:48 pm

      The timing is impressive, he hits them just when they’re all punch drunk.

    • Sidamo Sunday, 25 July 2021, 12:19 am

      You should read De Renner/The Rider – “Racing is licking your opponent’s plate clean before starting on your own.”

      • Drewid Sunday, 25 July 2021, 12:23 pm

        The Rider is a great read but I thought it was another Dutchman, Hennie Kuiper, who came up with that gem?

    • Tom Sunday, 25 July 2021, 2:27 am

      The person you are describing in this race is Mike Woods. When he caught up with Pogačar and McNulty on Mikuni Pass he refused to do any work. He later made one attack once they were reabsorbed, but never stuck his nose in the wind again to earn a fairly meaningless 5th place.

  • Ponebrewed Saturday, 24 July 2021, 8:19 pm

    I thought McNulty was incredibly impressive. Managing to hang and contest the sprint for silver and bronze after his legs deserted him was no mean feat. If I were a betting man, I’d put some money on him to medal in the TT.

  • Richard S Saturday, 24 July 2021, 8:51 pm

    A very enjoyable race that felt very reminiscent of last years worlds and the Rio road race, especially when it looked like a Belgian strongman was going to claw back a climber for the win. The inexperienced directors and commentators slightly detract, and as always as does a motoracinh circuit finish. But still a very good race.

    • Michael B Saturday, 24 July 2021, 11:01 pm

      Totally agree with all that, avoid the motor circuits at all costs. They do have a huge impact on races though as the climbs are always a lot longer and harder than they look on TV. I remember reading that the most vertical gain ever at a Worlds was on a GP course, maybe in the 70s? But aesthetically they just look terrible for cycling.

  • Mancuniancandid Sunday, 25 July 2021, 12:15 am

    Sublime writing, thank you

  • Shearman Sunday, 25 July 2021, 2:03 am

    Brilliant summary for someone who missed the race, thanks. As always, the quality of the writing is superb – I got the feeling you’d been saving up some of those one-liners for a while in preparation! I’m amazed a quality newspaper hasn’t asked to license some of your blogs for their publications.

  • Ecky Thump Sunday, 25 July 2021, 4:11 am

    I find road cycling races like that, where riders won’t chase back, to be a poor fit for an Olympics.
    Like a 10,000m race where the runners won’t sprint at the end.
    Not satisfying for me, in fact I don’t particularly enjoy the World Championships either usually.
    I’ll stick to the track and field for some proper Olympic spirit I think.

    • Bern Sunday, 25 July 2021, 11:07 am

      I sort of agree – seems like a little more acknowledgement of the crowd in the stands might have been appropriate, either via sprinting for minor places or at least a wave of appreciation from the finishing straight. Saw very little of that.

    • RQS Sunday, 25 July 2021, 8:04 pm

      The problem with the World’s and the Olympics for me is the weakened team format. If you want to limit the numbers limit the nations competing don’t handicap one country over another.
      Letting the break go has a big effect on the ‘stronger’ teams because the onus is on them to chase. I’m not sure I’m a fan. Although it has a levelling effect, because the smaller teams just follow in the wheels, the current set-up seems to dilute the competition and allows a lot more opportunism by lesser teams. They just need one strong rider to be in with a chance and usually because the big teams are not as strong as trade teams, the successive loss of riders puts a bigger strain on them. Some may like it because it throws up surprises, but I guess for me the issue is that they’re a poor competition compared to the one-day races of the World Tour. More often than not there are too many damp squibs fired – Valverde perhaps being a case in point. We don’t get to see the best perform. I sure people will argue with me about the Worlds and the winners who have worn the rainbow stripes. Although I have some fondness for Rio’s road race London was a shocker, and similarly, although Carapaz is a worthy winner, the threat of a break of ‘weak’ riders winning the race seems disproportionate in its effects. The case in point which magnifies this factor was the way in which the Austrian won in the women’s race. The favourites rolled in almost 2 minutes down on the remaining breakaway rider. Maybe I’m putting too much on this, but there’s an intangibility which diminishes these races in my opinion. Perhaps my gripe is that some ‘favoured’ riders don’t even feature because either their team is too weak, or some other factor. I guess I wish they were more of an event to look forward too.

      • Vitus Sunday, 25 July 2021, 8:19 pm

        “limit the nations”
        You clearly have no understanding what the concept of Worlds or Olympics mean, though Worlds have it right in the name.
        If you can’t stand such races, just don’t watch them. But don’t come up with some paternalistic old white men shit about “limit the nations”.

        • RQS Sunday, 25 July 2021, 9:28 pm

          Both the Olympics and the Worlds are about nations competing against each other. It’s team GB, not team Belgium flooring and grout.
          I don’t know what that has to do with either my sex, age or race, but you seem to want to make it so.
          Also, and you may want to take a moment to think about this, this is the comments section. I can write what I like if I’m not insulting anyone. What I’m suggesting is that you just have, say, the twenty best countries, or the twenty best teams including all regions, but all with 8 riders not this farcical quotient based on previous success or something. Watching the chap from Iran being disgorged on the first tough climb doesn’t bring anymore Iranians to the table. It’s tokenistic and dilutes the field. I’m not suggesting a closed shop – but something which should reflect these competitions as the best and finest – which is what the Olympics was certainly in original. Instead, if you want to watch the finest one-day race you watch Paris-Roubaix… anyway nice to have a meaningful conversation.

  • Mike D Sunday, 25 July 2021, 5:02 am

    Thank you for the wonderful analysis once again Mr Ring. One thing that struck me was the reactions of the front group immediately after the finish. While Carapaz was obviously ecstatic, Wout looked disappointed but Pog looked genuinely thrilled with his third place. This guy seems to just love racing and is not burdened by the expectation of results. This also seems to be reflected in the way he races which is great for fans but perhaps ominous for his rivals.

    • A-Rob Sunday, 25 July 2021, 8:16 am

      I think that’s quite normal at Olympics, winner is obviously stoked to win Gold, 2nd is shattered to miss Gold, 3rd is pretty rapt to get a medal.

    • Cepphus Grylle Sunday, 25 July 2021, 2:19 pm

      Agree about Pogacar and Carapaz, but I think Van Aert just looked wiped out at the end (he was almost gone on a little drag a couple of km out). He usually has a face like thunder on the podium when he’s disappointed with a result. Looks pretty content here

    • Nick Monday, 26 July 2021, 4:49 pm

      Pogacar finished slightly faster than Van Aert passing him (just) after the line. Is it possible that their immediate reactions were affected by Pogacar thinking he’d pipped Van Aert for silver? Until the results were confirmed, we thought he had, and the commentators seemed to do so too.

  • 150 Watts Sunday, 25 July 2021, 8:11 am

    I suspect that the time trial and track cycling are a better fit with the Olympics than the road race.
    Having said that I think Carapaz owes NcNulty big time.

    • Ecky Thump Sunday, 25 July 2021, 10:43 am

      Agreed.
      In fact I think it would be preferable to drop road cycling and put cyclo cross into the Olympic Games (Winter, I guess, even if there has to be some artificial snow) instead.
      That race, and the women’s today, are the slowest of slow burns with a bit of shenanigans near the finish, although the women’s race even lacked that.
      “Faster, Higher, Stronger’ it’s most certainly not.

      • Bern Sunday, 25 July 2021, 11:09 am

        They left out ‘Smarter’

        • osbk67 Sunday, 25 July 2021, 11:17 pm

          Exactly!

      • Wipperman_15 Sunday, 25 July 2021, 2:58 pm

        Would love to see CX in the Winter Olympics – but it seems unlikely. It is still hamstrung by being dominated by too few countries, and not big markets at that. And the rule about being based on snow/ice. However, that is possible to get around, if those in charge are serious. In fact, there will be a round of the CX World Cup in Val di Sole in December – so there should be snow.

        Saying that, I wonder if Short Track XC MTB will ever get to the summer Olympics? They’d probably have to drop a track event. Yet swimming has numerous events……

  • Tobias Sunday, 25 July 2021, 1:56 pm

    Once again a fantastic preview and post race writeup Inner Ring. Enjoyed every single word of this one including the description of Tratnik on the mountain and the phrase of “use or loose” helpers. My personal favourite was the description of how Kawasaki and Billie “… made Supermario jumps to hop across”.

  • Watts Sunday, 25 July 2021, 6:24 pm

    I can’t figure out if Tratnik in the Olympic race and Caruso in the Giro is a sign of a cleaner peloton than we’ve seen for 30 years, or if it’s a sign of a dirtier peloton than we’ve seen in the last 10 years.

    I enjoy racing with or without doping and I always hate getting the question from people outside the sport; “aren’t they all doping?” I usually reply with a terse: “if you think there isn’t doping in Tennis or Soccer then you’re naive”.

    But in this forum, I do wonder. I think we’re seeing new things these last two years.

    • plurien Sunday, 25 July 2021, 7:06 pm

      Riders coming through now are tested all the time. They have biopassports and know it’s easy to blow a career they gave up so much to do. Older riders, sure, they had it in the blood so biopassports were less useful early-on and could actually give some wriggle-room on counter-indications now. Younger athletes coming through fresh and feisty is what all sports need. The problems came when older athletes thought they’d found the way to ‘stop the rot’ and prolong their careers, whilst also bossing the young riders, ‘or you don’t get to see the doctor, and then you’ll be sacked off’. They were untouchable because the sport business needed them.
      If you start from the premise that all successful riders must be doping, you are part of the problem. The solution is testing and believing the results. Young athletes can’t cheat when they are juniors or they will be caught. Their biopassports are accurate and so any counter-indication is real, and it’s career-ending these days. Let’s leave it there.

      • RQS Monday, 26 July 2021, 8:19 am

        Oh God. You’re reasoning is all flipped upside down. The bio passport is nothing but a cap on doping. But the likelihood is that untested/young athletes are in a better position to game the test. Keep a high threshold and you already have a boost up on your rivals which is why we see a brace of successful new young riders feted for their generation.
        The opposite is also true about your statement “if your premise is that all successful riders are doping, then you are part of the problem” – if you allow them a free ride and the opportunity to hide and lie and carry on as normal, which is what happened with Armstrong. If we had believed the guys at Sky they would’ve gotten away with it too. I just don’t understand the mindset of closing your mind and going into a state of denial. If we are honest about the problem it’s not one that will go away, and all we can do is manage it. There are neither the resources or the tests to defeat it.

        • Larry T Wednesday, 28 July 2021, 12:39 pm

          “If we are honest about the problem it’s not one that will go away, and all we can do is manage it. There are neither the resources or the tests to defeat it.”
          If that’s your attitude I ask why bother with managing it? How is the sport better if we let the competitors cheat but just “manage it”? Save the money and time and just let ’em all dope/cheat at will. Like BigTex claimed, that will make it a level-playing-field for everyone, right? There would no longer be any questions about chicanery, you could just assume everyone’s doped to the gills and hiding a motor in their bike somewhere.
          But you wouldn’t have SPORT anymore, just a freak show like WWE. No rules = no sport.

      • Watts Monday, 26 July 2021, 10:03 am

        I started following cycling in the 90’s so my frame of reference may be askew since I have been watching bike racing in a time where things have perhaps not been normal.

        When I see Pogacar, I am reminded of Fignon’s biography. His description of his second tour win at a very young age, where he could just push harder on the pedals when he wanted, and so the wins came so effortlessly.
        I want this to be the case very much, that this young man is just a big naturally gifted rider in a clean or cleaner sport.

        But knowing cycling, and particularly knowing who is running his team, I can’t help but ask myself questions as well.

  • plurien Sunday, 25 July 2021, 6:55 pm

    Great write-up as ever! Thank you.

    If you liked the mens’ race, you’ll love the womens’ where there were TWO winners /s. It’s now branded a ‘disgrace’ by the NL national broadcaster and props go to Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig for actually congratulating the winner, when the NL riders were right there like the nasty girls at school, completely ignoring Kiesenhofer (!an amateur!).
    Once again there was no reason to single out the absence of radios for the odd events. Any soigneur or DS from the cars could have told the riders what was going on. They got roadside and moto boards too. They all thought they’d caught the breakaway – Classic example of how groupthink causes disaster.

    Back to the mens’ race. I was out of breath just watching how the attacking went on for so long. That selection of 11 riders, and then 13 was just a dream, with no country having more than one rider up there, and each capable of winning. It was possibly a good thing that McNulty and Pogacar did not get away because whoever took gold would have faced accusations of being gifted the win. Carapaz winning this for Ecuador is massive back home and he did it in style.
    MTB cross-country tomorrow!! – Will it have been worth Mathieu van der Poel skipping this road race? What could Tom Pidcock have done?

    • Wipperman_15 Sunday, 25 July 2021, 11:47 pm

      I don’t think he skipped the road race – he was never doing it. The MTB race has been his main goal since 2017.
      I’ve seen an interview recently, and Pidcock would like to do the Road/ITT & MTB races in Paris 2024, if the schedule allows; it normally does, as the MTB race is normally on the final weekend.

  • oldDAVE Sunday, 25 July 2021, 8:23 pm

    Great race.

    Exceptionally happy for Carapaz, to win with a single teammate at that kind of distance is really phenomenal. Brilliant ride.

    Great pre and post race INRNG.

    I just have one very rare gripe INRNG *(laugh emoji) – I’ve not taken to Remco as he seems extremely arrogant, but even with that slight bias I was very surprised to see him in the chainrings? He doesn’t seem to have had climbing form so far this year, especially over this sort of distance and Baloise was no real indication he’d recovered the pre-Lombardia climbing form again? He hadn’t demonstrated the recent Tour form of WVA or even Mollema, nor does he have the back history of Yates to say he’s worth a punt over a hilly 200km+ despite a lack recent equivalent racing? The only thing I guess is that he won San Sebastian after a Baloise win previously, it’s just to me he hasn’t looked like the same rider yet this year and I feel he was picked on name by many.

    I say this knowing I can be shot down relatively quickly *(second laugh emoji).

    *(In hindsight I think it’s fair to question whether he should have been in the Belgian team at all, as aside from relevant recent form, Dylan Teuns might have been able to get over the climb with WVA and been more help (if the Belgian tacticians had given Benoot/Vansevenant better instructions on how to pace the climb, maybe Van Moer with current form might have done better than Vansevenant also, even if like everyone I expect Vansevenant to come very good one day.)

    Only other observation: WVA needs to go to tactics school, in how he uses his team let alone his own strength – bizarre saying this about someone who wins so much, but maybe those two things aren’t as opposing as it seems.

  • Jerome Wigger Sunday, 25 July 2021, 8:50 pm

    Once the race was down to the final 11 I realised that as much as a certainty it was that WvA would win in a sprint he needed to get away instead. As soon as there was someone off the front he had full responsibility to chase it down with minimal help from others in the group. He could have spent the same amount of energy for a better odds result driving himself to a solo win.

    • Cepphus Grylle Monday, 26 July 2021, 5:05 pm

      Yeah, but no one was going to let him away!

  • Allen b Harris Monday, 26 July 2021, 9:35 am

    I love you, Rider, and have for many, many years now. But that was one of the least essential “most essential” lists I have ever read. I suggest finding a dictionary and getting reacquainted with the word “essential”.

  • CA Monday, 26 July 2021, 7:29 pm

    Another great race and even better previews and post-race write-up from Inrng.

    A side note, both GVA and Tratnik should put on a clinic for the Dutch women’s team about swallowing ones’ pride and riding for the team. Tratnik’s sacrifice and efforts were full-on, saving nothing for himself. Similarly, GVA was just as selfless. GVA’s efforts to ride hard with Tratnik, when viewed from the perspective as the reigning champion (without putting this over Tratnik’s ride) make it even more important to teach the Dutch women. GVA isn’t a domestique in any respects, and his palmares is extremely high quality yet he still gave his full efforts so his team would win. Vos, Vollering and Van Der Breghen should have done the same and worked with the other teams to control the bunch for AVV, for example.

  • itmofnw Friday, 30 July 2021, 9:57 am

    I’m not pretty sure what you mean by ワンマンカ, maybe “One man car” for local route trains and buses? I know it’s a Japanglish though…

    • The Inner Ring Friday, 30 July 2021, 10:16 am

      Well we talk in English about mountain trains, where several riders pace a leader. Tratnik was doing this all by himself, so an illusion to the ワンマン trains of Japan, the single carriage trains.

      • itmofnw Friday, 30 July 2021, 1:58 pm

        Yes he was so impressive “One man car” even over hills, deserved for the wooden medal.