Rio Roundup - Olympic road race report
Fans and riders are still recovering from the Olympic road races on the opening weekend in Rio. Both the men's and women's races were frantic, unpredictable and overshadowed by a handful of nasty crashes.
With small teams of between one and five riders, no race radios and limited support, the Olympic road race is unlike any other in the calendar. As one of few races in which the riders represent their own countries, motivation is sky-high. For all barring a select few who have yellow jerseys in their wardrobes (or with space reserved), gold at the Olympic Games could be the highlight of their career - and unlike a Grand Tour that is decided through attrition over a number of weeks, the one-day format of the Olympic road race means you really just have to be in it to win it.
Saturday saw the men take on a 240km route that had even the most hardened of Tour de France riders quaking in their boots. It was won by in-form Greg van Avermaet (Belgium) who time-trialled across to leader Rafal Majka with Jakob Fuglsang (Denmark) after the Pole left Vincenzo Nibali (Italy) and Sergio Henao (Colombia) broken in the gutter after their crash on the descent off the Vista Chineza. Geraint Thomas (Great Britain) also crashed but was able to get back on and finish in 11th place, thirty seconds before Chris Froome (GB), in 12th.
The women's race was considerably shorter but no less dangerous. After the peloton closed down Lotte Kopecky's (Belgium) solo breakaway, attacks came thick and fast. On the last climb Annemiek van Vleuten (Netherlands) and Mara Abbott (USA) rode away from their breakaway companions in a spectacular show of strength. However, disaster met Van Vleuten on the descent when she crashed horrifically into one of the now infamous rain gutters at the side of the road. Abbott, who had lost a bit of time was now riding into gold medal position. It was not to be, however, as the diminutive American was overtaken by a three-up time trial including race winner Anna Van der Breggen (Netherlands) in the last 200 metres.
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