FEATURE: Olympic Road Race Rundown
by Holly Blades
On Saturday [28th July 2012], 15,000 spectators will line Box Hill in Surrey to watch 145 riders from all over the World take on the Olympic Road Race. It's the first time the UK has hosted the Olympics since 1948, and the route is a gruelling 250km past many of London's sights, out into the Surrey countryside before finishing back in the capital.
Samuel Sanchez Is The Defending Champion
The Olympic Road Race is a straightforward race – first over the line takes the Gold, second the Silver and third the Bronze. Easy as that. No points, no time bonuses, just first come first served. Although there's no jersey awarded for winning the Olympic Road Race, it can be perceived as a four year reign. Look at Samuel Sanchez. He's had gold stripes on his Euskaltel kit for the last four years!
It's a tough “Classics” style course, in the vein of Liege-Bastogne-Liege or the Tour of Flanders and should suit riders like Belgium's Tom Boonen or Switzerland's Fabian Cancellara, but the big question on Britain's lips will be whether Mark Cavendish will be able to stay with the protagonists over the average 5% climb of the freshly resurfaced Box Hill. And he has to climb it nine times.
Cavendish has lost four kilos in the run up to the Olympics, in an attempt to prepare himself for the challenge, and has proved his ability to climb in this year's Tour de France where he has often been seen on the front of the Peloton working for compatriot Bradley Wiggins – and since the Manx man still has a big kick in his sprint (see Stage 2 of this year's Tour), Wiggins will be repaying the favour.
Cavendish After Winning The Test Event
Also in Cav's arsenal completing the GB team are two more 2012 Tour de France stage winners in the shape of Chris Froome and David Millar, and the British National Champion himself, Ian Stannard. Arguably, the strongest Olympic line up we've ever had and a team that will be the envy of the World. Team dynamics will play a vital role in the outcome of the day, and with only four riders to back up Cavendish, it will be very difficult to control. Last year when Cav took the Rainbow Jersey in the World Championships, he had eight riders at his disposal.
The route begins on The Mall under the watchful eye of Buckingham Palace before passing the Natural History Museum, making its way through Richmond Park before beginning a huge lap of the Surrey hills through Woking, Guildford and Dorking. It is here that the riders will have to undertake nine laps of a 15.5km circuit up Box Hill, before heading back into London via Leatherhead, Esher, Hampton Court Palace and Kingston upon Thames before finishing back in Her Majesty's front yard on The Mall.
Road Racing Through The Streets Of London
The Women's Road Race follows a similar route, with two laps of the Box Hill circuit. Both the Men and Women's Time Trial events begin at Hampton Court Palace, with the Men tackling 44km and the Women 29km. Spartacus himself, Fabian Cancellara, tested the route earlier this year so obviously has his eye on the prize, but after the performances of Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome in this year's Tour de France Time Trials, who would bet against them making the podium too?
Mark Cavendish won the Olympic Road Race “Test Event”, labelled the London-Surrey Cycle Classic, back in August 2011 ahead of Italy's Sacha Modolo and France's Samuel Dumoulin. However, the test event was only 140km and featured only two laps of the feared Box Hill climb. Only time will tell whether he is strong enough, and light enough, to take Gold on the 28th July.
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