If Chris Froome is to fulfill his ambition of making a tilt for gold at the 2020 Olympic Games road race, he will have one fewer teammate than five of his rivals on the mountainous route that tackles Mount Fuji.
The International Cycling Union’s (UCI) quotas for the Olympic road races allocated Britain four places in the men’s race and one in the women’s race, fewer than other top cycling nations. France, Belgium, Colombia, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands all received a quota of five men for the road race, as they are higher in the UCI rankings.
Colombia’s Tour de France champion Egan Bernal, French trio Julian Alaphilippe, Thibaut Pinot and Romain Bardet, Italian climber Vincenzo Nibali, veteran Spaniard and Olympic favorite Alejandro Valverde, as well as defending champion Greg Van Avermaet, will have a numerical advantage over Team GB.
No teams have been revealed yet, but plenty of ink has been spilled over what promises to be an epic struggle between cycling’s top stars.
Whoever wins will have the honor of sporting a gold band on the sleeve of their jersey, wearing a gold helmet and even riding a golden bike, with bragging rights lasting four years.
– ‘Perfect timing’ –
Froome told AFP last month he was hugely excited by the Olympic challenge after recon on Mount Fuji, dreams of which were spurring him on in his bid to regain fitness after an awful accident in June.
“We went up in a car,” Froome said when he appeared at the Saitama Criterium in Tokyo in October.
“First things first, I have to get back to full fitness before I can think about the logistics of getting there (to Tokyo) after the Tour,” he said of the Olympic event scheduled six days after the end of the Tour de France.
“The Olympic route we saw… I thought was fantastic. I can’t wait to get stuck into it, analyzing it and trying to work out what it’s going to take to win a race like that.
“I’ve never won a one-day race but coming right after the Tour de France, I think it’s great timing.”
Froome, who prefers riding in hot conditions, said the race was well-timed to give him a shot at Olympic glory.
“In theory, the conditions should still be good at that time,” he added.
“An Olympic route like that, it’s going to be a race of elimination. It’s going to be so hot out here in August, which is just perfect, fantastic.”
Froome, like France’s Romain Bardet and Denmark’s Jakob Fuglsang, stayed in the car when he visited Mount Fuji in pouring rain.
“I wouldn’t say the Mount Fuji climb is necessarily where the race could be decided,” he said.
“A much more critical point of the race will be the final climb (Mikuni Pass), I can’t remember the name but its a 7km climb at almost 10 percent with 30km to go and may be where it is decided.”
Top French climber Bardet, who recently announced he will skip the Tour de France, was also highly enthusiastic about the route.
“The climb (Mikuni Pass) is really tough, they said 10 percent but when we went up it felt like 12 to me,” Bardet told AFP at Saitama.
“And then there’s the descent, really tough, very technical, that suits me.” The men’s event will be run over 234km with almost 5,000m of vertical climbing involved for the July 25 race.
RBA/AFP Photos: Bettini