Olympic cycling preview – the road races

Well, I say preview. This is more of a random collection of thoughts and vaguely relevant Gifs that I’ve chucked together. Are you sitting comfortably? The let me begin. 

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The Olympics. Massively corrupt? Yes. Run by a bunch of people that love money and power but hate sport? Oh yes. But. BUT! The sheer scale and spectacle of the thing. Lots and lots of sporty people coming together (mostly metaphorically, some literally) to showcase their life’s work. The hope! The achievement! The agony! The ecstasy! All human life, etc etc. I adore the Olympics like a constantly straying yet seriously hot boyfriend. I know he’s probably going to cheat again (and again) but when he’s with me…its just the best thing in the entire world and he even looks beautiful in those sunglasses that he always wears indoors.

What’s better than the Olympics? CYCLING AT THE OLYMPICS *breathes into a paper bag* Best of all, there’s track cycling AND road cycling. Show me a sporting event that can do both…

Road Race – Men

On Saturday the cycling begins with the men’s road race. My loyalties are a little bit divided. I should be supporting the GB team as it is full of incredibly strong riders. Geraint! Froome! Cummings! (A) Yates! Stannard! However, my heart has been a little bit stolen by the Netherlands team which looks incredibly strong. I’m a little biased because it features two of my favourite cyclists: Wout Poels and Tom Dumoulin, plus Steven Kruijswijk and Bauke Mollema.

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Behold this incredibly terrible composite, not at all photoshopped picture of the Dutch  cycling team for Rio!  

However the Olympic road race always seems to be a bit of a lottery and in the absence of Peter Sagan (going for glory in the mountain biking event) the following candidates seem to be as good a bet as any: Alejandro Valverde (sigh), Dan Martin (if only he was 94% less grumpy than he always is), Vincenzo Nibali (he cruised around this year’s Tour as he’s specifically targeting the Olympics), Wout Poels (he’s been racing and winning this year like he’s really, really trying to impress someone and has managed to impress everyone in the process), Chris Froome (not a one day rider, but never rule him out), Julian Alaphilippe/Romain Bardet (maybe), and finally Richie Porte (the dream podium: Poels, Porte, one of Froome/Cummings/Thomas in any order you like.)

Road Race – Women

Until Tuesday of this week I was willing to bet quite a large quantity of chocolate that Lizzie Armitstead would win the women’s road race. She still might but the three missed tests…she’s never been a rider that has worried my doping antennae but to miss one test is fairly common…two can happen but three missed tests without a sanction is incredibly rare. I suspect there’s more to the story than we have been told and I’m not convinced that she deliberately missed the tests to avoid providing a positive sample. She’s very much an alpha female but when the family proverbial hits the fan, Type A personalities can find it hard to deal with life (I speak from experience.) However, cycling has such a chequered history of lies and liars that for many people, anything Armitstead achieves in Rio will have an invisible asterisk next to it. Christine Ohuruogh missed three tests, served a suspension (one rule for one…) won an Olympic gold medal in the 400 metres and some people still have suspicions about her.

Again, the Netherlands team featuring Marianne Vos and Anna Van Der Breggen looks incredibly strong (I might just wear an orange top and have done with it), as does the US line-up that includes Kristin Armstrong. It depends on Armitstead’s state of mind. She’s damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t so she may as well try and win and seek to be as honest as she possibly can be about her testing hit rate (the number of tests she’s missed versus the number she’s actually had), biological passport and other factors that may enhance or impair her performance. I’m sure she wishes more than anyone that she could change the situation she’s found herself in.

Coming up next week: the time trials and *fanfare* the track cycling. Hurrah!

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TdF 2016 – Stage 16

One day, if we don’t have to endure 10-15 years of confessions, recriminations and tell (mostly) all books, we’ll look back and reflect fondly on what an excellent generation of cyclists we had in the 2010s. Star names abound: Peter Sagan, Mark Cavendish, Chris Froome, Fabian Cancellara, Tom Boonen, Tony Martin…I could go on. I won’t.

Today was a Tony Martin day. He didn’t win the stage – Sagan did (of course) – but he was in a two man breakaway with Julian Alaphilippe for most of the day. Unlike other cyclists, Tony doesn’t attempt to hide his suffering. When he’s on it, the bottom lip sticks out, drool and snot trail down his face and drip off his chin, and his eyes are those of a man who has been to many, many raves and doesn’t remember a single second of any of them. I look fairly similar when I get to the end of a 20 mile training run. It isn’t pretty, but it is bloody effective. Well it is for him. I’m just a whole heap of mess and hurt.

Today was relatively quiet for the GC contenders. It meant that their domestiques a got a bit of a day off too. Or so it seemed. It probably didn’t feel like much of a rest to them. 

Over the last few days I have been hugely impressed with Wout Poels. He became one of my top 5 favourite cyclists during last year’s tour and now I think he might just have hit the top spot. He’s a bit unsung, which seems slightly unfair as he won Liege-Bastogne-Liege earlier in the year. Oddly, Team Sky didn’t really seem to give the achievement the fanfare it deserved. He only gave them their first Monument victory after all. I know they prize the Tour over everything, but some riders and team base their whole existence on a single monument win. In contrast, Vasil Kiryienka won the world time trial championships last year and Sky mention it aaaaaallllll the time. Dan Martin won L-B-L for Garmin a few years ago and he’s only *just* stopped wanging on about it. Then there’s Wout, hauling back errant breakaway riders seemingly at will in the high mountains at the behest of his team leader and dicking about adorably on the team bus and no-one really mentions how great he is. It’s the Team Sky first would problem of an embarrassment of riches I guess. See also: Mikel Landa, Michal Kwiatkowski, Segio Henao, Mikel Nieve, Geraint Thomas, etc etc etc.

Side note: after an unfortunate mishearing last year, Mr FollowingtheWheels calls Wout Poels ‘Wagbo’ (the Harry Hill character.) Don’t ask. No really.

Tomorrow is an actual rest day.

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Wagbo. Not a cyclist.

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Wout Poels. Definitely a cyclist.