The mens road race was a spectacular and dramatic event. Over six hours, the intensity gradually increasing to a dramatic final conclusion hour of racing.
During the Tour de France I tried to limit my viewing time to 30-50 mins a day. I don’t have time to watch a whole stage. But, I made an exception for the Olympic road race, and watched the last 3-4 hours live. It felt like a three hours well spent. The scenery was beautiful, the setting epic and the racing high quality. It was helped by a good performance by the GB team, with a medal a possibility all the way until Thomas crashed out on the final descent. Everyone had a good race – Stannard and Cummings chasing the early powerful breakaway and then Thomas slipping into the first chase group as the race hotted up. Yates latching on to lead group, but not quite having legs. Froome didn’t have the climbing legs of the Tour, but considering his one day history, had a reasonably good race.
The race was finely poised throughout the last couple of hours with the Italians and Adam Yates sneaking into the lead group on the penultimate ascent / descent. It was a shame Yates and Froome didn’t have quite the legs. But, they weren’t the only Tour de France climbers to struggle on the ‘climbers course’ Other pre-race favourites Like Woet Poels, Valverde, Dan Martin all finding the course unbelievably hard. Of 144 starters, 63 made it to the finish.
For a pure climbers course, it didn’t quite play out like that. The racing was so unrelenting, it became more of a course for those who could endure rather than the pure speed of a mountain goat.
The only downside to the enjoyment was the sight of riders crashing out on the treacherous descent – almost falling like flies. It reminds me of that early Tour de France quote by a rider disgusted to be riding up mountains on mud tracks – “You’re assassins.” shouted Octave Lapize to the organisers.
Nibali looked the strongest rider in the race. Yet on this occasion, perhaps the dare-devil descender took one risk too many. You can’t help but feel sorry for all the riders who crashed on the very difficult descent. But for those who have won races on the basis of taking risks on descents – there is always going to be a flip side to pushing the limit.
Nasty crashes excepted, it was a wonderful showcase for one day cycling. After the drama of the cycling road race, it felt a bit of a let down to go to other sports like swimming which seemed flat in comparison. With the right course, the cycling road race is one of the flagship events outside the Olympic stadium
It was also another good argument for smaller teams. Smaller teams tip the balance more to break-aways forcing more aggressive racing and rewarding risk taking.
Like many others have said, if Greg Van Avermet could get over the climbs, Peter Sagan must be thinking what he could have done on the course. Still it will be interesting to watch Sagan in the mountain bike event.
Given it didn’t work out for GB, I was glad to see a cycling nation with long history – Belgium – claim the gold medal.
GB finished 11th, 12th and 15th. It was a good performance and it was great to see the GB on the front foot for all the race. Even with the benefit of hindsight it’s hard to see a better result.
TV coverage was OK. It would have been good to have better information about gaps, though the fact they appeared and then disappeared kind of added to the uncertainty and drama. The live commentary was a bit different to the high octane Eurosport version of Carlton Kirby. There were even lengthy pauses where nothing was said. But, I didn’t mind – just very different.
Women’s road race is today. Unfortunately, due to recent events I don’t have same enthusiasm for watching for three hours. But, maybe I will change my mind when I start watching.