We hope you’re as excited as we are as a feast of cycling at the Rio Olympics approaches. Eighteen cycling gold medals will be keenly fought for and it all starts this weekend. Four years ago, at the London Olympics, Great Britain headed the medals table with a fantastic haul of eight gold, two silver and two bronze. Who will you be rooting for in Rio?
The opening ceremony takes place late (23.15) on Friday evening and cycling is one of the major sports that will dominate the first week of Games action with the men’s road race kicking things off on Saturday (6th August).
Cycling fans are lucky that practically all the racing will take place at convenient times for UK viewers (all times stated here are British Summer Time). The road races, time trials, triathlon and mountain biking will all take place during the afternoon and the six days of track cycling sessions will run largely from 14.00 to 22.30.
The time difference between the UK and Brazil will mean that some of the biggest (evening) events from other sports will happen in the very early hours of the morning and the BBC’s Breakfast Show will become an Olympics highlights show so we can catch up with events.
The Olympic road races will be contested by national teams of up to five riders each over a tough and lumpy circuit that should favour hilly Classics riders. Spain’s Alejandro Valverde and Italian Vincenzo Nibali are being mentioned as favourites, but the road race can throw up a surprise winner.
Britain take a strong five-man road team to the Olympics but no recognised sprinter. The final climb is thought to be too far from the finish line to favour Chris Froome or Adam Yates so Team GB will perhaps be hoping to get Steve Cummings, Ian Stannard or Geraint Thomas into a small breakaway group that could contest the medals.
In the women’s race World champion Lizzie Armitstead will be up against a strong Dutch team again as she hopes to upgrade the silver medal she won in London four years ago behind Marianne Vos.
Television commentator Anthony McCrossan was driven around the road race course this week and said, “It’s going to be an incredible race. The course is very hard with stunning scenery.”
UCI President Brian Cookson is also excited about Rio and told the press, “The road race mixes some of Rio’s most iconic backdrops such as Copacabana and Ipanema with some really testing sections such as the Grumari Circuit. The steep climb up Grumari Road is sure to provide a unique test for time trial riders.”
The men’s road race, over 237.5km, starts at 13.30 (finishing approx. 19.51) on Saturday (6th August) followed by the 136.9km women’s road race at 16.15 (finishing approx. 20.23) on Sunday.
GB Men’s team: Chris Froome; Steve Cummings; Ian Stannard; Geraint Thomas; and Adam Yates. GB Women’s team: Lizzie Armitstead; Nikki Harris; and Emma Pooley.
Team Great Britain is likely to select Chris Froome to compete in the time trial where he stands an excellent chance of following in the wheel tracks of Sir Bradley Wiggins and winning the gold medal. The GB selections for the time trial will be made after the road race events. Update: Team GB time trial selections are: Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas and Emma Pooley.
Both time trials place on Wednesday 10th August with the women riders starting first from 12.30 (racing over 29.86km) and the men riders heading out from 14.00. The men’s 54.56km two-lap course includes four significant climbs which will suit Tour de France winner Froome.
The large track programme starts on Thursday 11th August and the Men’s Team Sprint will be the first final. The Men’s Team Pursuit featuring Sir Bradley Wiggins will also begin on the opening day at 17.23 and the British quartet of Wiggins, Steven Burke, Ed Clancy and Owain Doull will be hoping to qualify for the final taking place at 18.20 on Friday 12th August. The track events continue until Tuesday 16th August.
The men’s triathlon is contested on Thursday 18th August with the women’s race on Saturday 20th August both starting at 11.00. Alistair Brownlee defends his Olympic title and heads a six-strong Team GB triathlon squad.
GB Men’s triathlon: Alistair Brownlee, Jonny Brownlee and Gordon Benson. GB Women’s triathlon: Non Stanford, Vicky Holland and Helen Jenkins.
The cycling events at the Rio Olympics will conclude with the two mountain bike races, around a five kilometre lap, on the final weekend of competition. World road race champion Peter Sagan returns to off-road racing, but it would be a big surprise if he can beat the MTB specialists.
The women will race on Saturday 20th August and the men 24 hours later. Both races start at 16.30 and Grant Ferguson is the only British rider selected.
Olympic Cycling Timetable
Sat 6 Aug: Men’s Road Race.
Sun 7 Aug: Women’s Road Race.
Wed 10 Aug: Road Time Trials.
Thu 11 to Tue 16 Aug: Track events.
Thu 18 & Sat 20 Aug: Triathlon
Sat 20 & Sun 21 Aug: Mountain Biking.
The Paralympic Games follow on in Rio and run from 7-18th September.