For the cycling community, the men’s road race was one of the main features of the Olympic games. There was a lot of crashes, breakaways and attacks to keep the audience hooked.
The course favoured the classics riders like Alejandro Valverde (Spain), Greg van Avermaet (Belguim) and Vincenzo Nibali (Italy), who were favourites. Tour de France winner Christopher Froome (Great Britain) was also thought to be in contention for the win.
Starting at Flamengo Park and passing the Copacabana, the course consisted of 4 laps of the Grumari circuit which included the Grumari Climb. At an average of 9%, the Grumari climb was a tough one. To finish each lap the riders had to contend with 2km of cobblestones just to add to the excitement. After 4 laps of the Grumari the riders tackle 3 laps of the Vista Chinesa circuit. With an 8.9km climb followed by a tricky 6km descent then on the last lap a 10km flat section running into the finish. The perfect finish for sprinters but no sprinters would be in contention for medals because of the big mountains to get over first. The riders had 237.5km of racing which was estimated to take around 6 hours.
The action started quickly at 12km when the favourite for the time trail, Tom Dumolin (Netherlands), abandoned the race after having a wrist injury in the Tour de France. Soon after there was the first attack from Jarlinson Pantano Gomez (Columbia), Michael Albasini (Switzerland), Pavel Kochetkov (Russia), Simon Geschke (Germany), Sven Erik Bystrom (Norway) and former world champion Michal Kwiatkowski. This attack very quickly turned into a breakaway and they were gaining time on the peloton.
At 44km the cobbles proved to be as lethal as they were perceived to be when Turkish rider Ahmet Orken crashed and then abandoned the race. One of the favourites Greg van Avermaet punctured at 71km but was quickly back with the peloton and then Bauke Mollema, a favourite for the Tour de France, had a bike change but again, was back in the peloton with no hassle. Nibali’s team mate Fabio Aru also punctured, the roads proving tricky. Great Britain favourite Christopher Froome had a bike change and was brought back to the peloton by team mate Geraint Thomas.
At 165km Stephen Cummings (Great Britain) dropped off pace after leading the race for his team and pushing up the pace to try and catch the breakaway. Pretty soon after that the breakaway started to crack with German rider Simon Geschke dropping. Then Kwiatkowski became the only rider strong enough to stay at the front of the race, the other 3 riders who were with him dropping off.
The action really started when there was a break from the peloton including Geraint Thomas, Greg van Avermaet and Damiano Caruso from Italy. The group of chasers was joined by another 2 riders and they create a bigger gap from the peloton while another rider who was dropped by Kwiatkowski manages to re-join him.
At just over ¾ of the way through the race, Kwiatkowski was alone in the lead again but he was soon caught by the chasers. Kwiatkowski manages to stay with the chasers who became the lead group and, along with some other riders who had attacked after the original chasers group containing Geraint Thomas, there were 11 riders in the lead, including Great Britain’s young hopeful Adam Yates who held the white jersey in the Tour de France.
The pace increased and Kwiatkowski and Yates were dropped from the lead pack while Valverde was dropped from the peloton. With more attacks from the lead group on the final hill there were 6 riders left in contention for medals. Further back in the peloton there are two significant attacks, from Julian Alaphilipe (France) and Christopher Froome.
With 15km to the finish Sergio Luis Henao Montoya (Columbia), Vincenzo Nibali and Rafal Majka, who had been sat comfortably in the breakaway for a while, decided to lift the pace and no one else could follow. These 3 riders were riding together down the tricky descent until Nibali and Henao crashed leaving Majka on his own, the last man standing. There were several nasty crashes on the same twisty section of road including a potential medal winner Geraint Thomas.
Majka had a few kilometres on his own before riders from behind Greg van Avermaet and Jakob Fuglsang (Denmark) attacked and caught him up with 2km to go. The 3 riders were battling it out for the last stages of the race and when the road took a left hand bend onto the sea front by the Copacabana when there was 500m left. Van Avermaet and Fuglsang sprinted, Majka not having anything left in the tank after the attack with Nibali.
Greg van Avermaet won the sprint and became Olympic champion with Fuglsang in second and Majka in third with the rest rolling in soon after.
Bio: “I have been racing cross county mountain bike at regional level for 4 years now, stepping it up to national level two years ago. I have been on Scottish Youth Performance squads for three years and this year I have been selected to represent Scotland at the Inter-regional mountain championships. I am a level one coach in cycling. In school I do a lot of work with the PE department and I am one of my schools Young Ambassadors who deals with sport within the school and community. I am on the Young Ambassador Conference Team with SportScotland and I also write my own blog (www.beingagirlmtber.