Tokyo 2020: Men’s Olympic road race preview, route map and prediction

130 riders are set to compete for gold in the Olympics men’s road race as a busy Tokyo 2020 cycling schedule gets underway on Saturday.

What TV channel is the race on and is there a live stream?

Action from the men’s road race is due to be live on BBC1 and can be streamed live on the BBC iPlayer on Saturday morning, while Eurosport will cover the race in its entirety on Eurosport 1, with a live stream on the Eurosport Player and via discovery+.

What does the course look like?

A brutal course has been prepared with many of the world’s best cyclists likely to be in contention for medals, though with just six days having passed since the end of the 2021 Tour de France, there may be some tired legs in the peloton.

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Nations are awarded spots based on their strength, with prominent cycling nations France, Italy, Belgium, Colombia, Spain and the Netherlands entering a full complement of five riders.

Great Britain will have four riders in the race, led by Geraint Thomas, who will be looking to add to the two gold medals he won on the track in the team pursuit at Beijing 2008 and London 2012.

What time does it start?

The riders are due to begin their neutral roll-out from Musashinomori Park at 3am BST on Saturday morning, with the proper race action scheduled to start 3.20am.

How can I watch it?

The course is a 234-kilometre weave around Tokyo, finishing on the Fuji International Speedway.

It is the lumpiest Olympics road race with riders set to face nearly 5,000 metres of climbing, including a potentially decisive 6.5km ascent of the Mikuni Pass inside the last 40 kilometres. That is the fourth of five official climbs, and the steepest, with average inclines of nearly 11 per cent.

Who is the defending champion?

Belgium’s Greg Van Avermaet has worn the gold helmet in the peloton for the last five years after taking a surprise victory ahead of Jakob Fuglsang of Denmark and Rafal Majka of Poland at Rio 2016.

Who are the favourites for gold?

The nature of the course means this should be a reasonably open race amongst the world’s best climbers and puncheurs, particularly with so many favourites coming in off the back of the Tour de France. Tadej Pogacar is an obvious contender, but could face competition within his own team with Primoz Roglic likely out to prove a point after being forced out of that race after injury. The climbing in the course may also suit Colombia – in the experienced Nairo Quintana, Esteban Chaves and Rigoberto Uran they have three fine ascenders, though in an era of great young cyclists Sergio Higuita could be due a landmark performance.

As he demonstrated during the Tour there is little that Wout van Aert cannot do and if an enlarged group reaches the finish line he is likely to have the fastest finish of those who have made it over the lumps. Don’t rule out an outsider like Bauke Mollema of the Netherlands, often there or thereabouts on this sort of parcours, or two punchy climbers at opposite ends of their careers in Belgian wunderkid Remco Evenepoel and old-stager Alejandro Valverde, who has just about everything but an Olympic medal on his palmares. All are previous winners of the Clasica de San Sebastian to which Evenepoel compared this course earlier in the week.

What about Team GB’s chances?

Great Britain have named a team full of contenders, with three Grand Tour winners in their unit. Geraint Thomas, at what is likely his last Olympics, is nominally leader of the British quarter, but teammates Tao Geoghegan Hart, Simon Yates and Adam Yates could each contend for a medal if they have brought their climbing legs.

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