- The Olympic Road Race will take place Saturday in the outskirts of Tokyo (Friday evening in North America)
- Tour de France champion Tadej Pogacar is the heavy favorite
- Who will prosper on the hilly long course featuring Mount Fuji?
Can Tadej Pogacar add a gold medal to his pair of Yellow Jerseys from the Tour de France?
After winning the Tour de France on Sunday, Pogacar and a world-class field tackle a lengthy and difficult Olympic course that features 4,865 vertical metres over 234 up-and-down kilometers. It is a fair setup that will allow various styles of riders an opportunity to take their shot.
While climbers may have an edge, a breakaway is viable when things get going (July 23, 10:00 pm ET) on Friday. You better be able to descend at a high level to earn a medal in Japan. Let’s look closely at the betting odds and consider the best wagering value.
2021 Olympic Men’s Road Race Odds
|Rider||Odds to Win at DraftKings|
|Wout Van Aert||+600|
Odds as of July 21st.
Pogacar is the deserving favorite. He has proven on back-to-back Tour’s that he is an elite climber, perhaps the top descender, a capable sprinter, and tactical. That said, he just exerted an extreme amount of effort for three weeks, and now needs to turn around and be the best in the world on a testing course in order to earn gold.
The trek includes five ascents that feature the lower slopes of Mount Fuji. It starts west of Tokyo and is mostly flat for the opening 40 km. Three climbs take place over the next 100 kilometres before a gigantic descent of Fuji Sanroku. After 40 lumpy km’s, the race may be won or lost on the Mikuni Pass. There is a 6.5 kilometres climb at 10.6% before a serious downhill to Lake Yamanaka. After 6 kilometres of flats, riders encounter a short climb at 4.6% over the Kagosaka Pass. The finish is a lengthy descent leading to the Fuji International Speedway.
Cycling has been in the Olympics since the beginning, back in 1896. The Road Race was a part of that initial games, but then was not held again for four decades. It has been a regular staple since 1948. Greg Van Avermaet took gold in 2016 in Rio. Alexander Vinokourov is the only man to medal twice in the event.
Let’s look at some likely key players in this year’s race.
There is a mixed history of success parlaying Tour victories with Olympic medals. Just a pair of riders that won a Tour stage have gone on to medal over the past five games.
In London 2012, the hometown British team seemed stacked with Mark Cavendish, Chris Froome, and Bradley Wiggins. None earned medals. The Spaniards seemed loaded in Beijing in 2008. While Alejandro Valverde, Oscar Freire and Carlos Sastre won stages in the Tour, it was Samuel Sanchez, who didn’t ride in the Tour, who won gold for Spain.
So what does that mean for Pogacar? He shouldn’t expect a ton of help from teammate Primoz Roglic, who aspires to medal himself. Roglic departed the Tour with injuries after Stage 7.
Pogacar was a surprising winner of the Tour in 2020, but absolutely dominated the race from the start earlier this month. There is little doubt he is the best overall rider in the world right now, but this is a single-day affair after a very difficult three weeks.
You cannot doubt Pogacar’s credentials. His price can be questioned, though. Do other riders offer more value?
Like Pogacar, Wout Van Aert just finished the Tour de France. He was terrific, winning three stages including going back-to-back on the final two days.
Van Aert won arguably the toughest day in the mountains, an individual time trial, and the bunch sprint on the Champs-Élysées. That is as versatile a resume as you can put forward. Indeed, he is dangerous in Tokyo, but how much does he have left?
As good as Pogacar and Van Aert were on the Tour, that’s how badly things went for Roglic. He got injured early, struggled, and eventually withdrew. Could a poor result at a recent grand tour actually help him in the Olympics?
Roglic is only a year removed from finishing as the runner up in Paris, and winning the Vuelta a España. While he didn’t have the Tour de France he had hoped for this year, he is still more than capable.
Roglic won the Tour of the Basque Country in April, and took the points title at Paris–Nice in March. At the age of 31 this is probably his only legitimate chance to earn a medal after finishing 26th in the road race five years ago.
British brothers Simon and Adam Yates both have pretty good chances in Tokyo at reasonable odds.
Simon withdrew from the Tour de France after a crash on Stage 13. Even going into the Tour he strategically was not competing as a GC contender, but rather targeting individual stages, and trying to prep for the Olympics.
Yates finished third in this year’s Giro d’Italia, and is a past winner of the Vuelta a España.
As for Adam, he should be fresh. After riding in either the Giro or Tour each of the last six years, he participated in neither this year. He was second in February’s UAE Tour, and won March’s Volta a Catalunya.
The Yates twins are 28-years-old and offer some value if you are picking against the top choices.