Geraint Thomas is expecting a “war of attrition” in the race for gold in the men’s road race at the Olympic Games on Saturday.
The men’s peloton will face 234 kilometers in almost 90-degree temperatures and nearly 5,000 meters of climbing in the race for gold.
The ascent of Mt Fuji is the centerpiece of the event, but the Mikuni Pass – which averages 10.6 percent and hits gradients of up to 20 percent – will pack a punch in the final 30 kilometers of the race.
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“We’ve ridden the two toughest climbs and they’re certainly tough and then as I say, the heat humidity will definitely add to that you know, 230-odd kilometers,” Thomas said from his hotel room in Tokyo.
“Those conditions will be really tough going and that second-to-last climb is a proper climb. It’s certainly steep and challenging and you can have to ride it well to you know, not blow up it is it will definitely be more of a war of attrition, than big attacks going off the front. I think there’ll be more people just going out the back all day.”
While the race could be lost for some over the five climbs that pepper the parcours, there is still a lengthy run from the Kagosaka Pass to the finish line at the Fuji International Speedway where plenty can happen.
“There’s still 10k or so of flat after the descent, so it’s not the be all and end all at the top. But as we all know, 20 seconds or so with a small group of the front can easily stay away because the group behind might start looking at each other,” Thomas said.
“There’s so much that can happen and then that’s what makes the road race. So good to watch and not so good sometimes to be a part of, because of the whole tactical side and what can happen. It’s not really a lottery, but you need a bit of luck.”
Thomas is one of the many riders who have jetted to Japan after finishing the Tour de France. The Welshman helped his teammate Richard Carapaz to third overall but had a disappointing personal race after crashing and dislocating his shoulder in the first week.
Thomas is always relatively upbeat no matter what the sport throws at him and he’s relatively confident his injuries won’t hamper him Saturday.
“It’s as much as the legs just recovering from the Tour. But it was tough, the first 10 days or so especially. A week later, somebody went into the back of me and I landed on the right side again, which definitely didn’t help with the whole recovery process,” he said. “I feel like I’ve come out of it pretty good. I was able to go relatively easy, as easy as you can in the Tour, in the last three days. And yeah, feeling ready to go. I guess we’ll find out on Saturday anyway.”
Team tactics and no egos
Thomas isn’t the only one coming out of the Tour de France with a few knocks. Simon Yates was forced to abandon after hitting the deck hard in a big pile-up on stage 13, though he avoided any broken bones.
The early departure from the Tour meant he could head out to Tokyo earlier than some and get acclimatized to the conditions as he recovered.
“I still a bit bruised and banged up from that, and I took a few easy days and I’ve got stuck into the physio side of things for quite a while now,” Yates said. “We’ve managed to extensively see the course I think we know pretty much all of it, especially the final part.
“It’s going to be very hard, especially with environmental conditions around. It’s very hot, very humid. I think it’s going to be a little bit cooler on race day but nevertheless, I think it’s going to be a tough race all around. It’ll be about managing all those things and put them together and try and try and pull it off towards the end of the race.”
Great Britain will line up Saturday with a four-man team, with Tao Geoghegan Hart and Adam Yates completing the squad. Between them, they have three grand tour wins and plenty of one-day pedigree. On their day, all four have the capabilities to take home a medal so it is not yet clear who will eventually step up as the team leader.
“We haven’t really spoken about how we’re going to,” Thomas said. “But yeah, I think it all comes down on to the day as well, there’s so much can change with the heat and the humidity, hydration wise and things and, and just how people are feeling.
“I think, once we get out there, the main thing is there are no egos and we just communicate well, and we have our plan, and we try and execute as best we can. With such small teams and so little control, a lot can happen.”