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Here are our rapid-fire predictions for the Rio Olympics road race. The VeloNews editorial staff will make predictions for major races throughout the season.
Spencer Powlison, news director
Picks: Ion Izagirre and Katarzyna Niewiadoma
I’m going with the dark horses, because Olympics road races are as unpredictable as a torch relay through Rio. Izagirre proved himself on the climb and descent of the Tour’s stage 20. He’ll benefit from Spanish teammate and multi-time world champion of wheel-sucking, Alejandro Valverde, to quell chasers behind after the Chinesa climb.
Poland’s Niewiadoma isn’t a household name, and really, she’s been pretty low-key so far this season but solid and always near the front, especially on climbs. The thing is, she’s 21 years old, and to me, the fearlessness of being a young rider with something to prove is a notable advantage.
Fred Dreier, executive editor
Picks: Dan Martin and Megan Guarnier
I was originally betting the farm on Valverde, but now I’m going with Dan Martin. The race will come down to a select group of climbers, so I see a small bunch coming to the line. Martin has a good kick, and I’m guessing he’s still motivated after the Tour.
Time for some patriotism: I think Megan Guarnier is going to win in a sprint from a small group. She’s been the best racer through the back half of the season. If she still has the form, she’s the one to bet on.
Chris Case, managing editor
Picks: Vincenzo Nibali and Megan Guarnier
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Nibali was coming on strong in the last half of the Tour de France, and he’ll only be better in Rio. With his one-day race prowess, he’ll outsmart the others and take gold in Copacabana.
Winner of the Giro Rosa and some of the hardest one-day races in women’s cycling, Guarnier has the climbing chops and the tactical savvy to take her incredible form onto the top step of the podium.
Caley Fretz, senior editor
Picks: Vincenzo Nibali and Megan Guarnier
The Tour de France was one big training camp for Nibali. He wasn’t going for GC, so he could rest when necessary. He’s fresher than Chris Froome or Alejandro Valverde. He’ll win solo.
Guarnier has a strong team to back her up and has the best sprint of the good climbers. Lizzie Armitstead doesn’t like long climbs like the one to Vista Chinesa, and the scandal of the last week was not ideal for her preparation. That makes Guarnier the favorite.
Kristen Legan, associate editor
Picks: Chris Froome and Marianne Vos
With such a climber-friendly course, Rio should be a battle of the GC riders. And Froome decidedly proved he is the best of these guys at the Tour last month.
She’s the fastest sprinter who can also climb. As long as Vos makes it over the tops of the climbs with or close to the lead group, she can out-sprint almost anyone.
Gregor Brown, reporter
Picks: Vincenzo Nibali and Lizzie Armitstead
Nibali appears sharp this season. Don’t let the Tour de France mislead you, ‘The Shark’ prepared for and arrived at the Giro d’Italia ready to win. In Turin this May, it was mission accomplished in the pink jersey. His second of two goals is the Rio Olympics. Look for him to make the difference on the Chinesa climb and ride solo to Copacabana Beach.
Armitstead has one-day racing pedigree, from her worlds title to the Ronde van Vlaanderen victory, and she has grit. After a week of taking hits over her whereabouts and CAS case, the Brit will come out firing for another prestigious win.
Dane Cash, web editor and reporter
Picks: Alejandro Valverde and Megan Guarnier
It would be hard to write up an Olympic parcours more suited to Valverde’s talents. He’s got the climbing ability and the descending skills to be there in the finale, and if it comes down to a sprint, he’s fast enough to beat most of the other guys who have a shot at winning. The form looked good at the Tour, and it’s probably even better now as he takes on a big goal of his season.
Guarnier is having a career year and she’ll make the start in Rio with a powerhouse team around her. The American squad should be able to whittle away at the pack over the course of the race, leaving Guarnier to light it up in a small group in the final kilometers.