With the Olympics just around the corner I’ve been doing some homework on the various cycling events and participants. One of the first events on the Olympic schedule is the men’s and women’s road race. The men’s road race is scheduled for Aug 9th followed by the women’s race on the 10th. I’ve worked up a brief profile of the course for you.

The course is one of the most challenging courses of the modern Olympics. The men’s race is just over 150 miles long with over 11,500 vertical feet of climbing. The woman’s race is 77 miles with over 4,100 vertical feet of climbing.  The race starts near the Forbidden City, heading northwest through Beijing and various points of interest, toward the Great wall near the Badaling. The course is relatively flat for the first 80km. It then rises 230m over the next 10km as the course approaches the circuit at 90km.  The circuit is a 24km loop which is ridden seven times by the men and two times by the women. The circuit is basically up one side of a mountain and down the other with no real flat sections.

2008 Olympic Road Race Elevatin Profile

2008 Olympic Road Race Elevation Profile

The circuit initially rises nearly 1,700 feet over 6.2 miles for an average grade of 5.2%. The circuit accent is followed by a short roller then an 8.2 mile descent to the valley bottom. The decent supposedly heads straight into the prevailing wind in that area, providing little relief to the riders. The finish follows the last circuit decent and appears to have a slight rise to the line. The weather is expected to be hot and humid with pollution being the wild card. The course looks to favor the climber over the sprinter. Position over the last circuit ridge will be critical to have a shot at a medal. The descent to the finish will be brutal.  Only the most courageous will be in a position to contest.

This is a course that could offer an advantage to a team which works together by protecting the strongest rider. The question is will a country’s contingent compete as a group or as individuals? There are a mere three medals to award for this event. Of course that means teamwork will be rewarded with a medal for some and a badge of national pride for others. It seems a little unfair to the supporting riders who effectively will be sacrificing their chance at an Olympic medal.

From news reports, it looks as though Spain has teamwork strategy in mind. The Spanish team has qualified for five seats in the road race including Carlos Sastre, Alberto Contador, Oscar Freire, Alejandro Valverde, and Samuel Sanchez. This is a Who’s Who of professional cycling. These guys are not domestiques and don’t generally perform the supporting role. Any of them has a potential to win or place in the race. How will they decide who leader will be? According to Contador, the “team” will decide during the race who will contest. Leaving one to imagine how this dialog will go down during the event. Somebody is going to be truly disappointed.

Why not introduce a team road event? There is some precedent for it. Team cycling events have been held since the start of the modern Olympics in various forms. From 1912 to 1956 there was a men’s team road race event. Then from 1960 to 1992 there was a 100km team time trial which was subsequently replaced by the individual time trial in 1992. In fact, the US won a bronze medal in the ’84 Olympic TTT with none other than Davis Phinney participating on the team. On a tangent, Connie Carpenter-Phinney won gold in the first women’s road race in 1984. The son of Connie and Davis, Taylor Phinney, is competing in several track events this year in Beijing. Be sure to check him out on the track. I have yet to find out why the team road events were ended though some accounts point to doping or race fixing. It only seems right to acknowledge a team’s contribution in the road race. My vote is for a team medal.

Links of Interest:

Other Velonoise:

Lance Sighting – Posted on Aug 4th 2008. http://tinyurl.com/5mppqj

Here is a peak at one of the bikes Lance is considering for the Leadville 100 this weekend. It is the 23lb, 26” Trek

Lance's Trek

Lance's Trek

Top Fuel 9.8 full suspension bike. He is also considering a Gary Fisher Superfly 29-inch hardtail which might be a better fit for the course considering the trail is supposed to be in relatively good condition baring a few short rutted sections. Included in the post is a blurb about his training

Cadel Update – Posted on Aug 4th 2008. http://tinyurl.com/5pcva7

Here is a short post about Cadel being fit to compete at the Olympics next week. He is qualified and able to compete in the road race and the time trial. Here is an article which sketches out the whole knee injury situation: http://tinyurl.com/62y6xb.

Here is another interesting article about his wife’s position on the media attention he has been receiving lately: http://tinyurl.com/5jdc8y.

Allez915

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