After the wait, ecstasy. Postponed last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 will take place from 23 July to 8 August 2021. With the men’s road race the day after the Opening Ceremony, cycling will be among the first sports to crown an Olympic Champion in the Japanese capital. The women’s road race will follow the next day (25 July) with the men’s and women’s time trials taking place on 28 July.
Mount Fuji – at 3,776m above sea level, the highest point in Japan - will offer a majestic background for the demanding road race course, suited to the peloton’s best climber-puncheurs, with a circuit drawn between Tokyo’s Musashinonomori Park and the famous Fuji International Speedway racing circuit.
The men will face the first Olympic cycling challenge on Saturday 24 July. Starting from Tokyo the peloton will race over 234km around Mount Fuji. Five climbs are on the programme, adding up to 4865 metres of elevation gain - more demanding than the major mountain stages of the 2021 Tour de France. After an almost flat start, the riders will gradually change gear in the 40km of ascent leading to Doshi Road. They will continue with the climb of the Kagosaka Pass and then dive into a long descent to Fuji Sanroku (14.3km at 6%). The peloton will cross the finish line twice then take the dantesque Mikuni Pass: its 10km has an average of 10.6% with sections at more than 20%. Its summit is 30km from the finish.
The next day, the women will compete for Olympic glory over a 137km course, also including Doshi Road and the Kagosaka Pass. Its summit will be located about 40km from the finish, which could give the teams a chance to organise the pursuit in the finale.
The time trials are scheduled for 28 July, again at Fuji International Speedway, with a leg-sapping circuit featuring 450m of elevation over 21.2km. The men will complete two laps (44.2km), and the women one.
Men's road race: who will succeed Greg van Avermaet?
When the Tour de France wraps up on Sunday 18 July, many riders will fly directly to Tokyo. The goal: to recover as quickly as possible and acclimatise to the heat and humidity in Japan before 24 July. Some have even anticipated the trip during which they hope to succeed the Belgian Greg van Avermaet, crowned in Rio in 2016.
Forced to retire from the Tour de France, Primoz Roglič decided to make Tokyo 2020 a major objective. This time his compatriot Tadej Pogačar will be at his side. “I have always dreamed of participating in the Games. A medal means a lot to me,” said the winner of La Vuelta 2019 and 2020.
On the Belgian team, veteran Van Avermaet returns with the very young Remco Evenepoel and Wout van Aert, an expert in one-day races and recent winner over Mont Ventoux in the Tour de France. The Colombians can also hope for an Olympic medal with Sergio Higuita, Rigoberto Uran, Esteban Chaves and Dani Martinez. Also among the favourites, the British will line up brothers Adam and Simon Yates as well as Geraint Thomas and Tao Geoghegan Hart. A total of 130 riders will take to the start, including the Spaniard Alejandro Valverde, who made his Olympic debut in Athens, 2004.
Women's road race: Van der Breggen for the double?
The women’s race also promises a great spectacle. 2020 UCI World Champion Anna van der Breggen dreams of scoring a historic double after adorning herself with Olympic gold in Rio. Ultra domineering on the roads of the Giro Rosa, the Dutchwoman is a favourite on such a course. And the Netherlands’ selection must frighten many competitors: Annemiek van Vleuten, Marianne Vos and Demi Vollering, who won Liège-Bastogne-Liège and in the Course by Le Tour de France, are due to be at the start.
“All the pieces of the puzzle have to come together that day, but we are leaving with one goal: gold and a third consecutive title,” announced coach Loes Gunnewijk when presenting the Dutch armada. Third in Rio, Italy’s Elisa Longo Borghini will try to do even better, and may target attacks from the slopes of Doshi Road and its 40km ascent.
Men's time trial: a course for a powerful man
All the big rouleurs will be at the start line at Fuji International Speedway – and they'll have to be at their best to perform in a hot and humid atmosphere. Will the conditions lead to surprises? Reigning European Champion Stefan Küng hopes to succeed fellow Swiss Fabian Cancellara. But the fight promises to be daunting against Roglič, Evenepoel, Van Aert, Filippo Ganna and Rémi Cavagna.
Women's time trial: a duel between the Dutch?
Favourites in the road race, the Oranje are also in a good position to win the ITT. With the 2020 UCI World Champion Van der Breggen who crushed the time trial in the Giro Rosa, along with Annemiek van Vleuten, the 24km event could amount to a duel between the two compatriots as they dominate the discipline. But weather conditions could reshuffle the cards. American Chloé Dygert is back after a serious leg injury and has just won the national title in the discipline. Like Küng in the men’s event, Switzerland’s Marlen Reusser dreams of success after taking silver in the ITT at the 2020 UCI Road World Championships in Imola – Emilia-Romagna (Italy).