Audacity rewarded! Starting in a duo 25 kilometers from the finish before finishing alone, Ecuadorian Richard Carapaz was the strongest to win the Olympic title in the road cycling race on Saturday, July 24 in Tokyo. The Slovenian Tadej Pogacar, big favorite, was beaten on the line in the sprint by the Belgian Wout van Aert, who completed the podium. Frenchman David Gaudu finished in 7th place.
The Olympics are no exception, a breakaway quickly formed. Five riders reached the foot of Mount Fuji, more than 110 kilometers from the finish, 12 minutes ahead of the peloton. Normally a huge gap, but the difference in level between the breakaways, more used to second-rank races than to the world elite, and their pursuers was even greater.
Their lead melted in the ascent of Fuji, to return to less than 5 minutes to 85 kilometers from the finish, before disappearing on the descent. An acceleration of the Belgian Remco Evenepoel sounded the death knell for the breakaways. At 50 kilometers from the final, the favorites were ready to do battle.
Then there was the other difficulty of the day, the terrible Mikuni Pass. 6.8 kilometers at 10% average and jolts at more than 20%. An earthly hell under the oppressive heat of the Japanese summer and with 200 kilometers in the legs. After an Italian effort as the climb approached, the Belgians took control to climb to the pace of Wout van Aert, three-time stage winner on the last Tour de France.
The scarecrow of the race then entered the scene. After having crushed the general classification of the Tour, Tadej Pogacar did not intend to play spectators on Japanese roads. The Slovenian accelerated a little over three kilometers from the summit, with Michael Woods (Canada) and Brandon McNulty (United States) in his wheel. The peloton exploded, and only the strongest were able to make the connection. After a first regroup, Wout van Aert brought the Frenchman David Gaudu and Bauke Mollema before the summit, 31 kilometers from the finish.
The 12 riders were on the move, as the multiple attacks showed. The banderillas did not hit the mark in the Kagosaka Pass (2.2 km at 4.7% on average), until that of Brandon McNulty, followed by the Ecuadorian Richard Carapaz. The duo broke away 25 kilometers from the finish. Behind, the pursuers let Van Aert and Pogacar assume their status as favorites. A risky bet.
Too risky, since the duo from the Americas pushed their lead to 45 seconds 12 kilometers from the finish. Wout van Aert finally took responsibility to save his hopes for Olympic gold. Despite these stowaways in the luggage rack, he reduced the gap to 30 seconds, then 20, then 15. The Belgian’s breath on the back of the neck 5.5 kilometers from the line, Richard Carapaz placed a final attack. McNulty unhinged in the final circuit of Fuji Speedway, the Ecuadorian flew to the second gold medal in the history of his country.
Behind, the group of favorites fought in the sprint. Wout van Aert was rewarded for his efforts of the day with a silver medal torn from a hose at Tadej Pogacar. The only French survivor at the time of tackling the last kilometers, David Gaudu did not have the legs for the podium against better sprinters. The Groupama-FDJ rider had to settle for seventh place.