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Richard Carapaz wins first cycling gold medal of the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games

Woods comes fifth in the searing heat

Photo by: Sirotti

Richard Carapaz might not have won the Tour de France, but he became the first South American to take the men’s road race gold on Saturday at the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games. Carapaz attacked with Brandon McNulty from an elite selection on the final climb of the day. Wout Van Aert was silver and Tadej Pogačar bronze. Michael Woods was a dynamic cyclist on Saturday, and his fifth place was well-deserved.

The Course

The Olympic organizers had constructed a 234-km doozy in Japan. After 40 km of rolling terrain following the start at Musashinonomori Park, there was a long uphill drag before Doushi Road, a relatively simple climb of 5.9 km. After a plateau, there was another short climb before a long descent. The next climbing challenge came on the lower slopes of Mount Fuji for 15 km at around six per cent. The big obstacle arrived after two circuits of the Fuji International Speedway: Mikuni Pass. Equivalent to a Cat. 1, Mikuni is a 6.75-km climb of 11.5 percent exceeding 20 percent in places. It crested just 33 km from the speedway circuit finish. A mostly downhill 21 km run-in to the checkered flag came after the final climb of Kagosaka, 2 km of five percent.

The Opening Act

A neutral section was a place for the riders to fly their flags for the cameras. There were a few spectators at the start.

The Slovenians were on the front even in the neutral zone.

A South African bolted alongside riders from Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Romania, Greece, China, Azerbaijan, Venezuela and Burkino Faso. In the languid peloton, the riders were already refreshing their bottles. After some chat and ice time, with the coalition 9:00 up the road, reigning champ Greg Van Avermaet started to put in work for the Belgians. Then more chat.

Canadian contingent sits left mid-pack in colourful peloton.

With the international octet 18 minutes up the road, Slovenia started to pull. Geraint Thomas and Tao Geoghegan Hart crashed in the peloton on the way to Doushi Road.

The crashed Brits had to chase back on with Woods.

Michael Woods was behind the race as well and might have been delayed by the crash. He had to change his right shoe.

Woods changes his shoe soon after the Thomas incident.

Mount Fuji

By the time the breakaway hit the foot of Mount Fuji, it was a quintet, but it was still 13:00 ahead of the peloton, where the Slovenians and Belgians continued to drive. Van Avermaet, prominent at the front over the first 135 km, dropped away.

Giulio Ciccone grabbed the reins for Italy, popping Alejandro Valverde out the back and yanking the fugitives closer.

Heading towards the Fuji International Speedway course, Slovenian Jan Tratnik continued his locomotive impression at the pointy end of the peloton. Ciccone crashed and Valverde made it back. The escape group rode into the speedway 4:20 ahead of the field.

A couple of three-man moves out of the peloton meant the end of the breakaway before the start of the second speedway circuit.

Mikuni Pass

Italy and Slovenia powered the group towards Mikuni. Hugo Houle and Woods were tucked a few spots back. Belgium grabbed the reins and that was the end of Tratnik and many others. Woods hung tough.

Tadej Pogačar attacked and only Woods and Brandon McNulty were able to go with him.

Pogacar, McNulty and Woods attack on Mikuni.

Carapaz, Rigoberto Uran, Michal Kwiatkowski and Alberto Bettiol. Van Aert finally came over with Jakob Fuglsang, Bauke Mollema and David Gaudu.

Near the peak Woods made a dig and led the down a little descent. There would be a brief flat section before the final climb of Kagosaka. Even more riders came across. Carapaz and McNulty bounced away before Kagosaka and tipped over 23 seconds clear.

Van Aert led the chase onto the speedway. Carapaz shed the American as soon as the road rose. Woods took over the pursuit.

But in the end Woods and Van Aert were among the eight who would vie for the silver and bronze. Van Aert took silver with the bike throw.

The women’s road race starts midnight EST.

Men’s Road Race
Gold: Richard Carapaz (Ecuador) 6:05:26
Silver: Wout Van Aert (Belgium) +1:07
Bronze: Tadej Pogačar (Slovenia) s.t.
5th) Michael Woods (Canada) s.t.