On July 5 Cycling Canada will announce who will be named to Canada’s Tokyo Olympic Games squad in the mountain bike and BMX disciplines, and will also let the world know who is going to be the third member of the men’s road race trio, Michael Woods and Hugo Houle having been selected last year before the COVID-19 postponement.
Who could it be? Can we look beyond the five remaining Canadians in the WorldTour ranks: Antoine Duchesne, Ben Perry, Guillaume Boivin, Alex Cataford and James Piccoli?
Besides current form, part of Cycling Canada’s criteria is a “demonstrated ability to support a leader in WorldTour competition in a major 1-day Classic or World Championship more than 225 km and with more than 3,800 metres of climbing.” The men’s road race will be 234 km with a total elevation of 4865 metres.
Woods’ Israel Start-up Nation teammates Guillaume Boivin and Alex Cataford were part of the Canadian World Championships contingent last year in Imola, Italy where Woods placed 12th. It was Boivin’s fifth elite Worlds appearance. Boivin supported Woods in this spring’s Ardennes Classics and is currently top Canadian at the Tour de France, his Grande Boucle debut. Beyond Imola, Cataford’s Worlds experiences have been in the under-23 category.
Duchesne, prominent at the front of the Giro d’Italia peloton when his Groupama-FDJ teammate Atilla Valter was in pink, not only was in Rio with Woods and Houle in 2016, but he was also on Team Canada at the World Championships from 2015-2019. After undergoing surgery for endofibrosis of left leg’s iliac artery in 2019, he contracted mononucleosis last season, which kept him from racing the Tour de France. But he’s healthy, in form and has had the most race days of all the candidates at 41.
An interesting possibility is another Israel Start-up Nation rider, James Piccoli, based mostly on his climbing ability and 2021 results: runner-up in the UCI 2.1-rated Tour du Rwanda and eighth in the 2.Pro-rated Ruta del Sol. After Woods, Piccoli has the most UCI points in 2021, with 173.
If we look outside the WorldTour, we find that Rally Cycling’s Rob Britton supported Woods for Rusty’s 2018 bronze Worlds medal in Austria. This would put him in better stead than Astana-Premier Tech’s Ben Perry. Perry has had the fewest race days of all the candidates and hasn’t raced since withdrawing from the Critérium du Dauphiné with illness on May 31.
The smart money’s on Duchesne or Boivin, and I think it’s going to be Tony the Tiger for Tokyo.