Australian women's team aiming high for Rio Olympic Games road race

Lowered expectations for ill Garfoot

While the men have stood on the Olympic road race dais on just one occasion, the Australian women's team have twice won gold and are aiming for another strong performance Sunday in Rio via the Orica-AIS quartet of Gracie Elvin, Katrin Garfoot, Rachel Neylan and Amanda Spratt.

While Garfoot, who will become the oldest Australian women's cycling representative at an Olympic Games, has been hit by illness on the eve of the games her three teammates are up for the 139.6km Fort Copacabana to Fort Copacabana challenge.

"The key for us is patience and trying to stay as calm as possible as it can be very easy to become overwhelmed in an Olympic road race, given the event that it is," said Australian national champion Spratt ahead of her second appearance at an Olympic Games after her 2012 London debut.

"Hard to nail just one aspect that will define the race. As we have seen from the course it has many aspects, it's quite technical, there are may short climbs," she added. "So you will have to be able to climb well, descend well and sprint well. Then stay as calm as possible and go for it."

Spratt and Neylan both reconned the course during a visit to Rio with Cycling Australia in May, capturing the course on video which has been studied by both the men's and women's team. Seeing the course in the flesh though was a different affair for Elvin who is looking forward to her Olympic debut.

"I hadn't had the luxury of seeing it like a lot of other riders, but I have been really lucky that I have had a lot of data and video, so today it was awesome to see it in real life," said Elvin. "It is stunning at the top, a beautiful rainforest on the top of a really tough climb. We certainly have a challenge ahead of ourselves, but we are all in really good shape and we have all travelled well."

Elvin will be a domestique for the team with her work to be done in the early phases of the race as she added of her role.

"Over the first 100km, anything can happen from any of the teams at this stage, so it is my role to be policing the bunch and making sure the other three girls are as rested as possible ahead of the finish," said Elvin.

Neylan, 34, is likely to be the trump card for the team and having ticked the box of being selected for her first Olympic Games, has turned her attention to the best possible result Sunday.

"We have an excellent vibe within our team, have settled in well, we have had our first ride on the course yesterday, fully focused on the race on Sunday," said Neylan. "Internally for me, there is a mix of emotions, extraordinary pride putting on the green and gold uniform. But we are now trying to have a calm focused run into the Games, not get caught up in the hype.

"In an Olympic Games, everyone jumps on the hype of different situations, but whatever is happening externally, you really need to have tunnel vision and be focused on the task at hand, and the race ahead," added the silver medallist from the 2012 Worlds.

Garfoot has been one of the in-form Australian riders of the 2016 season but following a stint of training at altitude, picked up a chest infection that has hindered her preparation for Rio. As a result, she has lowered her expectations for the road race but remains upbeat about her chances for a medal in the time trial.

"I don't have personal expectations for the road race, we expect the all-rounders to try to break away early, but I expect the climbers to fight it out in the end," said Garfoot. "Then my focus will turn to Tuesday."

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