Italian national coach Davide Cassani has predicted that heat and humidity will be a decisive factor in deciding the men's road race event at the 2020 Olympics Games in Tokyo, with the climbs on the 234km course expected to reduce the race to final "head to head" battle.
Cassani is in Japan to see the course and decide on logistics, confirming that his squad will stay near Mount Fuji rather than in the Olympic village so they can be train on the course at the foot of the snow-covered mountain.
The routes of both the men's and women's races will favour the climbers, with the men's parcours tackling four climbs, including the outer slopes of Mount Fuji. As had previously been reported in the Japanese press, the women's course will be a watered-down version of the men's and misses the Mount Fuji loop altogether. The women's race will feature a total elevation of 2,692 metres during 137km of racing, while the men will tackle 4,865 metres of climbing.
A shorter men's test event will be held next July.
The race profile includes five key climbs as the 234km race heads towards Mount Fuji and the finish in Fuji International Speedway circuit, from the start in Tokyo's Musashinonomori Park. The climbs start after 40km of racing.
The decisive point in the men's race is likely to be the Mikuni Pass. The 6.8km climb averages 10.2 per cent and touches and ends 34 kilometres from the finish.
"It's the key point but it's a bit far from the finish line but that will make the race more open and so more special," Cassani explained to La Gazzetta dello Sport, apparently looking forward to the Italian team on other nations in the select finale.
"There will be a selection because in July it's terrible hot, with temperature above 30 degrees and unbearable humidity. The small group of riders that fight for the medals should emerge on the climb. From there it'll be head to head battle."
Cassani warned that a late two-kilometre climb just 20km from the finish could also play a factor, while a 800-metre climb just 1.8km from the finish offers a Launchpad for final attacks.
Belgium's Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) won gold in Brazil in 2016 after both Richie Porte and Vincenzo Nibali crashed out on the descent. Cassani has yet to decide on if Nibali will be part of his squad for 2020 but refuted suggestions that it is early to think about Tokyo.
"Was it too early to come? No," Cassani replied. "I know that the British have already been here. The Olympics is just around the corner."