Nibali and Aru are part of a small Italian delegation that travelled to Brazil this week to test the Olympic course. They were joined by Astana teammate Valerio Agnoli and Movistar’s Adriano Malori, as well as Italian national coach Davide Cassani and Astana directeur sportif Paolo Slongo.
2014 Brazilian national champion Antonio Garnero served as the Italians’ guide as they spent three and a half hours reconnoitring the course, taking in both the Grumari and Canoas/Vista Chinesa circuits that form part of the 256km road race course.
“The route is hard even for a climber. The final circuit is really difficult and the descent is technical,” Nibali said, according to Gazzetta dello Sport. “There are sections where the tarmac is very broken up.”
Nibali’s assessment was echoed by the 2015 Vuelta a España winner Aru, who said: “The course is harder than I could have expected. There’s nowhere to recover on the second circuit, the climb is very stiff.”
The men’s road race will take place on August 6, starting and finishing in Flamengo Park. The race will take in three laps of the Grumari circuit, featuring the short climbs of Grumari and Grota Funda, before moving on to the more demanding Canoas circuit, which is tackled four times and features the stiff Vista Chinesa climb. 8.5 kilometres in length at an average of 5.7 per cent, the Vista Chinesa pitches up at 10 per cent for four kilometres before easing off towards the summit.
Nibali, Aru, Malori and Agnoli are set to ride on the Rio course once more on Thursday afternoon, and Cassani told Gazzetta that he was still considering the prospect of selecting Nibali alongside Malori in the individual time trial, which takes place on August 10. “I have to take the two time trial riders from the five I bring for the road race,” Cassani said.
While Nibali, Agnoli and Malori will travel onwards to Argentina to take part in next week’s Tour de San Luis, Aru will return directly to Europe to join up with the remainder of the Astana team at a training camp in Calpe.
Aru is set to target the Tour de France in 2016 while Nibali will return to the Giro d’Italia for the first time since he won the race overall in 2013. The Sicilian has made the Olympic Games road race one of his principal targets of the campaign, though it remains to be seen whether he will line up alongside Aru at the Tour as he builds towards Rio.