Nibali and Aru head to Rio to study Olympic road race route

Vincenzo Nibali, Fabio Aru and Astana teammate Valerio Agnoli will fly to Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday as the Italian national teams begins to prepare for the 2016 Olympic Games in the Brazilian city.

Italian national coach Davide Cassani, possible time trial contender Adriano Malori (Movistar) and Nibali’s coach at Astana Paolo Slongo are due to arrive in Rio on Monday and begin three days of important reconnaissance and testing.

Malori won a silver medal in the 2015 time trial world championships in Richmond, just a few seconds down on winner Vasili Kiryienka. However the Rio time trial course is extremely hilly and the Movistar rider will study the route and decide if he can be competitive. Nibali could ride the time trial alongside or instead of Malori if the route is considered too tough for pure time trialists. Chris Froome and Tom Dumoulin are considered the big favourites for the time trial, with Froome having studied the route during a brief visit to Rio during the winter.

Nibali intends to target the road race after riding the Giro d’Italia and possibly the Tour de France – where Aru is the designated team leader for Astana. The Rio road race is especially tough and is expected to suit hilly Classics riders and Grand Tour contenders. Cassani accompanied an Italian team at the official test event last summer when France dominated the race and Alexis Vuillermoz won after taking the Tour de France stage to Mur de Bretagne a few weeks earlier. Cassani is expected to build his five-rider team around Nibali and Aru.

The 253km men’s road race includes three laps of the Grumari circuit with a steep but short climb and a two-kilometre sector of cobbles on each lap. After returning towards the start and finish area at the Copacabana fort, the finale of the race includes three laps of a longer circuit that includes the 8.5km climb up to Vista Chinesa - one of the best viewpoints across Rio.

The time trial course will also cover the Grumari circuit, with women racing for one lap and 29.8km, while the men face two laps and a total distance of 54.5km.

“The Olympic circuit is really tough, with 4500 metres of climbing, making it like Il Lombardia,” Cassani told Gazzetta dello Sport before flying to Rio. “It’s rare to find an almost nine kilometre climb at 10% in a one-day race. That’s why it’s very important for us and the riders to see it.”

Nibali and Aru will ride on the road circuit on Wednesday and Thursday. Aru will then return to Calpe in Spain for a final Astana training camp, while Nibali, Agnoli and Malori head to Argentina for the Tour de San Luis with their professional teams.

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