The road portion of the Olympic Games cycling programme will come to a close with the men's and women's time trials on Wednesday. For some, such as women's road race champion Anna van der Breggen, it will be a chance to add to the success of the opening weekend. Others, such as her national teammate Tom Dumoulin, have been saving themselves for this single opportunity at glory.
The riders have had a few days to rest since the weekend's road races, and they'll be thankful for it with an extremely challenging course lying between them and an Olympic medal. Both routes will take in the same Grumari circuit featured early on in the road race, with the men completing two laps compared to the women’s one. For the men, that means a total distance of 54.6km and for the women 29.9km.
The trip up to Grumari and Barra de Guaratiba on the western edge of the Rio de Janeiro coastline will take the riders over two tough climbs. Mercifully, the organisers have removed possibly the trickiest aspect of the circuit, the pavé. A tarmac section, which riders made brief use of in the road race, has been placed alongside it and means that riders aren't subjected to the bone-jangling experience of riding cobbles on a time trial bike.
Starting further down the coast than the road races, the riders will also avoid the worst of any winds that might sweep off the sea. The wind has been a huge factor over the opening days in Rio, and if it whips up on Wednesday, it could give us an interesting range of bike set-ups.
After a few uncategorised lumps, the first climb to Grumari comes after just over nine kilometres. The Grumari ascent is short, at just 1.3km, but exceptionally steep with gradients reaching almost 18 per cent at some points and will have some riders on their limits very early on. The worst sections are smack in the middle, with a gradual lead-up that belies what comes after it. The run down from the top is equally as steep and technical to boot, with some tight turns to keep the riders on their toes.
Between the two climbs is a seven-kilometre flat run with a few 90-degree corners. Grota Funda, the second of the two ascents, is longer but packs much less of a bite than its predecessor. Averaging 6.8 per cent over 2.1 kilometres, it bounces between six and nine per cent for most of the climb. The descent is also a little easier, but a long sweeping right-hand corner could catch some out.
From the bottom, the drive to the line is close to eight kilometres. The women will finish their day there, while the men will head off for another crack at the loop.
First up on time trial Wednesday is the women's event, which kicks off at 8:30 am local time. Reigning world champion Linda Villumsen (New Zealand) headlines the highly competitive start list. Villumsen has so often found herself second best in international competitions, but things have turned around for her over the past two seasons. She missed out on a medal by just two seconds at the London Games in 2012, but this course is much better suited to her talents. There was a heart-stopping moment for her when she got tangled in a crash in the road race, but it didn't appear to have any ill effects on her and she went on to finish the race.
Double defending champion Kristin Armstrong will stand in her way, as will her USA teammate Evelyn Stevens. Armstrong's selection was marred in controversy, but she proved her worth with a commanding ride in the road race. She dropped out of the race before it finished, but it remains to be seen how well she recovers compared to those who did less work on Sunday.
The Dutch will be going into the event with such confidence after van der Breggen's gold in the road race. The new champion will be back for more along with former time trial world champion Ellen van Dijk. The hilly course is much better suited to van der Breggen, who finished second to Villumsen at the World Championships last season, but van Dijk should be in the mix too.
Another former wearer of the rainbow stripes is Germany's Lisa Brennauer, who won her world title in Ponferrada in 2014. While the climbs were nowhere near as steep as they are in Rio, she will certainly fancy her chances.
Other riders to watch out for are Great Britain's Emma Pooley, Canada's Tara Whitten and Belgium's Ann-Sophie Duyck.
In the men's event, it looked all geared up to be a showdown between Chris Froome and Dumoulin until the latter broke his wrist in the final week of the Tour de France. Dumoulin is still determined to have a go at Olympic glory and made sure to climb off early in the road race on Saturday. On the flat sections, Dumoulin shouldn't suffer too badly, but it is the climbing that will test his pain barrier to the limit.
With Dumoulin's injury, Froome seems the firm favourite for the gold medal. He took bronze four years ago in London and showed his time trialling prowess with a strong victory in the Tour's mountain time trial. He went fairly deep on Saturday but says that he has had enough time to recover.
Froome's trade teammate and reigning world champion Vasil Kiryienka could be a serious threat. The rider from Belarus has not won a time trial this season but with some time to focus on his own efforts, rather than helping a teammate, he may well be up there.
Multiple world champion and former Olympic champion, Fabian Cancellara is always one to consider when it comes to racing against the clock. Ordinarily, a course such as this would not be a good one for Cancellara but he was climbing extremely well in the road race so cannot be counted out. It will also be interesting to see how Tony Martin does over this course. Martin has been struggling with form lately and had to drop out of the final stage of the Tour de France to avoid aggravating a knee problem.
Others to keep your eye on will be Australia's Rohan Dennis, Spain's Jonathan Castroviejo and Ion Izagirre, USA's Taylor Phinney and Slovenia's Primoz Roglic.
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